What went wrong!
Sadly I have no advice for you on growing perfect tomatoes or full-proof methods for getting your watermelons to grow the size of Michelin tires. Instead I’m going to tell you the one thing I learned when it comes to gardening, you must plan well. Having a vegetable garden, cutting garden or even a few ornamental flower beds requires planning. It’s not something you can do on the spur of the moment, I thought I understood this and was prepared for the weeding and watering, etc. but apparently I was not.
The previous owners of my home were a married couple with adult children and the husband worked for a landscape company so needless to say when my husband and I purchased our home the yard looked pretty spectacular. The first summer we were able to get by with the existing landscaping, cutting the grass on a regular basis was really all that was needed. The ornamental shrubs and various flowering plants were still young. The only thing I did that first year was put out two window boxes overflowing with fresh herbs.
The following spring we began to see that the yard needed some more maintenance other than just cutting the grass but I was 8 months pregnant and in no condition to be down on all fours pulling weeds and my husband I’m sorry to say is not the outdoorsy type. He who grew up in a beach town and spent his teen years in the inner city, I’m lucky he knows how to cut the grass. But feeling like I needed to do something I put out my herb boxes again and added additional containers of strawberries, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and Tomatillos.
This year, year three I fear I was a little overly ambitious. With a full-time job, two small children under the age of four and various extra curricular activities I did not plan my gardening activities very well. I didn’t take into account the constraints on my time. Spending time in the Garden meant less time for other things, things I wasn’t willing to sacrifice at the moment but I had fooled myself into thinking I could do it all.
The three small flower beds out in the front yard I weeded and filled with colorful pansies and violas but about two weeks later due to the buckets of rain we had the weeds were back and I didn’t have a moment available to re-weed them. Now nearly two months later the weeds are chocking my lovely pansies. The cutting garden that was planned for the side of the house never happened. My only success was once again my window boxes overflowing with mint, thyme, basil, rosemary, and chives and my little container strawberry plant that bore fruit more delicious than what I found at the Farmers Markets. My biggest disappointment however was indeed my vegetable garden. I tilled up a 12 x 10 space, made four well spaced rows and proceeded to plant my sweet peas, cantaloupe, bok choy, various heirloom tomatoes and hot peppers.
My grandfather whose victory garden is about 100 x 100 provides anything else I might want, zucchini, corn, squash, beans, cucumbers. I had fooled myself into thinking that if I turned the soil well enough and mixed in my compost that the weeds would not come. To look at it now you would never know that it was a tilled space, grass and weeds have both returned. My heirloom tomatoes and peppers are surviving, mainly because they are in cages but everything else are now buried somewhere between the clover and dandelions; Poor planning indeed. What do you do when you want a vegetable garden and you are short on time? I always thought Time Management was one of my strong points but if you take one look at my yard you might beg to differ. It’s too late to start from scratch, I’m going to take the weed whacker to my flower beds, fill them with mulch and leave them empty for the remainder of the summer. As for the vegetable garden I’ll probably do the same thing except of course for the tomatoes and peppers which have really proven themselves to be survivors.
Surely you other backyard gardeners out there have some sound advice out there about gardening with limited time so do share and before anyone says “Go ask your grandfather” I’ve got one word for you, retirement. I also welcome any other suggestions for the flower beds besides getting rid of everything, mulching them, and leaving them empty.
Next week: Starting a Community Farmers Market continues… I finally got that meeting scheduled with the Mayor, can I get him on board.
Heather Jones is a wife, mother, freelance food writer, and graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She has worked for Gourmet Magazine, TV Personality Katie Brown, and the New York based Indian-fusion restaurant Tabla. Heather resides in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters. She is a strong supporter of the Sustainable Food Movement and believes that education is the key to making a difference.