Early Summer Update: 5 Crops Succeeding

Last year I failed my garden. I didn‘t put in the time early on to weed and plant, but this year I set out to rebound from a lackluster year. The lessons I learned from last year were that to have a garden that accomplished my goals (looking nice and producing some produce), I would need to control weeds early and plant a lot of crops early. These are 5 standouts that are succeeding this year so far:

The Classic: Tomatoes

While growing tomatoes isn‘t anything heroic, I didn‘t do a great job last year, so I really wanted to ensure good tomato production. This year, I made sure to plant the varieties I knew and trusted and I planted them indoors a little bit earlier than I usually do. Once they got too big for their plugs, I transplanted them into bigger pots and put them in a homemade greenhouse next to my raised beds, whereas last year I skipped the step of putting the pots in the greenhouse. The results of both of these procedures are very different; the tomatoes that were “hardened” off took off right when they were transplanted, and the ones that went straight from my bedroom window to the raised beds lagged behind significantly in growth and we didn’t even get flowers until July. I am also experimenting with different methods of pruning, as I have always tended to prune the “suckers” off the tomato plants. Suckers refer to the offshoot that grows at a 45 degree angle between the main stem of the tomato and the leafy branch. The method I usually use produces large tomatoes but supposedly not as many. The new method I am trying this year is to instead prune those leafy branches to encourage the plant to grow suckers and set more fruit. I am only using this technique on my cherry tomatoes, because I would still like to keep my beefsteak tomatoes beefy. This experiment is in progress so we’ll see how it turns out.

Dormant Chamomile?

Last year I wanted to try out some new herbs/flowers so I bought some Chamomile seed and planted it but it never sprouted or grew. This year, I was shocked to see what I thought was Dill at first. However, I had some doubts especially considering it didn’t taste or smell like dill. Then, in the last week or so, all the characteristic white flowers popped up and I knew immediately that it was the failed Chamomile making its resurgence. I call this a success because I didn’t put any work in, and it is filling a hole in my garden with something I’ve always wanted to grow.

GIANT Pumpkins!

I have always admired the old guys at the county fair that show up with pumpkins weighing hundreds of pounds, so I wanted to try my hand at these pumpkins. I started by buying a giant variety from Baker Creek Heirlooms and I made a mound of soil that would warm up faster than the surrounding soil. I planted it while it was still getting down to the low 40’s at night which was conventionally too early, but I wanted to get them in early so they will have plenty of growing season, and so far it has turned out well. This is also a crop that has plenty to go, but so far it has succeeded.

Volunteer Potatoes

Potatoes are probably the hardiest crop in the garden from my experience, and this volunteer made a great case. It survived the upper Midwest winter and frosts down to -15 degrees Fahrenheit. It sprouted in a bed where we had planted marigolds as annuals, so we transplanted it to a bed where really nothing has succeeded in the past. It is a super compacted area and one without a lot of nutrients, so these potatoes taking off as much as they have is very encouraging, and its even paved the way for some squash to start growing as well.

Many, Many Peas

We’ve had great peas for a few years now, and this crop was no different. We planted a lot of peas early and they sprouted well, along with a lot of volunteer carrots which have so far coexisted well.
Overall, it has been a successful start to the gardening season and I am excited to see what these five crops, as well as all the others bring.

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