I’ve been married almost 37 years but with 24 moves I’ve never had the opportunity to plant a garden with any success until now. The majority of military moves happen in the summer so that’s one season out. The next summer might be a good opportunity but the effort was usually one of trial and error as I tried to figure out the soil and weather limitations. By the next summer we were pulling up chocks and moving again.
Nothing’s changed about that but this year I had a willing helper who knew more than I did about planting, and even better, she had a truck and knew where to go for good quality manure. Score one for the garden! Armed with smelly rich earth and promising plants from a local nursery, we set about reaching our goal of at least a few fresh tomatoes by the end of this Nebraska summer.
Hmmm….we may have planted a bit too soon. Our fledgling garden spent a few nights bedded down against frost.
From there on out, though, summer rain and plenty of sunshine did it’s job and our garden and planters flourished.
During our summer long adventure we learned a few lessons:
1. Straight up manure is amazing when added to a garden plot and mixed in. It’s not so good when used full strength in pots. About a month into the process we had to repot everything, mixing regular soil into the manure to keep it from burning the plants.
2. Applying some sort of bug repellent before venturing into the garden is a must in Nebraska. Being food for the mosquitos can cause eyes to swell shut and other not-so-fun reactions. My apologies to Sarah for being the recipient of that knowledge.
3. Putting up a fence to keep the bunnies out was a great idea.
4. Those little tomato cages they sell in the garden stores will only take you through the first month or so. After that you have to get creative to support them. Or perhaps we just had mutant tomato plants.
5. It takes a long time for a green pepper to ripen into a red pepper. Longer than I expected.
6. A tiny butternut squash plant will eventually, when left up to its own devices, take over your entire garden and then jump the fence you put up to keep the critters away. That resulted in a homemade trellis constructed from two wooden railings, zip-tied together. The squash loved their new digs.
7. If the bees don’t come early in the summer you need to hand-pollinate the blossoms. The bees eventually found us but not until after we’d lost many a baby squash. Oh, and you feel kind of ridiculous when you’re doing that procedure; like you’re violating the blossoms’ privacy.
8. Besides the harvest, it’s also just really fun watching a garden grow. Kind of like kids, only you don’t have to drive it around anywhere or fund any more college educations.
Here’s some of the beauty we enjoyed in our back yard this summer:
The biggest lesson learned? That although it would have been easier and probably cheaper, to venture down to the Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning, there’s nothing quite as wonderful as a bowl full of cherry tomatoes straight from your own back yard, catching the afternoon light on your kitchen counter. Eating them was like eating candy….they were that sweet.
The home gardener is part scientist, part artist, part philosopher, part ploughman.
~John R. Whiting
*This is my response to WordPress.com’s weekly photo challenge: adventure