Nailed It, Failed It: Lessons From Last Year’s Garden

Alli Planting Her GardenIf you have read some of my blogs, you know that I love growing my own fruits, veggies and flowers every summer. It connects me to the earth, relaxes me, and makes the meals I cook with fresh produce all the more delicious. The sense of satisfaction I get from turning dirt and seeds into a fresh salad or salsa is priceless.

However, I am still just a beginner. Last year was the first summer I really took charge of our family garden and did most of the work myself, which I was happy to do! We used two raised bed gardens, which were the perfect size.

But I also made some mistakes since I was trying to figure it out myself for the first time. I learned a lot, and some of the things I tried were super successful. So here is my list of Nailed It (Success!) and Failed It (self-explanatory).

Nailed It! Our tomatoes were beautiful and delicious last year. Almost every single tomato was huge, red and juicy. I watered them heavily, but not as often as the other plants. A really good drink once a week was perfect for them to flourish, maybe twice a week if it was really hot and dry. If you buy your plants as seedlings, make sure to pinch off the flowers of your tomato plants before transplanting them in late spring – this allows them to develop stronger roots.

Overgrown plant

Tip: If your plant has leaves larger than your head, it’s likely too big for a raised bed garden.

Failed It… We forgot to mark my seedlings and seed spots! We bought sprouts and transported them, as well as planting from seed. I had a hard time knowing what was growing where. This time I will make sure to mark what I have planted. That way I can avoid confusion and take better care of the plants.

Nailed It! My radishes rocked! We had the crunchiest, sweetest radishes that grew in perfect rows. My trick was to plant the easy, quick growing veggies among the plants I knew would grow slowly. That way, the radishes were grown and harvested by the time the carrots needed room for their roots. Speaking of carrots, that was my next Failed It.

Radishes

My Dad, Scott, loves eating radishes right out of the garden.

Failed It… My carrots didn’t exactly flourish last year. Unfortunately, while we had produce from everything we planted, the carrots did not grow. They never got to be more that a weedy sprout so we never got to enjoy their sweet crunch. I think I made a mistake when I planted the carrot seeds in the same compact soil as I did the rest of the seeds. Carrots need fluffy soil to grow.

Nailed It! Everything we grew on a trellis or cage, as they are sometimes called, like tomatoes, zucchini and squash, end up growing big and strong. That’s because viney plants need to be raised off the ground – it helps keep the plants insect- and disease-free. Also it helps with space in your garden, and prevents the plants from becoming intertwined.

Failed It… My watermelon wasn’t very impressive. I shouldn’t have known a big melon would need a big space. Since my seeds and seedlings weren’t labeled, I planted the watermelon fairly close to the other plants and it just didn’t have room to grow. A container garden is not the right place to grow a large fruit.

The biggest lessons learned? Know what you are planting so you know how to care of it properly. With proper sun, water and soil, you can grow almost anything.