How Does Your Garden Grow? A Simplified Vegetable Garden

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.

– May Sarton

Here we are, officially summer with a garden that is thriving and prolific. Gardening sounds like a complicated matter, but it’s truly not. We’ve simplified our vegetable gardening, and today I’m sharing with you what we do.

In early spring, we begin talking about the future vegetable garden. We brainstorm and make a list on a piece of scrap paper of what we like to eat. We also add a new vegetable every year, just for fun. Most plants want a hot sun and moisture, so selecting a level spot in the yard or making a raised bed is important. Equally crucial is to choose a sunny area for the vegetable garden.

Spring is well underway when we finally get to the garden plot and begin to prepare for it. We always long anticipate mid-May since we wait to plant until we’re certain Mr. Frost won’t be paying us a visit. Some veggies could go into the soil earlier in the spring and still produce very well. A few of the hardier varieties include cabbages, potatoes, carrots, radishes, and peas.

The next step is to mark the sunny, level area of the garden and till it. It is important to wait until the ground is dry. We till in organic material like leaves or compost (the pig helped us this year!). It’s helpful because we don’t use any other fertilizer. Now we’re ready to plant!

Seeds are preferred because they offer more variety and are inexpensive, but seeds mostly need to be started indoors earlier in the year. We buy starters (seeds already sprouted) from a nearby greenhouse with the exception of seed packets for lettuces, spinach, corn, and pumpkins. We’ve had good experience with putting the seeds right in the soil at the same time we plant the little starters. The starters generally cost about 4 for $.79. Using them keeps the process very simple without all the forethought and labor of seed germination. Also, the percent of loss is higher with seeds than with starters.

We mark rows before planting so we know what’s going to come up in each row and to prevent them from being trampled.

Although we could do a slow trickling of garden work every few days, we’ve always planted everything at once which also simplifies the process. The boys fill a wheelbarrow with compost from our compost pile and mix in peat moss from our local garden center. We dig a little hole, add a spadesful of the nutrient-dense compost+peat moss mixture, add a little water, put in the little plant, cover the hole with dirt, and add a little more water. Lastly, we press the surrounding dirt to prevent the plant from flopping or falling over with a heavy rain.

We plant the vining plants in the back of the garden to give them room to spread out. Some years we’ve planted them under the corn which also gets planted in the back because of it’s height. Vining plants such as all the pumpkins, summer squashes, winter squashes (acorn, butternut, buttercup) and cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe are quite hardy and get very large.

Now it’s the time for patience and expectation to do it’s thing. A light evening rain and a 90 degree summer day are the magic combination. Since this may not occur on a daily basis (really, or even with enough regularity), the early morning or after-dinner hour is the best time to water.

In the early weeks after planting, the weeds grow faster than anything else and risk crowding everything out. The seeds are germinating and the seedlings are so tiny that weeding can actually be a difficult job of discerning the weeds from the spouts. But the plants keep growing and eventually, the weeds aren’t so aggressive.

So what’s in the garden? Red potatoes and golden potatoes, green and red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, peppers (red and green bell, jalapenos, ancho), heirloom tomatoes and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, buttercup, butternut, acorn, spaghetti squash, yellow squash, zucchini, watermelon, pumpkins, and corn.

New for this year: purple potatoes and okra

Perennials: rhubarb, asparagus, and kale.

Gardening sounds like a complicated matter, but it’s truly not. Do you have a garden? Did you star your seeds early indoors? How does your garden grow?

with love. Damaris