Garden Reflections and Lessons Learned

As our garden is nearing its end for the year, I am reflecting back on lessons learned over the past six years since I really started getting serious into growing our own food. 

 It really began many years earlier when I started growing tomatoes in the greenhouse for the sake of simply having my own for salsa and my Italian sauces.  At the time I knew nothing of starting my plants from seed, I simply went down to the nursery and picked up some tomato plants and transplanted them in the greenhouse and they always did quite well for me. 

By 2012, a lot of changes occurred that had me thinking it was time to get serious and start learning how to grow more food of all kinds and to do so from seed.  Some of what led me to this was unexpected and difficult trials we had gone through, some of it was waking up to the realities of our food supply and seeing the direction things were going.

This is when I began to expand outside the greenhouse by working up a small section between it and our deck and did really well growing snow peas and sunchokes. I also did well with strawberries in pots along the outside wall of the greenhouse.  We purchased some blueberry shrubs and put them in pots on our deck and actually got a nice little harvest of berries that first year. 

I also tried growing beets, radishes, and cabbages but none of these did well for me and a few other things I tried were complete failures.  Though I did not really see them that way, I saw them as an education as this was all so very new to me.  Besides, I had tried taking on a lot all at once for one who was a bit of a newbie to such things that I was actually fine they did not succeed. The snow peas were going crazy and keeping me busy enough so I was good with that.

The very next year we decided to do away with our 15' pool that was in the center of the back yard and turn that whole area into garden.  It was a pretty good year for the most part. I still had some failures but again, more lessons learned.  Each year since I have just kept plugging along, growing new things, and adding more garden areas or expanding existing ones. All the while carefully planning each area and plant to work best with our very limited space. 

In 2014 things really started to take shape out back, I actually had my first success at growing corn, the blueberries in pots were giving us plenty and my grapevines were starting to climb up the posts and around the beams.  What a joy it was to see the vision I had for my garden becoming a reality!

By that time I had also started planting medicinal herbs in various places all around the house and in the main garden section and I have loved having homegrown pain killers, stomach ailment cures, and cold and flu medicines at the ready.  Not to mention the beauty they add.

By 2016 my deck became exactly what I had been dreaming. The blueberries, herbs, and grapevines turned it into a mini paradise just outside my back door.

 Here it is 2017 and I have harvested a good amount of blueberries, apples, potatoes, raspberries, onions, tomatillos, zucchini, herbs, peas, and more.  I got my first good harvest of tomatoes from seed I had saved from the previous year's tomatoes and without using electricity for added heat and light - this is quite the accomplishment in our short growing season.

 My beets and rutabagas did not do so well this year but again, that is another lesson learned about my need to get better at thinning.  I am still trying to figure out the best type of carrot for here and how and where is best to grow it, but each "failed" attempt is another lesson on how NOT to.  

My grapes are still coming along and I am in the middle of harvesting an amazing amount of beans for chili, soups, and more. I am trying a new variety of corn that seems to be doing well for us and I believe will do even better next year.  It is my first year growing spaghetti squash and though I had hoped for more, I am pleased with what I have achieved with them so far. 

Have I arrived yet? Do I know all the successful organic garden techniques?  Absolutely not! I am still learning every year with each new thing I try.  I am certainly not done trying either. 

My gardens are my university that have a much smaller investment and an incredibly larger payoff than a brick and mortar school.  Whether we stay right here on our 1/3 acre, continuing to build on what we have, or we move to a bigger piece in another state, the education I have gleaned these past six years cannot be taken from me, will continue to serve me as we move forward in becoming more self sufficient, and has been worth every single minute.


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