our garden update and some questions for the green-thumbed

ok so the organic veggie garden.

we jumped riiiiiiiight on in with a dream, a prayer, and a fat bucket of ignorance. but what's complete cluelessness against the entire assembled might of the World Wide Web? i mean, surely the garden would know and appreciate the sheer volume of google searches we were conducting on its behalf, right?

well,  perhaps not, because we are not the farming prodigies we assumed we'd be (too bad misplaced confidence cant nourish flora).

so here's a quickety rundown and some specific questions:

the view from the aisle. watch your elbows.

here is a pic of our whole setup. you might be able to tell that we arent quite utilizing all of our space. well, we WERE, but now several things have gone extinct (spinach...due to heat i think...not a GA summer plant apparently, and herbs due to some freaking lower mammals getting their salad bar on) so there is some free real estate and square footage of shame now being grown. :(

 the cuke trellis.

holy crap, cucumbers are the freaking easiest, fastest and most rewarding thing ever to grow (if you consider cucumbers a reward and not a punishment). i pretty much can just walk away from the garden for 10 minutes and there are 16 new cukes growing. this is all from ONE PLANT. we pick about 8 huge cucumbers a week. if we miss one at harvest day, it will grow to GIGANTIC proportions...but not long, just super stout and girthy. 

examples (left pic was taken on sunday, right was taken tuesday).

we built a lil' custom trellis to help ventilate and let the cucumbers hang down so they would grow straight and that was way smart. we did underestimate how tyrannical this plant was and how it would want to SPREAD. next year we will make a bigger trellis. i plan to perfect the Ted's Montana Grill method of half-souring cucumbers into pickles. 

our sad watermelon. i'm feeling rather "watermelancholy"about it. (it was all worth it just for that pun)

this guy doesnt do much. he seems to flower only sporadically so i'm not sure how it's going to get impregnated and make fruit. are those holes on the leaves from some pest? i put slug and snail killer (organic) down but the holes persist. the watermelon vine is super aggressive and was caught last week bullying the red bell pepper plant in the fashion of a venemous tentacula or devil's snare. since we disentangled it it has decided to just climb the chain link and take out its strangulative urges on it instead.

 red bells. 

this guy grows super slow (though they flower a lot) and i've heard these are a really difficult plant anyway. awesome choice for us to tackle. again: more tiny holes on the leaves? what is this!?!? disease, pests, poor nutrition? 

the bell peppers dont seem to be too good at supporting their own weight and topple in rainstorms. do we need to splint them or will they get stronger?

zucchini. holy crow this thing got out of control FAST.

we planted one zucchini plant ad this beast EXPLODED. it was flowering like mad, but never seemed to fruit. i looked online and figured out how to spot male/female flowers. i literally never could find a female flower! did i accidentally buy an all-male plant?!?! where are the ladies?

and then this thing got insane out of control with its sprawl (so much so that i had a nightmare where i was running a race and a massive zucchini plant was an obstacle. luckily i remembered my skills from dumbledore's army and zapped it with a quick REDUCTO spell. nailed it). but in real life i just decided to prune off a few of the extra major branches. this was evidently an error because the whole plant seems to have died because of it. it has gone so sad and yellow and wilty and stopped flowering. curse my inadvertent zucchini vasectomy. 

okra dwarfs.

i planted 10 okra plants from seeds. only 3 survived transplanting and/or predators to become teenagers. i was told that these things would explode with growth and okra out the wazoo. so far they are our slowest growers...only flowering just recently (while friends' okra are 6-7 feet high and totally harvestable now!).

okra is my favorite vegetable of all time and i want to eat these!!! our variety are now called slowkra. what gives?


we planted 4 tomato plants. these things compete with the cukes and zucchini plants for most rapid growers. so we bought these wire fram trellises to help support the upward sprawl: huge mistake. these things suck and cant hold the weight. definitely should have DIY'd some vine-helpers with wood and string.

despite their less-than-ideal frames, the tomatoes are doing well it seems. we actually ate our first one in dinner last night. it was very exciting and delicious. jesse did some research as to why the plants were getting oh-so-never-ceasingly-tall and found that our type of tomato will grow to indeterminate heights if you dont prune them. so he pruned.

ever since then, these have not been thriving. could he have over-pruned? can cutting off high vine branches hurt the overall plant?

also: we are getting some yellowing and browning on the leaves of these guys and dont know why.

the humble eggplant

i have 3 eggplant plants and they dont really do anything. they make leaves impressively, but thats about it. they do flower, but dont appear to be making any fruit yet. and again: the holes in the leaves...what is happening?

 RIP my fluffy basil bush.

i planted basil and sage in the raised beds and they were rocking it and getting harvested and starting to bunch prettily. and then i think something came and ate ALL MY BASIL! that's what happened above, right? i mean i'm assuming no pests would decimate basil like that and leave only stems?!

but i wasnt giving up on an herb source. i HATE spending $3 on a wad of fresh herbs and i really feel like i should be able to handle the growing of a few cooking plants. so i tried to rise from the ashes and try again. target's dollar section crazy inspired me one day with the galvanized metal pots and cute magnets. 

a few nails and a pallet later and we have a crazy cute, portable, hanging herb and flower garden that is hopefully out of reach of any backyard salad-eaters. 

you will be pesto one day, my friend.

this whole pallet garden is obviously portable and totally customizable. i love it hard.

so there is a rundown of where we are, horticulturally (not pictured: jalapenos which are kicking major BUTT!). 

3 considerations:

1. for complete dumb garden noobs, i feel like we're glad that ANYTHING is working at all. so i dont want to get too discouraged. especially since i tried to murder the entire garden in its infancy back in march and everything we have going now has bounced back from the brink of death by trashbag. 

2. it has rained an INSANE amount in GA this summer. almost literally every day. i'm wondering if overwatering is a culprit?

3. the place we put out garden doesnt get a ton of sun. yes, i know, we are idiots for that, but we had planned to take a bunch of trees down to ameliorate the issue and we just never did. could all of the stunted growth be from inadequate light? (i realize this is photosynthesis 101, but i have been deluding myself that they got enough light).

and just so you dont think i am some sort of gardening dilettante (i kind of am though), let me present to the court some evidence of my dedication:

yall, i brewed COMPOST TEA!

seriously, i have never felt (or smelled) so hippie. i bought my tea-brewing supplies (basically fish tank stuff) and used our thriving compost to brew this potion that i sprayed all over everything and was supposed to work miracles and bring great insects that would HELP our plants thrive. i have seen no such miracles, but perhaps even the murky eau d'eden isnt enough to overcome flood conditions and limited sunlight.

ok there's my sad little story. yall chime in and gimme some help with any/all plants that you know about and what we've done wrong!

as mysterious and fails-ville as the garden seems like, it is still super fun and gratifying. we will definitely be doing one next year, armed with experience. at worst, it's just another tool in my post-apocalyptic skill set (thanks, walking dead, for making me think this way...also, can a human survive on cucumbers?) 


  1. Congrats on all your gardening successes this season! Especially the compost tea!!! I'm still a gardening noob myself, but I do think lack of sun deserves a lot of the blame. I buy most of my veggies (seeds and starts) from a greenhouse run by a really old farmer, whose name is Wayne (perfect old man farmer name). I used to live on a pretty shady lot so every summer I would attempt to question Wayne about part-sun varieties, extra fertilizer, etc. Well, Wayne wasn't having it, nor would he even humor me. To each lengthy question or solution I'd ask or pose, he'd simply respond, "You need full sun." No matter how many different ways I tried to get around it---always the same answer. Ok, Wayne, I get it.
    I've never been able to my red pepper plant to produce anything but buds. Maybe lacking phosphorus? My eggplant do fine, but I do fertilize them. Lettuce, spinach, and all other leafy greens are spent by mid-June because of the heat. But I'm planning on reseeding mid August in hopes to have leafy greens into the early fall. Love your blog and gardening updates!

  2. My novel was erased accIdentally erased, do I will summarize!
    1) sun! Cut down those trees!
    2) you have such a huge space, I am totally envious of your square footage
    3) I don't think the rain has hurt..,, at least for for us
    4) I commiserate with you about bell peppers
    5) Walter reeves suggests shaking the flowers to help with pollination, although some need a plant of the other sex (I think!)
    6) bushy beans do well in part shade/ I can share some rattlesnake beans :)
    7) I believe the greens are a cool weather veg
    8) put that cheap plastic fence around the perimeter to keep all those dastardly rabbits

    Great work on gardening! Sibby has loved it. I am sure you're younguns have as well. As a farmer, you can use that collective word now :)

  3. I'm with Wayne and Betsy (B: thanks for the shout out)! You need full sun. Plants eat sunshine. If vegetable plants get less than they want, they don't thrive. The sun also dries out the soil between rains to keep sowbugs at bay (they ate your basil).

    Keep trying....gardening is like Zen: it's all process, not mastery.

  4. Sounds like you might have aphids on the tomato plants!!! They cause the yellowing and browning of the leaves. I would try Diotamaceous Earth! It has saved our plants!!!

    And yes I agree with the above about sun and putting up a trellis to keep rabbits and what not out. The herbs definitely got eaten.

    Spinach is a cool weather plant and is eggplant typically. The rain will harm plants by overwatering. That has happened to watermelon farms all throughout the south. Too much rain is just as bad as a drought unfortunately. If the rain doesn't stunt the growth of the plants, it will lead to less fruiting, smaller fruits and cause things to ripen too quickly! :/

  5. A couple thoughts:

    1. You go girl! Every gardener, even the experienced ones with a degree in horticulture (pointing at myself) have failures every year. Just keep planting.

    2. Zucchini flower male first for a couple weeks and then the female flowers kick in. It is an attempt at cross pollination. So you probably just didn't give them enough time.

    3. Watermelon are a long crop. On the seed package there should have been a days to harvest number and it was probably like 140 days or more. Also it should tell you about how much room each plant needs. They usually need 10 feet centers which means 5 feet on any side of the plant. Eggplants are also slow. Give them time.

    4. Plant leaves do not heal. Once they are damaged that's it the plant will just have to grow new ones. If the leaf just has a couple of holes that's not significant damage and it won't effect the productivity much if at all and the plant will just keep on going and not even bother to make new leaves. When organic gardening a few holes are okay.

    Also as plants grow they add more leaves at the top which shades out the lower leaves. Since the lower leaves aren't getting as much light they often yellow and die and let the new leaves do the work. It's natural for lower leaves to yellow.

    5. Want to keep growing? check out this chart from Seed Savers Exchange to figure out what to plant for fall: http://www.seedsavers.org/onlinestore/#fallplanting

  6. Have absolutely no suggestions as our garden was an utter failure, so you are, once again, standing on our shoulders and making progress from where we have been!! Totally impressive!

  7. I agree with the tomato cages... freaking worthless!! Can't tell you how many times Ive had to re-stand them. We have had major rain this summer too here in MO. Because of the size of my tomatoes my soil has had a hard time drying up and so rolly-pollies or sow bugs have eaten my basil and snacked on my leaves of the peppers. My peppers took quite a while to produce and even longer to turn red. Your cukes looks amazing! Because of the wet/shade mine got powdery mildew and died. Some lower leaves turn yellow for lack of sun. A plants main goal is to produce fruit to pollinate so it's only natural for those leaves to drop and die to give more nutrients to healthy ones. Thing about a garden is that a little fresh produce is better than none at all.