Friday, September 26, 2014

Gardening Mistakes I made in 2014

This post is a follow up from my post  Comprehensive list of my Top 20 Gardening Tips. Every year I am much more satisfied with my garden production, and the Fall season is a time to reflect on how I can improve the next Gardening year.
Although I make less mistakes in my gardens as the years go by, I usually have different issues every year. You can read my first and second year's gardening mistakes at Gardening Mistakes 2013 and 4 mistakes as a First year gardener. 'Mistakes' isn't the right word for it-- really, it's laziness. To be fair, I get a bit lazy as the Summer progresses into hot weather. Not only that, but because I have gardens off the property which I reside, I manage those gardens much less. On the property which I reside, the gardens are managed much better. Of course I slack on the gardening tasks necessary to have an impressive garden.
Often my issue comes from avoiding making plans. I don't always envision what needs to be done in the garden to make it better, so the tasks simply do not get accomplished.

cardboard around Cucumbers to suppress weeds
1. For example, when I made wide walking paths between my rows of potatoes, I expected many weeds to grow on the walking paths. I assumed I would be walking along the rows which would smother out any tall, invasive weeds. Actually I never walked through these paths so the weeds got too tall to manage. It wasn't until we were harvesting potatoes that we had to chop them down.
However, I did lay out cardboard for the long row of Cucumbers. The weeds weren't too terrible around the Cucumbers, but eventually the weeds were unmanageable because they sneaked through the cracks of the cardboard.
Although it's too late to worry, I collected cardboard from around the house days ago to lay them on walking paths between the rows of Tomatoes. This is task was preparation for transforming my Tomato and Pepper garden into Hugelkultur beds.
In the future, I am laying out layers of cardboard in between every row of vegetable as soon as I establish the rows. I am not waiting until we have weeds in the rows-- as soon as I hoe up mounds for the lettuce, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, or anything-- I am going to lay down cardboard!
Cardboard is an unlimited resource if I can go into town. Behind every store, they keep cardboard stacked high in the garbage bin.

Tomato plants tied at the middle resulted in falling down
 2. Another task I slacked on was staking every Tomato plant. Of course I did stake every Tomato plant, but I improperly did so, which resulted in the Tomato plants falling over. Trying to save time and use less tobacco sticks, I posted one stick to every two Tomato plants. This was not a good idea considering I wrapped a string around both plants, instead of tying the plants individually.
Altogether, it was sloppy work, so next year, I am staking one post to one individual Tomato plant so that the Tomato plant can cling to the post. The real issue had been the two Tomato plants on either side of the stick was too far away to remain up against the stick, so the base fell onto the ground because I could not tie the base of the plant to the post. I could only tie off the middle of the plant to the stick.
As for Tomato plants, I don't think it will be necessary to start any Tomato plants indoors or purchase any Starters because my Compost beds always produce Tomato sprouts (even all over the yard and in my windowsill Tomatoes sprout).
Squash Garden
3. I still struggle with the best way to grow Yellow Squash and Zucchini. No matter how I grow them, because they become large and fragile, they fall over exposing their root systems.  I have directly sown them in large mounds, started them indoors, and even grown them so that I could continue to add soil around them (as you can see in the photo to the right).
I haven't seen "better" ways to grow Squash besides Permaculture methods, meaning to grow Squash in compost on top (or within) straw bales. Growing Squash plants in straw bales will be an option for next year considering we are taking a whole new approach to gardening with less tilling and utilizing hugelkultur methods.

4. My only quarrel with my Melons was that I started them as early as I could, and still they grew slow and small. My Cantaloupe fruits grew to perfect size, but my Watermelons were small. Almost all of my Watermelon developed a rotten spot on their bottoms. I wondered if this had to do with too much rain, as some have told me they do not like to be over-watered. I was proud that I maintained persistence in watering my Melon gardens through the dry weeks. Then again, the rotten spot could have been due to laying on the ground. Next year my plans with the Melon garden include laying out cardboard in the walking paths; composting all Watermelon plants; and mulching so that they retain moisture. I may also create a Trellis specifically for growing Melons so they can vine up instead of crawling all over the walking paths. 
The only Cantaloupe plant that produced the most (and biggest) melons was the Volunteer Cantaloupe plant growing amongst my strawberries. Of course this bed is full of compost and by continually watering this bed, the Cantaloupes flourished. My other gardens of Watermelons and Cantaloupe were either too small to eat (non-mature so unripe to eat) and many of them became rotten. Some Watermelon fruits became ripe enough to eat, though.
Altogether, Melons require much more maintenance, nutrition, different soil ratios than other plants. For this reason, I will also add creek sand for better aeration. By implementing compost, mulch, and trellises into the Melon gardens, I will have a much better Melon harvest next year.

deformed Cucumbers
5. I am surprised that I harvested less Cucumbers this year than the last. I directly sowed over 400 Cucumber seeds into a long row. Half of the row gets partial sun while the other half gets less sun than that. Obviously I was not surprised that the other half would not produce, but Cucumbers do well in partial sun (as noticed in the last three years of growing them).
Of course almost all of my Cucumbers plants sprouted but the other half which received no sun never made it to flowering.
I may have Cucumbers growing as we speak, but as far as I know, I harvested only two bags of Cucumbers. They were smaller than last years too, and somewhat deformed (see in photo above.) These Cucumber seeds came from last years harvest, so I am incredibly confused by the turn out.
Not only that, but I smothered most of the weeds around the Cucumber plants with cardboard, which still did not help their production. They also retained plenty of moisture and nutrition because the soil was in excellent condition.
Because Cucumbers are vining plants, my goal for them as well as the Melons are to create a Trellis so that they can crawl up and away from the ground/weeds. 

Corn growing close together
6.  The Corn rows were spaced too close together. The only reason I grew Corn was because it was on my Grandparents' property, and they wanted some from our Garden. Of course when we directly sowed the Corn, we did not imagine walking through narrow rows of prickly, fuzzy plants to harvest the Fruits. You can hardly walk through the path between rows to harvest. Considering the Corn was small anyway, we harvested some on the outside rows but we are leaving the rest to animals. Once the stalks die, we will use them as mulch or in our hugelkultur beds. Next year, I am not growing Corn unless if it is in small quantity, perhaps a couple of plants, rather than the 9 rows of Corn we planted this year. Corn is indigestible and a waste of my time. 

rows of small & large Pepper plants
I'm not being totally hard on myself, I made great alterations and improvements within the garden. For example, when my Strawberries were being eaten by birds, I placed figurines beside the fruiting plants which immediately kept the birds away. Also, my Lettuce garden this year flourished, along with the Kale. My Pepper plants did a great job because I was diligent in watering them and putting compost around the biggest plants (I even diluted my urine as a fertilizer for the Melons and Pepper plants). Because I predicted the Pepper plants I grew from seed were not growing as they should, I purchased several Pepper starters from Lowes --just to be safe. It turned out, all of the Pepper plants I had started--even the smallest Pepper plant--produced Peppers.

As mentioned, I'm taking a different route to gardening. Instead of exclusively Tilling the garden and having structured rows of Vegetables-- I am focusing on Permaculture methods, utilizing Hugelkultur beds, Straw bales, and Companion planting. I will also be growing Flowers within the garden. I will discuss all of this in more detail in a later post. 

I am already writing up information about Vegan Permaculture methods, and future gardening plans, so be on the look out for that post in the next couple of days. Also look through my most previous posts how other gardeners are recreating their own backyard into a Food Forest, Permaculture Trio and Val and Eli's Permaculture Paradise.


  1. corn is digestible and you get the macro and micro nutrients just like any food, its just the bran(outer layer) that's not but is used as fiber. so corn is not a waste of time.

  2. Thank you for commenting. I am growing corn this year as well, and probably will continue to grow corn. My family eats it, and birds love it, so I have changed my mind that it's a waste of time.