Every year I plant an amazing array of plants in my garden with high hopes of providing my family with a plethora of fresh produce. Then, come July, I have become stressed out and depressed over my LACK of garden produce and the incredible amount of work that is required to grow it! Mother Nature has not been kind to Georgia this year and we are now 14 inches over average rainfall for the year. And with the thunder rolling in right now, I am thinking that number will be going up another inch before morning. I decided to share a few gardening tips with my readers and give you an update as to how things are going out there right now. Hopefully these gardening tips will help my fellow gardeners but will also serve as reminders for me next year as to what works and what doesn’t!
Easy Gardening Tips for Novice Gardeners
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1. If you are short on space, grow your plants vertically. I don’t have a huge yard and every year when I plant my cucumbers they end up spreading all over everywhere which makes it hard to walk between the garden beds. This year I planted an heirloom, organic variety of pickling cucumber on a trellis so it would take up less room. So far, it seems to be doing very well. There are quite a few flowers on the vines and I have already picked a few cucumbers that are completely blemish free. When they grow on the ground I tend to see spots where bugs have tried getting to them or where the sun didn’t get to and it is rather white instead of green. Of course, the vines are trying to hop from my trellis to my blueberry bushes but I try to go out there regularly and redirect them.
2. Growing organically doesn’t mean you can’t fight garden pests at all. I have a horrible problem with Vine Borer Beetles on my squash plants. They destroy my plants every year and if I am lucky I may get one or two zucchini from them. I also seem to have an army of pill bugs and slugs trying to eat my harvest as well. For the slugs, head outside early in the morning after a nice rain and sprinkle them all with a bit of salt. I also bought a giant canister of Diatomaceous Earth and sprinkled it liberally over all of my plants. It is completely non toxic and is even taken by some people as a supplement but kills a number of garden pests. There is still evidence of Vine Borer Beetles on the zucchini but I think I reduced their numbers by quite a bit since the plant is still alive. Fingers crossed that it stays that way and eventually decides to make me some zucchini. So far I only have blossoms but someone mentioned putting lime on the plants to encourage them to start making actual zucchini so I will have to look for that next time I am at The Home Depot.
3. Pick your produce early in the morning: Produce picked early in the morning will be juicier and more flavorful than if you wait til the heat of the day to do your harvesting. Try and keep track of the packets and plant inserts from the items you plant so that you know approximately when you need to harvest them. Some things are obvious: harvest tomatoes when they turn red or an eggplant when it looks about the right size. However for root vegetables like potatoes, beets, and carrots it is tough to know when they are ‘done’ and you should be starting to harvest.
4. Buy a good cookbook! Sometimes I have things that really take off in my garden. This doesn’t happen often but when it does I am left with an abundance of produce that I have no idea what to do with. Eggplant grows incredibly well in my yard for some reason and I am the only one in my house who actually likes it! I have made Eggplant Parmesan and roasted it in the oven and grilled it with an assortment of herbs. They still don’t like it! So, tomorrow I will be making Baba ghanoush, a Middle Eastern dip that is made with eggplant along with garlic, onions, and an assortment of other flavorful ingredients. They probably won’t like that either but I am running out of ways to serve eggplant. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!
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5. Don’t give up! This is one of the most important gardening tips I can give you. Keep trying every single year! Learn from your mistakes, keep a journal, talk to other gardeners in your area and do your research. This year I am trying sweet potatoes for the first time because I live in the south and they are supposed to thrive in the Georgia clay. Since they are underground I just keep praying that come August I will actually have sweet potatoes to harvest! I certainly have plenty of vines, there better be SOMETHING growing under the soil! Rotate your beds, try different types of garden soils and supplements and if you don’t have luck with seed, head to the nursery and start with plants instead. Every year you will learn something that will help you be a more successful gardener next year. Or, you will lose your tomato plants to a particularly annoying chipmunk like I did and swear you will never pick up a hoe again. But you will. Because gardening is addictive and there is nothing quite as sweet as a cucumber that you grew from seed all by yourself!
Do you have any gardening tips you would like to share?
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.