Ahh, summer. Long hot days, are just perfect for vegetable growing. I don't know about you, but for me, summer begins with the smell of tomato plants, there is just something about the aroma that ushers in the season.
Working in the complex world of financial services, it is good to go home to a hobby that grounds me, literally! Many people will ask why I do the vegetable garden each year, why not just go to the store and buy what I need? My answer is that there are more benefits than the harvest. Not only is it very satisfying to be able to pick, preserve and share the bounty of the crop but gardening also provides a creative outlet that’s rewarding bi product is relaxation and balance. It provides a connection to the earth, which grounds, re-energizes and restores me.
This year’s crop includes tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, basil and watermelon.
Here are some photos from last year:
Just like managing investment portfolios, gardening requires a combination of a few key things for the harvest to be successful:
The key to a great garden is great soil. I compost leaves each fall and put them on the garden. It is important to grind the leaves up by mowing over them a few times so that they will decompose and become a part of the soil. In the spring, you can turn them into the soil so that you have good nutrients and drainage in your garden. If you have good compost for your garden, you will not need to use synthetic fertilizers. I do not use any fertilizer and you can see how healthy my plants are.
Another key is proper hydration. You can't always depend on Mother Nature to provide rain, so you need to make sure you have a way to consistently provide water to the plants. I use soaker hoses, which provide water to the base of the plant only, avoiding mildew problems youmay get from a spray irrigation system. You also do not want to water weeds, they will grow with or without water. Soaker systems can be purchased at your local gardening store, a 100 foot hose will cost you around $30 and this will cover a nice size garden. They are very easy to install, taking less than 30 minutes for a garden my size.
You may want to use beneficial flowering plants in your garden and avoid the need to spray chemicals on the vegetables you are going to eat. I plant marigolds each year to attract lady bugs that will eat the aphids so that you do not have to spray for them. I also plant cannas and day lilies in the garden. The flowers give the garden a nice look and the June bugs (Japanese Beatles) will attack the flowers first, giving you fair notice to get the bugs under control prior to attacking your vegetable plants. You can also buy a trap for June bugs, just hang it away from your garden area and they will go to it instead of your precious plants.
Another key to gardening success is critter control. As much as you enjoy eating your vegetables, so will the deer, squirrel and groundhogs! I use a solar powered electric fence to keep them out of the garden. I usually put the fence up right after planting so that my plants are not eaten before they have a chance to grow. You can buy the electric fence at a gardening store. Just need make sure it sits in the sun and is fully powered before relying on it. Once installed, it will recharge itself daily.
Great care should be taken in harvesting your plants so as not to disrupt the blooms and pollination process. Harvesting, once the season starts, is an everyday thing. This is where you get to preserve or share whatever you are not going to use. I have made lots of fans and friends by delivering a bag of veggies every week.
There is nothing better in the winter time than opening one of the jars or freezer bags of home grown produce. Canning and freezing is a subject for another blog but mastering this process will afford you the taste of fresh veggies year round.