Turns out I don’t have much of a green thumb.  All of the planning, money, work, and stress and we managed to get 3 black bean pods, 2 pinto bean pods, and 1 small serving of okra.  Jealous of my fresh food plethora, aren’t you?

To be fair, I had basil but didn’t harvest it because I thought it was like rosemary and just continually produced.  I may have had sweet potatoes but I wasn’t sure when to pull them.  I also had more okra that I didn’t harvest because it came at the end of the season and by that time I was pretty much frustrated so I neglected the end of the season.  In a lot of ways this year was a gardening failure.

But I did learn.  And while I haven’t started putting in the planning for next year, I feel pretty confident that next year will be more of a success.  Maybe we will get to eat 2 helpings of okra and a couple of tomatoes!  Come on over for the feast…  Haha.

Here is what I’ve learned and how I hope to make next year better.

Probably the most important lesson I learned is that a novice gardener like myself can definitely get too caught up in trying to do everything right that it becomes overwhelming and stressful.  I typically function in a fairly laid back way, and when things start to get overwhelming and stressful my ability to function can shut down.  I hope that this next year I can have a much more laid back approach to gardening.  I’m sure already having a layout scheme for companion plantings (I’ll use this year’s plan again), and already having the boxes built, and having made a few serious gardening friends will all help me approach this with a much more laid back attitude.

The second lesson I learned is timing is… NOT everything.  There are some pretty important elements to timing, but for all of the “plant this at this time” stuff- it just didn’t seem to matter.  We had peas growing really well mid-summer even though they are typically cooler weather plants.  Following Master Gardener pages on Facebook is a great way to keep up with what is good and when.  Because the heat of summer is often late July through August, the local Master Gardener said that as late as the first of August there could still be successful plantings of high summer plants like beans, squash and tomatoes.

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Holding SoJo and Mary Eve right after I got them out of the garden.

The Husband had come up with what seemed like an excellent plan to keep the chickens out of our garden, but SoJo and Mary Eve were like Criminal Master Minds when it came to getting into the garden.  They ate all of our tomato buds as well as a lot of our green bean blooms.  Plus, they trampled my carrots and eggplants as they picked their way through the garden boxes.  This year with the chickens in Chicken Jail we won’t have that problem.  But just in case I’m going to hang some shiny aluminum plans or something to frighten any birds or critters away.

While I think the lasagna idea for the ground was oookkaaayyy… we needed more good compost soil.  This year we are going to have to do a couple of things to make sure we have the soil we need.  First, we are going to buy a truck load of soil.  If I have to bring it from the front of the yard to the back by shovel fulls I will, but we need a big ol’ truck of dirt.  Second, we are going to have to create an actual compost bin.  I have a good pile going, but I want to get it into a bin so I can rotate it, add to it, and make it as healthy as possible.  I’ll leave the building to the husband unless he wants to buy me one of those heavy duty rotating ones.  (hint, hint)  The main goal is to fill the boxes with the good soil next year and have a way to get the best soil from compost the year following.

We need some kind of automatic watering system.  I don’t quite have this all figured out although I do have a few ideas.  Whatever we decide to do needs to be automatic though because there were plenty of days that the plants did not get the water they needed.

Next year I have to address some of the issues like trellises for the beans and cages for the tomatoes.  I didn’t really ever get to that this year and I think my beans and tomatoes suffered.  Probably my peppers too.  Cages and trellises will not only help my plants grow healthier but also could make my garden more visually appealing (if I do them right).

The final thing I know I need to address is the matter of sunlight.  This was our first summer in this house so we really had only some ideas of the sunlight situation where we planted our garden.  Our yard in general is very shady what with several tall oaks around.  But in the concrete circle we decided to use as our gardening space, the sun was much stronger on the other side than the one we planted on.  We will definitely be moving our garden boxes, but exactly where is the question.  One thing I really like about the circle we chose is that right in the middle is a huge butterfly bush that is very active, but while those butterflies loved that bush, they didn’t seem to cross over much into the garden.  I need to incorporate the bush within the garden so they pollinate the plants.

… Or I could still get bees…

I learned a lot in terms of small maintenance things and spacing things as well, but to be honest, I need to save that information for another post after I have put what I’ve learned to practice and see if it’s even worth sharing.  In the meantime, I will be gearing up for the spring planting of peas, carrots, beets, and potatoes plus some strawberries in early 2017.  Maybe we only get a little more next year than last year, but I refuse to give up on this gardening thing.  It will be a continued learning experience as every gardener I have talked to or read writings from has said.  Eventually I’ll get it.  Or maybe someone will get tired of my annual gardening failures and will come take care of it for me.  Haha.