When Eric and I moved to Pammel Park just outside of Winterset in 1991, we had our first space to garden. I was also fortunate to have a great neighbor, Dorothy, who grew, canned, and froze everything and anything she could. I learned so much from her. As a child, I took gardening for granted and often found the chores tedious and annoying. But I was so excited as an adult to plan and start a garden for my young family (Brady, Brenden, and Logan). I did not even think about the fact that none of them, at the time, would eat anything I grew...they would not eat vegetables I bought from the grocery....including my husband...yes, Eric, my forester. But my excitement could not be squashed as I figured they would be so excited with the growing process...they would gobble them up.
We planted everything. It was a beautiful garden! Potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers..... radishes... I love radishes! They are so easy to plant and quick to emerge. I exclaimed to the boys and Eric we had a radish big enough to eat! I pulled it, washed it, and sliced it up for each to have a taste. And they all gagged and spit it out!
Let's be honest.....Vegetable gardens are a lot of work. And if the vegetables aren't going to be consumed, why bother? So I stopped gardening and just started buying veggies from the grocery. And then I forgot how much work they are and started gardening again. Just a small space and I quickly remembered how wonderful and fresh and green things tasted from my own garden. We haven't always had the space to garden as we moved around. But when we bought our current house nine years ago we decided to start adding edibles into our landscaping. A different way to garden than I had been accustomed...our goal is for our grandkids to be able to find things in the yard they can enjoy...like raspberries, asparagus, and strawberries amongst all the wonderful rocks and flowers.
I say we because NEVER SAY NEVER....at the age of 35 my husband tasted fresh, steamed broccoli for the first time and thus began his journey into eating almost everything green. The sons...of 5 Sons... are also pretty good veggie eaters now too. They still don't like radishes and only Ayden will eat pickles.
We don't just put in everything and anything in our gardens...we grow what we think we will enjoy and tuck them into spaces in our landscaping because we don't have a regular garden space. We also frequent the Farmer's Market to supplement what we grow. I'm okay with letting others do the work! I do keep my eyes open for organic produce.
- Even though serious gardeners start planning their gardens in January..it is not too late this spring to get some crops growing! Peas, lettuce, and radishes love cooler temps so look at the days to maturity on the package to double check time. But definitely purchase and plan for a fall crop while the seeds are available if time doesn't permit this spring. (they grow all season but hot temps of Iowa make them bitter)
- Bedding plants have arrived and always give a jump on the growing season. Last year I purchased packs of Swiss chard, eggplant, tomatoes, and okra. They produced well and we picked and ate them daily.
- If you planted tomatoes last year, rotate the spot this year. Tomatoes tend to get blight if planted in the same location. Consider just one or two plants if you just want to consume all you grow.
- Save your grass clippings to lay down thick mulch between the rows to deter weeds the minute your seeds sprout through the soil. Keeping ahead of weeds is key to keep enthusiasm present and produce plentiful.
- Don't forget some perennial herbs! Chives are my favorite and are so easy to grow. We use them fresh but we dehydrate them and store in canning jars for year round use. I also grow sage, tarragon, rosemary (in a pot), cilantro, and my favorite....fresh basil which has to be replanted every year. There is nothing like topping a pasta dish with fresh basil from the garden...and it is so easy to grow!
- Typically July is spent handling cucumbers and August is all about tomatoes.
- Keep a close eye on green beans..one day they are blossoms and the next they are overgrown! (I'm not a fan of beans that get the big seeds in the middle...ugh)
- Simply plant what you would enjoy eating and give away all your excess if you have too much or learn how to can and freeze. The Ball Blue Book gives all the necessary information to canning and freezing. There is nothing like opening a jar of garden tomatoes in the middle of winter!