Thursday, May 1, 2014

Garden Progress, Late April 2014 -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

It's the last day of April [Edit: Well, it was when I started writing this :P ], and my garden has already had a good share of ups and downs.  Slugs have taken a toll on quite a few of my plants.  Even daily slug slaughter-fests and beer traps, they manage to nibble some of my veggies out of existence.  Despite the slugs, most of my garden is doing very well and progressing as it should for this time of the year.  Let's have a look at what's growing.

Slugs: Always a problem

The Good

The spinach I planted is all doing great.  I've eaten a few baby leaves in some scrambled eggs already, but it has just now reached the point where I can harvest a good amount of leaves on a daily basis without hurting each plant.  I expect to be eating a lot of spinach salad very soon.  The slugs attack my spinach plants as well, but they must not like them nearly as much as my brassica family of plants.

Beets are also doing quite well.  They don't grow quite as fast as spinach, but nothing seems to bother them at all.  I've seen a few nibbles on the edges of the leaves but most of the square foot sections of beets are growing just fine.  Although I tolerate beets grated raw onto salads and cooked in soups, my wife absolutely loves them--for the taste and the colorful leaf display they add to the garden.  I'm happy to grow them since she is such a fan.

Some of my beets

Pea vines are doing wonderful

The pea vines are probably the most successful plants I have in the garden right now.  They seem to grow a few inches per day and every plant looks full and perfect.  Most of the vines have reached the bottom string of the fence trellis that I made and some of them are almost to the second one.  This year was my first real attempt at growing peas, and now that I know how quick and easy they are to grow, I will be incorporating a lot more peas into my garden next year.  For now, however, I'm simply waiting for those first few pea pods to form on the vines.  Can't wait.

I neglected to properly care for my swiss chard that I had started from seed indoors earlier this year and they all died.  However, I directly sowed some chard into one of the square feet in my garden, and it is growing just great.  Quite a low-maintenance plant.  I'm looking forward to trying it for the first time later in the season.

It's just about time to put these beauties in the ground
I've also got a few warm season veggies ready to be transplanted into the garden.  I started peppers and tomatoes from seed way back in late February and early March, based on the information I wrote in my frugal veggie growing guide article on transplants.  The tomatoes are just begging to be put in the ground so they can grow bigger.  The peppers, although small, are also looking very good.  I will hold off for another couple weeks before putting them in the ground.

The Bad

Apparently, brassicas are like candy to slugs.  They will willingly pass up other vegetables growing directly in their path to get to my broccoli, kale and cauliflower.  Fortunately, they are pretty resilient plants.  I think the combination of me murdering any slugs I find and the beers traps all over the place have helped them survive the onslaught and grow a little bit bigger.  All but one of my brassicas are still having a hard time growing, however.  My hope is to grow the plants big enough to the point where slugs won't drastically hurt them, even if they indulge.  We will see how that turns out soon enough.

Cauliflower plants, with very visible slug damage

Kale plants, small but still growing

It looks like the slugs mostly missed this rather large broccoli plant

The Ugly

So after observing a few carrot sprouts a few weeks back, I was excited to know that we would have fresh, organic carrots in just a few short weeks.  Wrong.  Something (I'm guessing slugs) has completely wiped out all of my carrot seedlings.  They grow far too slowly to keep up with the slugs' appetites and I have maybe one or two seedlings that have gone unnoticed (so far) by the slugs.  One or two plants out of a planned 64 plants is just not good.  I used one square foot to try to grow them again, but the other square feet previously occupied by carrots have been used for other things now, such as basil, dill and parsley.  I'm not going to waste time waiting for carrots to germinate just so they can feed my hungry pests.  Although I like to know that my food traveled only as far as my backyard to my plate (and without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, I might add), from a frugality standpoint, carrots don't make a whole lot of sense to grow when they can be had so cheaply at the grocery store.  Especially when you can use the empty space to grow other, more valuable plants.

A rain-battered lettuce, recovering from the shock

My lettuce also deserves a mention under the "Ugly" section.  Due to the recent severe weather making its way across the middle of the U.S., my lettuce bed has gone from a decent area to grow leafy greens to a muddy wasteland in only a day.  The lettuce appears to have survived the huge amount of rainfall and wind we've received over the past few days, but it definitely doesn't look good.  I hope it will make a full recovery, but at this point, it looks pretty grim.

The heavy rains have made my lettuce bed look like a war zone

How Much Have I Harvested?

So far, I've harvested from the spinach plants twice, about a cereal bowl's worth of greens each time.  Doesn't seem like much, but as the temperature rises, we'll see more and more plants mature enough to start harvesting from!

Final Thoughts

After some initial setbacks like slugs and bad weather, most of my veggies are on track to make a pretty large harvest soon.  Not to mention the fact that I haven't even planted my warm season crops in the ground yet.  After those are planted, I expect to enjoy an abundance of fresh food to feed my family.  A few of the plants I had intended to grow did not work out so well this year, but because I save my plants when thinning them out, I can just grow more of the stuff that is working well.

That said, I'd like to know how your veggie gardens are doing this time of the year.  Is your garden super-productive with no pest issues so far?  Or are you having a hard time fighting the bugs for your food?  Maybe somewhere in-between, kind of like my situation?  Is your garden turning out to be worth the time and money that you put into it?  Hopefully, if you followed my frugal veggie growing guide, you didn't spend too much, though!

Let me hear your thoughts and experiences this season in the comments below.

Until next time, keep on gardening.  It will be well worth the effort very soon.

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