My husband Dave is the true gardener in the family and frankly, I am lucky to keep my potted plants alive for the summer season in New England. He spends his free time tending to our gardens and grows over 20 varieties of vegetables from May to October. Being blessed with two parents who loved their yard and looked after their plants and other blooming flowers like they were family, has given him a real appreciation for the care it takes to keep a garden healthy.
Beginning in March, Dave grows most everything from seed in our basement under fluorescent lights. He starts planting the seedlings in the ground in late April through May depending upon the vegetable and its susceptibility to cold temperatures. Sometimes the seeds do not germinate or the plants are too weak so he purchases a few seedlings at a local nursery to supplement the garden and this also works just fine.
My talent is cooking the fruits of his labor and I love making the organic veggies into delicious meals for the family. We are now harvesting asparagus and some mixed greens (bibb lettuce, arugula, kale, and spinach). Last year, we had so many tomatoes, I tried my hand at canning. Using a manual canning process of boiling the jars is a bit of work so thinking I may move to a pressure cooker/canner this coming year. Either way, the time and energy is worth it as we enjoy eating the sweet tomatoes in pasta sauces and other dishes over the winter.
The real challenge is keeping the critters out of the garden. Luckily, we have a fence around the backyard, but also use chicken wire buried about a foot deep into the ground and then another foot above ground. This does the trick and keeps most animals out. The only major insect problem we’ve had is with the cucumber beetle. A natural solution of nematodes mixed with water and sprayed on the ground around the cucumber plants really helps. The microorganisms eat the beetle larvae and this has kept the plants strong and allowed for a true organic approach to treating the insects. Some years we’ve had so many cucumbers and have set up a small table in front of the house and given them away for free. Hoping for another large crop again this year so I can try canning them into pickles. YUM!
Dave proclaims that the real secret to a healthy garden is the soil so he layers it in the Fall with grass clippings and chopped leaves. When Spring rolls around, he rototills the soil allowing for the material to decompose making it very nutrient-rich for plantings. One other tip is rotating the location of the plants in the garden each year which reduces damage from insects/pests, limits the development of vegetable disease, and helps maintain fertile soil.
The garden is a real labor of love and we’re looking forward to another season of growing, cooking, and eating our own organic vegetables. Hope this inspires you to start planting.
Much love and happy gardening,