young mesculin lettuce
Garden

Spring Garden 2019

Hello! This is where I write about my 2019 spring garden! To learn more about my general set up, please check out my first garden post.

Preparing Our Plot

In order to prepare for our spring 2019 garden, we needed to take care of a few tasks in the months before planting:

  • Firstly and fundamentally, we had to decide on a site.
    We chose an area not too far off behind the house in an open field that gets full sun, but right near a spigot for easy watering. My SO took an oscillating sprinkler and hooked it up with a timer to the spigot for automated watering. We set the schedule to run twice a day, at 6AM and 6PM, for ten minutes each run.

  • Secondly, we wanted to get rid of the existing grass and weeds on our chosen site.
    We got a few large plastic tarps and pinned them in the ground over the designated plot. The thought with this is that the weeds would die from the high temperatures and absence of sun exposure, providing us with a nice bare plot of land to start the spring with.

  • Finally, after a few months of having the tarp over the plot, we needed to clean up the dying weeds and start tilling into the earth.
    My SO bought a BCS walking tractor with a tiller attachment and with that he made quick work of this final garden prep task.

Now with those tasks taken care of, we can get started with the fun part of gardening!

bag of seeds open and spilling onto dirt spring 2019 garden

Starting From Seed

There’s something magical about growing your own food from seed.
All you have to do is commit to providing the right environment for that little seed, and they begin to grow and fulfill their potential.
Granted, this is not always as easy as it seems. But if you are successful in this endeavor, you are rewarded with the fruits of your labor.

This is the excitement I brought with me to my local independent garden store to purchase seeds in February. Earlier I learned about what grows well in our cool planting season and chose based on what I love to eat, mainly greens.

seed bags of what we planted in our spring 2019 garden

Here is a listing of the seed varieties I bought for the spring season:

Kale – Red Russian
Arugula – Rocket Salad
Swiss Chard – Bright Lights
Mesculin Lettuce – Farmer’s Market Blend
Butterhead Lettuce – Buttercrunch
Carrot – Calliope Blend
Spinach – Matador
Beet – Detroit Dark Red
Bok Choy – Toy Choy

Now doesn’t that sound delicious?

The seed packets indicated to sow directly in the ground about 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date. Since the last spring frost for my area is listed as occurring in April, I concluded that sowing in mid-March would be sufficiently safe for the sprouts.

first seeds planted in our spring 2019 garden

Getting in the Ground

When March rolled around, I finally got my hands dirty with the first seed planting of my spring garden. On the 11th I planted a row each of kale, lettuce, swiss chard, and spinach. I planted another row with a mix of carrot, beet, and bok choy seeds. The rows are about 2 feet wide and 25 feet long each. I used up-cycled vinyl blinds as plant tags for the garden, as shown in the image above.


Plant Progression

This next section will mainly consist of photo galleries showing growth updates of what we planted.

Container Plants – March 18

I was getting a bit excited with the growth of the seedlings and decided to go out and get some containers and start a new section of garden closer to the house. They were mostly tomato and pepper transplants, plus other lettuce started from seed.

Spring Nature – March 30

Not exactly part of my garden, but here are a couple shots of what’s naturally occurring in our beautiful spring landscape.

Tomato Update – April 6

There were issues with the tomato plants…I’m still not sure what this means on the leaf, but it did not get any better over time.
We eventually transplanted them into a new row on the main plot, but that did not alleviate the issue.

sickly tomato plant from our 2019 spring garden
Row Update – April 17

I can’t believe the seeds made it to this level of growth, we actually have baby crops in our yard!

Pepper Update – April 21

Close up shots of the budding container peppers 🙂

Row Update – May 6

After about 2 months of growth, the seeds have matured into adult plants. About now is when I regularly (daily!) harvested the leafy crops.

Row Update – May 14

The bugs got to the kale before I did, but that wasn’t so bad since it left my lettuce largely undamaged.

kale, partially eaten by bugs, from our spring 2019 garden

Healthy Harvests

I ended up with an incredible amount of greens, I was able to pick every day for weeks once they were mature. I ate most of my swiss chard harvest either raw with a light vinaigrette, or slightly steamed with lots of garlic. With the lettuce, I had enough to make salads every day for the season. I even had enough lettuce to share the harvest with my pet guinea pigs, they absolutely loved it!
Let me know your favorite ways to eat your greens via the comments below 🙂


Results and Lessons Learned

Here is a summary of our spring 2019 garden successes and failures (or opportunities for growth):

Successes:
  • Organic growth – The seeds we purchased were not all organic, but we didn’t use any pesticides during growth. We simply used what we had, good land and our hard labor.
  • Automated watering – The automated watering system reduced our daily workload and provided consistent moisture for the plants.
  • Amount harvested – We had so many leafy greens, we ate them daily for months. We shared the harvest with friends and family several times as well.
  • Money savings – We definitely saved money by growing our own greens. The seeds cost about $2-$3 per packet, of which we did not use all the seeds. One “bunch” of organic swiss chard normally costs about $3 at our grocery store, and a stalk of organic green leaf lettuce also costs about $3 there. I did not measure the weight of our harvest, but I was picking greens daily. But even if I only was able to harvest two bunches each of lettuce and swiss chard, we’d still come out ahead by growing our own food versus purchasing at the store. I’ll probably write a separate post with a more detailed cost analysis on how much our garden saves us in the future.
Opportunities for Growth:
  • Pests – I did not identify any pests in particular, but something was devouring our kale. In the end, it was not all that bad since the rest of the crops were left untouched.
  • Weeds – The weeds quickly took over the plot since we did not pull weeds from the beds daily, I was pulling weeds weekly at best. This probably contributed to the pest problem.
  • Failed Crops – What happened to our beets, carrots, and bok choy? I think we may have lost them to the weeds since they were on a row at the edge of the garden. That, or they were planted at the wrong time and just never sprouted. As for the container plants, the tomatoes looked miserable and I only got one small tomato out of the six plants we had.
What we’ll try next time:
  • To combat the pests and weeds, we’ll try using plastic sheets as mulch for our crops.
  • We’ll also regularly visit the garden for pest inspection and weed management.
  • I’ll keep more detailed notes of what we see and what we change with the crops. This should help with diagnosing any issues that arise or to follow a good growth regimen for a future crop.
  • In particular, I want to start a tomato crop from seed versus transplants in containers.
Takeaway from our spring 2019 garden:

Growing our own garden was lots of work, but it’s so very rewarding. We sweat a lot during this process, but it was probably good for us anyway. It feels great turning a plain, old, field of grass into a beautiful plot of delicious, edible greens. Even if it did get weedy after a while…oops! I found it fascinating to see the plant growth process week after week. It was so nice going out in the evenings to pick greens for dinner instead of going to the grocery store. I also loved sharing the bountiful harvest with my friends and family. We had a few hiccups, but they are all things that we can make changes to improve upon for next time. Ultimately, I am proud of ourselves for what we did. I am looking forward to the summer harvests and all our future gardening endeavors. 🙂

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