2020 was the year my family grew their first garden!
We were surprised how quickly the plants took off! The basil was plentiful, the green beans DELICIOUS, and the serrano and banana peppers were so flavorful.
Not every plant fared as well. The green and red bell pepper plants grew tall, but the peppers themselves were tiny. The Napa cabbage was decimated by Japanese beetles, and the Romanesco was attacked by cabbage worms. Sadly the lone zucchini shriveled in the first frost.
Swiss chard turned out to be amazingly robust, as well as the Italian parsley + two varieties of thyme, Lemon and Doone Valley. It was such a pleasant surprise to still be harvesting some herbs in November!
We didn’t research tomatoes, so Lou + Bug each chose an heirloom variety on the spot at the nursery. We planted Brandywine tomatoes in pots with cages, and companion planted one heirloom Hungarian Heart tomato plant amongst the herbs. Sweet 100s rounded out the selection, which yielded quite a few tomatoes through early October.
As a first time gardening family we are still very much in learning mode as we prepare for season two!
Here are a few gardening dos and don’ts we picked up in our first season.
DO use organic vegetable soil in your raised garden beds and containers! Bonus points if you mix in your own compost. 🙂
DO companion plant! Tomatoes are great with peppers or herbs, carrots play nicely with beans and peas + cabbage mingles well with Swiss chard and lettuce.
DO water your garden in the morning! Watering at night can cause wet leaves to become diseased. While we didn’t water everything a second time, our tomato plants seemed to benefit from an additional cool drink of water in the evening. We took special care to water only the base of the plant, avoiding the leaves as much as possible.
DO use a trellis for your green beans and snap peas! It makes watering and picking easier and frees up space for companion planting.
DO deter pests! If you are proactive, planting garlic + chives will help keep Japanese beetles at bay. Sweet basil repels mosquitoes, and sage + mint will keep those cabbage worms away!
DON’T crowd the tomatoes! Plant at least 18 inches apart in a raised bed or in large pots with good drainage. Planting tomatoes too close together will cause them to compete for water and nutrients.
DON’T plant in an area without at least 6+ hours of direct sunlight. 8+ hours is even better! Green beans, peppers and tomatoes really need full sun, but carrots, as well as other root vegetables and leafy greens, can thrive in partial sun.
DON’T forget to plan! We didn’t start planning our garden until May, so we purchased mostly seedlings. You can save some money planning ahead and starting seeds indoors. Be sure to refer to the hardiness zone map and search by zip code to find out when is the best time to transplant outdoors.
DON’T forget to have fun! Get the kids involved in choosing plants and find a unique way to label them. Not everything you grow will be successful, but enjoying the process with your family is the ultimate goal. Our first vegetable garden brought us so much joy, and we are excited to dive in and expand our garden a bit more each year.