Monday, February 27, 2012

I'm In Need of Gardening Advice! Calling All Gardening Folks Please!! :-))

The last of my garden last summer!
So last summer was my very exciting first year planting my own garden and growing vegetables!  My tomato plants died almost immediately from a virus but I had a robust cucumber crop, green & purple peppers, carrots, basil, green beans, a few snap peas, dill, cilantro, rosemary, swiss chard and italian parsley.  I was able to get two small acorn squashes out of the process before the squash bugs killed them as well as the pumpkin and watermelon plants (which were thriving before but sadly hadn't born fruit yet!).  Unfortunately my next pest turn was the cucumber beetle which killed all the cucumber plants & then powdery mildew which finished everything off except the peppers!

I know this sounds like a story of woe but I actually REALLY LOVED the whole process!  Every morning I would rush outside excited to see what grew in the garden!  I started the garden way too late in the season and had no plan to it--just grabbed all the organic seeds left at the Lowe's & bought a few baby herbs, tomato & pepper plants because that was all the garden center had left!  I'm very proud to report that I also built a chicken wire enclosure to protect the two beds & incorporated deer netting as well (we don't have deer but we do have squirrels!)--I did it all with my own two little hands :-)  Well my hands aren't that little!  But I was very proud to discover these unknown skills!!

This year I'm organized.  I am picking out seeds to order, making a chart of where I want things and expanding the size of the garden.  At least I knew last year how to prep the beds (I gardened with my Mom when I was little so I remember that!) so the beds are looking lovely in this second season! (I hope none of those pests and diseases are able to stay in the soil through winter??!)

Its a bit cold to start planting but I would love some advice from all you seasoned folk on any or all of the following questions!

1) Which vegetables do you think are the easiest to grow?  What are YOUR favorite veggies to grow?
2)  Have you ever grown from Heirloom seeds?  Are they more difficult to grow than regular seeds?
3)  Any favorite seed companies to buy from?
4)  Any gardening books or resources to recommend?  I have a ton but you know me, always want more to read!
5)  Any advice on how to organically address those pest issues I mentioned above?  I tried to catch the cucumber beetles and squash bugs and kill them, but couldn't keep up with the population!
6)  I'm going to try to plant a flower bed this year as well--any tips or favorite varieties?
7)  What can I do now inside to start growing the plants to put in the garden once its warm enough?
8)  Any general gardening tips?

Beyond those questions I'd love to hear you share with me your gardening stories!  Both successful and not so successful!

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section below.

Thanks in advance for your time and recommendations!!


  1. I love 'One Magic Square' by Lolo Houbein
    She's an Australian gardener but don't let that put you off, I think the book is also published for US audiences. She writes in a way that summons you to action immediately, the first sentence is 'To start growing your own food without delay, put down this book, go out in the garden and select a spot in the sun...'
    Good luck and thanks for your blog.

  2. Thank you Vivaroo!! Hilariously "One Magic Square" is one of the library books I checked out last weekend!! I skimmed through it a bit but now I'll go back and read it properly since you think so highly of it!

    Thank you SO much for commenting!!!:-))

  3. I've grown vegetables in different situations (containers, raised beds, low desert, upper midwest, clay, sandy soil). All of those factors make a huge difference in the techniques that you will eventually learn as you experiment.

    Easiest vegetables: summer squash, tomatoes (I find that 'volunteer' tomato plants are much more productive and hardy than ones started by hand or from transplants!), peas (if you have a long, cool spring), eggplant, lettuce

    Heirloom seeds: I do not find them more difficult than regular seeds; however, I do find some vegetables more difficult to grow from seeds in general. Easy to grow from seeds: peas (I grow sugar snap and snow peas so that the whole pod is edible), green/wax beans, kale, lettuce, radishes, carrots (if you have good soil, not dense clay), cucumbers.

    Favorite seed companies: Pinetree sells smaller packets than many companies, which is nice for home gardens,

    Favorite garden books: I like Sunset's garden zones for individualized planting advice - see their National Garden Book

    Organic pest issues: See this link.
    In general, build up your soil with compost, then your plants will be healthier, and pests will be less numerous. Make your yard and garden attractive to predators of those pests.

    Flowers - look up natives for your area; they will be more drought-tolerant.

    Growing now: In general I find it difficult to start seeds indoors, as I do not have a dedicated area and lamp. Seedlings begun indoors often are not as sturdy as those started outside when the season begins, and they can suffer from molds or other problems. My solution is to start plants from seeds directly in the garden once it warms up sufficiently, and to buy transplants for a few things, such as eggplant and tomatoes. It may not be ideal, but it is what gives me the most productive garden.

    General gardening tips - what is your climate? Gardening tips vary tremendously depending on local growing conditions.

    1. Rosemary Evergreen Thank you SO much for such detailed and helpful advice--you are WONDERFUL!!!!

      I looked it up and I'm located in USDA Zone 7 in the Mid-Atlantic region. Thanks also for the seed company advice-/I'll check them out!!:-)). Great news on the Heirloom seeds!!:-)

  4. I've linked to some more gardening resources here:

    Also, check the university extension for your state.

    1. Oooo I just looked at your blog--it's great!!! I really like it and that post is extremely helpful--thanks for sharing the link with me!:-))

  5. Full disclosure: my boyfriend does all our gardening, but between his botany degree and his mom being a master gardener, I've learned a lot! We grow veggies & herbs almost all year long. In fact, our first seeds of the season went in yesterday - spinach, cucumber, snap peas, carrots, radishes, and the list goes on and on.

    Heirloom seeds are great - we used some last season. We don't start them inside. The seeds go right into our beds out back, and we've had great success. We plant with vigor, overlapping the seeds based on when they'll come up. So, for instance, last season we planted radishes, lettuce & carrots on top of one another to make the most of space. The radishes came up first, once they were picked, the lettuces got the light, and as the lettuce finished, carrots were beginning to sprout.

    Start with cold weather veggies - think leafy greens - now. At least where we are, it's time to get things going. Then, over the summer, do your warm weather veggies - tomatoes, cucumber, squash, etc. When late summer rolls around, you can get in more lettuces for the fall. Also, we let our carrots grow all winter. They're sweeter that way. Just picked them in January.

    Rotate your "crops" so that you get the most out of the soil. Different plants take different nutrients. You can also look up what can go next to each other to make areas thrive. Sadly, that tomato blight you mentioned will likely be around for awhile, particularly if you have had a mild winter like we did here. We've been moving our tomatoes from bed to bed for the last couple summers without any real luck. They keep on getting the disease.

    Finally, fertilize in the fall when you do your final harvest & cover the area with mulch for the winter. That will keep the good stuff from blowing away.


    1. Emily thank you so much for all this AWESOME advice!! Your boyfriend may do the gardening but you really know your stuff!!! You are such a help thank u!!!:/))))

      Sad to hear the news about the tomato blight:-( Ill try a brand new bed this year and hopefully that will work!!:-))

    2. One year my mom moved tomatoes from the garden to the front yard--next to the front door. It solved the problem, and it looked pretty, too!

  6. I used to live in the Midatlantic region in that zone area - the soil can be very difficult if you have the red clay. Seek out a source for compost - where I live now, we can get free compost from our county, which makes it from leaves and brush from residents. If you have clay, be careful not to overwater as the plants can drown. To test drainage, dig a small hole, for instance, about a foot wide and a foot deep. Fill it with water and see how quickly the water drains out of the hole. If it takes hours, a lot of soil amendment is needed.

    Raised beds can be useful to enhance drainage. They also warm up a little faster in spring, and dry out sooner if you have a very wet winter/spring.

    Also, the insects can be quite prolific there as you've already experienced! Building up your soil year by year really will help. Also, plant a wide diversity of vegetables so that there's not a huge target for any one insect.

    I actually don't do any pest control in our yard - my garden has been in place for about 6 years and the soil is very healthy. I have ornamentals and herbs that draw numerous beneficial insects (plant common, not Greek, oregano to see a tremendous variety of bees and wasps! - they love the purple flowers, and it's a super-easy perennial. If you want oregano for food, plant Greek oregano as well) One year I had some squash beetles that killed a couple branches of a plant, but then they disappeared. I think it's a combination of factors - soil, plant variety, sufficient air between plants to prevent mildew, etc.

    If there is an arboretum or botanical garden near you, that would be an excellent place to get information on gardening in your local climate, and to speak to experienced gardeners!

  7. Get the books Gaia's Garden, Lasagne Garden, and The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book. with the knowledge in these you will grow and grow and grow any vegetable that strikes your fancy. For indoor micro greens, get the sprouting book from Ann Wigmore and read the chapter on indoor gardening. My favorite seed companies are Territorial Seeds, Urban Homestead-Freedom Seeds, and Seeds of Change. Favorite company for fruit bushes and trees is Raintree Nursery. All that said, the easiest way to grow your own vegetables and have the fastest harvest is to grow sprouts in a mason jar on your kitchen counter-5 days from seed to salad. Lots of sprouting experts will tell you that jars are a bad way to sprout and try to sell you the latest and greatest contraption. I've purchased most of these and found them inferior to the jar with cheese cloth method. I made a little video about sprouting here.

  8. Hi,
    Gardening is such a wonderful experience. I'm sure you'll continue to love it ...There is something so grounded and so 'right' about going out and harvesting & eating something you grew!

    I know you already have beds established (and protective armor to ward off squirrels), but I cannot recommend strongly enough raised beds. I have been gardening for a long, long time, and last year my husband put in two raised beds for me. Life-changing. We had more successful harvests from those two beds (and a side 'regular' bed) this past year than probably the last 5 years put together. And with literally, about 2 - 5 minutes of work per day. THEY ARE SO EASY!!! And, being in an area with clay (I am in zone 6, just one zone colder than you), it is much easier to control the soil. We are adding two more this year.

    We have a horse farm, so have the benefit of composted manure to add. But you could hook up with local farmers to add some of that. (You probably already know that :-).

    Easiest to grow for us here is spinach and the red lettuces. These tend to be early and later crops, and it is easy to sow successive plantings so you can have these continually. Tomatoes also thrive and I plant several varieties. It's nice to have a paste tomato variety for our many tomato-sauce-based vegan recipes.

    I still am trying to successfully grow the brassicas....we had problems here with the cabbage moths and their voracious little larvae that eat the leaves. Going to try row covers this year...if the moths can't get to the plants, they won't lay their eggs there.

    I love heirloom plants/seeds. I buy the plants at our local farm market and you can get heirloom seeds at or

    The powdery mildew is a problem. A few years ago I had success spraying a baking soda/water mix on my cukes and squashes that were affected. This only worked for so long, but did extend my harvest. Pull all those diseased plants out and destroy though as that can contaminate future plantings.

    For bugs, I use a mixture I make up, and use a base of water, allowing cayenne or other hot peppers to soak in it and usually add some Dr. Bronner's castille liquid soap. I've experimented with various concoctions and some work better than others. I hand pick off the tomato worms and relocate them to the tree line that borders our property.

    Flowers: you can't go wrong with cosmos. They come in yellows/oranges but I really love the pinks and whites and plant those as a mix. Many will reseed themselves and they tolerant a wide variety of soil conditions and sun exposure. My other favorite is sunflowers. If you are planning a perennial bed, these make a great center focal point or you can plant the tall varieties at the back of a bed. They will come back in various locations though. You get the extra benefit (here in Ohio anyway) of watching the finches eat from them as the seed heads mature and you can cut those heads, twine them together and hang upside down on a shepherd's hook or other location and enjoy the show.

    Good luck to you!
    Sue in Ohio

  9. Your blog is really amazing with all the bits and pieces of information I can share with my friends and followers. Thanks and more power!


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