Gardening without a green thumb

Garden Tomatoes

You'd think, with the lack of success I've had growing garden vegetables, that I'd give up. And I did, last year. But this year I'm determined to try again.

As a girl, I had no trouble growing cucumbers. Nothing else grew very well (except the chives, I planted one year and they came up again every year, even though we hardly ever used them in our salads). But the cucumbers grew so well that I used to take the extras to the local health food store, which paid me for them, and then presumably sold them to customers.

When we lived in Michigan, I tried planting seeds a couple of years. Each time something sprouted, something (deer? rabbit?) came and ate the plants. I gave up.

Here in Iowa, I have tried several times. Since nothing much came up when I started with seeds, I tried buying plants that had already been started. The only one that really did well was a tomato plant I got at the farmers market.

The tomato plant I got from Menards the following year did OK, but the entire harvest from it would have fit into a quart basket, I think. I didn't pay attention to what variety of tomato plant it was, but it turned out to produce cherry tomatoes, not full-size. It was nice to get two or three on occasion for my salad, but I had expected a bit more. Most people seem to have more tomatoes than they know what to do with.

I was really expecting to have too much on my hands when I tried growing zucchini. But no, not even a single one! The plants produced flowers, but nothing more. I wondered if maybe there was a problem with a lack of bees in the neighborhood to pollinate them. I tried reading about how to do it manually, and then decided I could live without home-grown zucchini.

I tried growing peppers. Nothing – not even flowers on that plant. I tried carrots. The leaves looked fine, but when I tried pulling one up – late in the season when they had had plenty of time to grow – it was a stubby little thing less than an inch long, and tasted horrible.

I decided that the problem must be the soil. When I prepared my garden each year as a girl, all I did was turn the soil and break it up. But now that I think about it, I vaguely remember, the very first year my father helped me start it, that he added stuff to the soil.

I read about square foot gardening, and decided that this year that is what I will try. Rather than try to improve the soil in my yard, I just create an enclosed area and add new soil on top of the lousy soil I already have. It's a bit of an expense the first year, but I shouldn't have to do much with it subsequent years.

So that's my project this week – to put together a small enclosure for my new garden. The book I read recommends a 4-foot by 4-foot area, but I think I'll start even smaller – 2-foot by 3-foot. I really don't have a very big area of yard to work with, considering that most of the yard is well-shaded, plus I don't want it in the area that the dog can reach easily on her tether.

If I get some decent salads out of this, I'll be thrilled, and maybe expand the garden next year. If not, I'm giving up. Again.

I'll post occasional updates on my blog as work progresses.

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One Response to Gardening without a green thumb

  1. modestypress says:

    The absolute no fail crop is called “peppercress.” It’s quick, it sprouts like a week. It’s a little spicy, but not that bad. Good with cream cheese, so there you get a little protein, and there are low-fat varieties.

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