My First Garden: Update

Okay, so I’m totally embarrassed to even claim this as my garden, but here goes:

My Tomatoes:

tomato plants almost dead

What tomatoes did produce either rotted or split so badly they weren’t usable. The bugs have demolished them.

But see my watermelon there?

My Watermelon Plant:

watermelon plant

This thing is totally taking over this whole side of the garden! If you remember, I ruined the first watermelon that it produced, but there’s another one getting really big, and a few smaller ones growing. Hopefully, they’ll turn out good!

My Zucchini Plant:

zucchini plant

This is the second zucchini we’ve gotten off this plant. The plant itself is starting to shrivel up and die. Guess this will be the last it produces.

My Strawberry Plants:

strawberry plants

These are still looking good. I see a few runners I need to clip!

My Cucumber Plant:

cucumbers in the garden

It’s mostly dried up by now too, but I’ve gotten a few cucumbers from it.

My Corn:

dead corn plants

I know it’s hard to tell, but that’s supposed to be my corn. Just Pitiful. We didn’t get one ear of corn off of these stalks. The bugs had already eaten all of the kernels on the tiny ears that did produce. Then a big storm came and knocked them all down. Oh well…

The potato plants have all died back. I still haven’t dug up all of the potatoes yet.

And then there’s the broccoli, carrots, cantaloupe, green beans and lettuce that I planted which never came up.

One day, when I’m an expert gardener with an abundance of produce flowing over, I’ll be able to look back at this first garden experience of mine and laugh…

Won’t I??

Next year will be better.

17 thoughts on “My First Garden: Update”

  1. I agree with Deanna – get your soil tested. We put in a new bed one year and the tomatoes did squat that year. I tested it and it was low on potassium (which is common in first year beds). In the future, we added new beds in the fall and amended the heck out of them so that they would have the winter to decompose and enrich the soil.

    In the fall, I drive around and collect people’s bagged leaves (from the curb) and bring them back to our house. They go in the ground in the fall. We’ve also done green manure (growing a crop to deliberately sow into the ground). These seem to have helped.

  2. Don’t feel bad. We started our first garden this year and had many learnings too. When the little card that comes with the squash says to plant them 2-3 feet apart…you really should listen. I know have squash taking over! Next year will be much better.

  3. Do a soil sample. It is totally free or minimal cost. Check with your local ag. agency. (4-H but they do a lot more) They are also very helpful with tips and ideas about your area and gardening.

    Be gentle with yourself. This year was better than last year right!

  4. Aubryz sounds like a master gardner! I really think she has some good ideas. We have red clay where I live, but really, the only problem we ever had with plants, were underground ones, like, we can grow radishes or turnips, but anything like potatos or carrots, forget it. I used to put fireplace ashes on my garden spot all winter, but in spring I use black cow manure and regular fertilizer. ( Im not an organic gardner) I also try to buy plants to set out whenever possible, just because I dont like to wait on seeds if I can help it. Maybe it was the seeds you used?

    • Sandra,

      Well, the tomato plants and the zucchini were both bought as plants at a local nursery. I’m sure it’s the clay soil that’s the problem. I’m anxious to get compost and manure in there to get it working for me!!

      Thank you everybody for such great advice!! I am definitely taking to heart everything that you guys are telling me.

  5. Don’t feel alone, girl! My garden did okay for a little bit, then everything died off. Then there were the weirdest bugs I’ve ever seen before killing them too! Maybe we’ll both do better next year!

  6. Oh.. and for the strawberries.. down here (Louisiana), some people do the black plastic stuff so that they can have strawberries earlier (it warms the soil)… but other than that – try pine straw. That’s a great mulch, in my opinion, because it covers well but it’s easy to remove if you wanted/needed to plant in a spot that it’s covering…

    Have a blessed day,

  7. I agree with previous posters that you need to give raised beds a chance, considering your clay soil. I live in Southern LA so no real problem here with soil (great soil) but I do have a raised bed for other reasons. Mine was “made” out of landscaping lumber (cheap, easy and looks very neat). The good thing is that its so much easier to control your soil this way. The inital fill-up with dirt may be pricey (in our area, you could just dig some up and just add extras to get the right balance but in your area I wouldn’t fill it up with the clay). But to save money, compare the price of soil by the yard from the local nurseries or in the bag from wherever. You can add your compost (refering to your compost post) to them easily. Also, you have chickens and they are a gold mind for super manure! Just make sure that you let it “bake” and dry first (6 months- 1 year to be safe) and then add.

    but honestly… the best advice I think any of us can give you – talk to local gardeners!!! Ask them what they do. That’s your best source of info with things like this because every area is different… it’s not just a “zone” thing… but soil can varify from city to city, county to county, etc. So try asking around or eyeing other people’s gardens when you pass by.

    Have a blessed day,

  8. I have to second the comment about your soil – we have clay here, and the first year, we put in cheap-o winter wheat, let it have a summer to (try) to grow, then ground it in as green mulch. During that time we composted from our critters for the first year… goat straw, chicken and rabbit droppings, and then we mixed in ALL the ash from a year of burning up the paper waste in our burn barrel.

    The second spring, we put ALL of that – straw, manure, ash and grass clippings and tilled it in… and watered. And tilled. And watered. And the ground ALREADY looks 500 times better. So our garden this year went in late this year, but grew SO MUCH BIGGER anyhow, it didn’t matter!

    The other thing we did that first year was (while doing this to the ‘plot’), we built square foot beds… and they DID NOT WORK for us. First, my family prol’ly is too big (four kids). Square footing yeilded a whole lotta skimpiness. Second, the plants aren’t ground-level, so whatever moisture there is goes INTO the real ground, and you’ve got to water, and water, and WATER and water the soil in the raised beds… even when it rains. When y’got small children, that just doesn’t cut it. We also put the square foot beds further from the house, making it a pain to keep up with, as the beds were ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Having it front and center made a HUGE difference (the ‘plot’ is directly in front of our house, now.)

    At least you got some yeild, though, right?

  9. So I’m thinking you don’t need much weed control, there wasn’t much of anything growing in there. You’ve got the right idea but your soil is letting you down. The plants are weak from poor soil and maybe not enough water which makes them more susceptible to bugs.

    Do what was earlier mentioned with the chickens. This is what I did. When you are done with the growing season, or have just had enough, turn your garden bed into the chicken run. Put a portable coop there and fence in the birds. Let them take down the current plants and eat bugs for a week.

    When they have decimated everything green start dumping in any source mulch you have; leaves, grass clippings, weeds, not pine needles. If you don’t have much else growing toss in a bale of straw every week or two.

    During the fall, winter and early spring they will break down the mulches with their constant scratching and pooping. And I mean you want to add up to 6 inches of mulch every week or two.

    By spring time you will have a mound of soil/mulch heaven. take the ladies back to their usual home a month before you plant and water the mulch pit heavily, at least 3 times a week. When you are ready to plant just mound everything up.

    Raised beds are great low effort and you don’t have to add your poor soil to it. Don’t worry about putting wood around them, just make 3 foot wide raised beds that are slightly concave on top. This way when you water the water will pool up like a lake on top of the bed and stay with your plants.

    Next year water daily or every other day for the first month until your plants get strong then water at least 3 times a week, more if it is hot and dry. You’ll do great with a little help from you chicken friends! We do this every year and the garden has worked great!

  10. I am going to second the comment about raised beds. My soil isn’t red, but its mostly clay and tree roots (our house used to be a tree nursery 30 years ago). I put in a raised bed and I have never seen such a prolific cherry tomato plant. That thing has gone from one end of the 4×8 bed to the other. The bad thing is that the tomato plants shaded much of the garden, but the good thing, we have gotten quarts and quarts of cherry tomatoes from one plant. I have a quart of sun dried cherry tomatoes, and even more frozen for adding to soups in the winter.

    FYI, last year with a non-raised bed the only thing that grew was one zucchini plant. It surprisingly did well. The tomatoes had 4 green tomatoes on them by the first frost.

    I think the main reason why we had such success this spring (before we were taken over by the tomato plants’ shade) was because I amended a 4×8 bed with about 200 lbs of compost. That was after I buried a bunch of leaves in there last fall. I plan on repeating the leaf thing this fall and using compost as mulch for less weeding next summer.

  11. This was a really hard growing season for a lot of the country! Too wet, not wet enough, whatever!

    My garden (in raised beds) is pretty pitiful too, but I KNOW it is my fault!!

    Is that plastic surrounding the plants or that weed barrier fabric? If it is plastic, most of the rain water probably isn’t getting down to the plant.

  12. Bless your heart.

    I’m planning my first garden for next year, and there are so many different options out there…I can’t decide what to do?!!?

    My neighbor, Elouise, has offered me a spot in their second garden down the road (very easily within walking distance from my home), and I know that the soil that they have down there is amazing…they continue to put compost and horse manure down there, and it’s as black as black can be, and just perfect…but, there is no water down there, if we have a really dry summer next year, I won’t really have a way to water it.
    I’ve also thought about building a garden here, in my yard (after I get permission from my landlord, which shouldn’t be a problem). If I have to buy much to get it going though, it won’t be very cost effective, which makes using the neighbors garden even more appealing…

    I’m praying about it. I know God will show me what he wants me to do!
    In the meantime, I’m having so much fun researching and planning for next year! And, right now…very much enjoying all the garden goodness Elouise keeps bringing over for us from her BEAUTIFUL garden!
    (hmmm…maybe I don’t even need to plant one! just kidding!)

    Next year will be better for you, I’m sure….take some of the tips givin here, and you’re sure to have beautiful soil, eventually!
    Have you read about the lasagna method? I’m looking into that too!

    Again, I enjoy each of your posts Kendra!
    Thank you!


  13. Just judging by the color of your dirt (CLAY!!) I think you need to spend the fall reading up on the Mittleider Gardening method, or even Square Foot Gardening. Above ground might be the best way to go. We live in an area that has poor soil and our 8 above ground gardens are pumping out HUGE amounts of food every day. My garden looked exactly like yours before we switched, and now I have veggies and fruits coming out my ears! 😉

    We built our boxes out of recycled lumber from neighbors, our dirt/compost was purchased and some given. Next year we’ll be moving over to the Mittleider Gardening method and plan to use the sawdust/sand combination for our soil. Check it out! You’ll be impressed!

  14. You might not look back and laugh, but you’ll definitely know what to do or not to do. 😉 I’m still doing stupid stuff (this year was expecting heat-loving squash and pole beans to actually grow/climb up a trellis right next to our back row of evergreen trees – talk about a waste of space!), and I expect I’ll be doing something goofy in 30 years, too. I just try to embrace my flops as learning experiences (in part so I don’t cry).
    My garden also always, always, always suffers when I’ve either had a baby or am gestating. Never fails. Things get planted late or not at all, things are harvested when they should be, etc. I’m *so* looking forward to being able to have the kids be more of a help than hindrance in that regard.

    But why do you want to clip your strawberry runners? Are they still setting fruit or something? I just let the runners take root, then move them around in the spring as need be. Of course, that’s how I ended up with 200+ crowns from an original 20-40 a few years before, but still. I have some Tribute strawberries that are still putting out ripe fruit (!!! talk about a new thing to me!) and throwing runners every which way – I’m totally keeping those suckers as I’m planning to end up with 240sf of strawberries next year. My theory is that you can never have too many strawberries.

    And maybe I’m wrong, but is your soil red clay? I’ve never seen it in person though (I live near the land of perpetual damp and don’t travel much). If you can send the chickens out to the garden to forage/till – and maybe get rid of bugs – for a little while this year that could definitely help fertilize. I think – haven’t taken the chicken plunge due to space constrictions and county livestock ordinance. Oh, my original point – any way to throw down a bunch of compost to work into the garden? Could potentially help. I’ll go shut up now…


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