Lessons learned as a novice gardener

This fall garden was my first time growing anything on our new property, and especially at this scale! Our garden is currently 20 x 42, and it took my poor husband days to turn this large chunk of lawn into my new playground. I’ve definitely had some failures this season, but also some great successes – I’ll highlight them all here and hope you can learn (and laugh) along with me!



DO mix in as much compost as you can while planting, and add as necessary while growing. I know this is not going to be my most fertile go-around with this particular patch of land. It used to be lawn, so the soil is very clumpy and clay-like. I added some manure/compost and did the best I could. This winter we will have pigs and chickens spending all of their time in a hoop house on top of my garden. Can you imagine what our soil is going to be like next spring with all of that free fertilizer!?

plant rows of lettuce and kale all in the same day or week. I planted so much kale, it is really beautiful and abundant. However, it’s all about the same level of maturity. Since kale can keep going until it’s 20 degrees out, I should have successively planted so I’d have a continuous crop into the colder months. Since I know I will have so much excess, I will probably cook it down and freeze it.

DO plant flowers in/around your vegetable garden. I planted marigolds all along the perimeter and they have attracted SO many bees. The bees are also LOVING the squash blossoms. When I see them they are usually buzzing around, absolutely covered in pollen, and probably super happy about it. I know it’s dorky, but knowing the dire state our bees are in because of conventional agriculture, I am glad to be doing my part!

DON’T underestimate cabbage worms and other pests. I’ve had a tough time with the white moths laying eggs on my kale leaves. Some of the plants remained healthy, yet others have leaves that look like Swiss cheese. I’ve purchased some diatomeceous earth to spread around, but I have not been as diligent with my pest control as I should have. So far, after a couple weeks of consistent application of the DE, I’ve noticed some plants appear healthier and are carrying less eggs. In the future, I plan on using row covers for my crucifers to prevent the moths from laying as well. I was lucky that I did get an excellent harvest before the pests really made my kale their home.

DO grow butternut squashes in mounds. These plants’ vines are so far reaching, that placing them in mounds at each of the corners of the garden has afforded them enough room to grow. They are still creeping up on my other plants and beyond my garden fencing, but that’s OK!

DON’T plant a bunch of turnips just because they’re easy and available. For some reason, I went crazy with the purple/white globe turnips. They have been growing beautifully, but I hate the greens (they are weird and spikey?) I also have no clue what I’m going to do with the rest of these random turnips roots, as we’ve found out we don’t particularly love them either.  Oh well.

DO plant squashes – all the squashes! I started my garden in July and I thought it was too late for some varieties. Turns out, my zucchini were prolific and my butternut and spaghetti squashes are thriving as well! I had no problem with pests in my squashes, and I am literally growing some of the largest spaghetti squashes I have ever seen. Considering organic spaghetti squash is $1.99 a pound at the grocery store, my 8.7 pounder is worth quite a bit! Spaghetti squash is also one of my favorite and most versatile low carb foods that I know my daughters will eat.

install mini sprinklers or drip tape vs. using a hose to water. I try not to water too often, but on hot summer days with no relief in sight, you need to give your plants a drink. Save yourself the sanity and endure a couple hours of agony by setting up an autonomous system. The mini sprinklers are particularly great. I found them on amazon, they came in a pack of 6. You do have to cut up a hose in order to set them up, which I was more than happy to do until my husband showed me just how expensive hoses are (eek!). Anyway, it has worked well, and I’ll run them for 10-15 minutes at night if I feel the plants need a drink.

DON’T water your garden in the peak of day. The best time, I’ve found, is early morning or later in the evening. You will lose so much water to evaporation, and also water on the leaves may attract more heat from the sun than your plants like.

DO replant if you don’t see sprouts within a couple of weeks. I think I planted my cauliflower and broccoli a bit too early. I replanted and now have healthy plants growing. I was worried that I was doing something wrong, but it’s obvious that there are too many factors at play. Not every seed is going to sprout, and that’s OK!

DON’T go crazy weeding all the time. I thought this whole garden thing was going to be so much more maintenance than it actually is. A pristine, weed-free garden is gorgeous – but your time is important, and costly, too! I’ve been working full-time and taking care of two toddlers. I have a miniscule amount of time to spend weeding. I think the amount of weeds will also improve by using no till methods in the future!

DO buy this book Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener. My sweet husband bought this for me last Christmas, and all I can say is THANK YOU! It covers every topic you can think of in a very concise, easy to understand manner. The internet has so much information, that it’s almost too much. You can’t weed out people’s opinions and you are usually directed to some random forum topic circa 2006, which is only sometimes helpful. This book is a gem!

I am so not an expert on all of this. I’m actually getting nervous about my Spring garden. What will I plant!? When will I plant it? Will I do transplants or direct sowing? I have no idea what the answers are. I’m planning on spending the winter season checking out the seed catalogs and figuring out how to best accomplish it all.


Now, I’d love to hear from you!

Comment if you had a fall garden this year!

What are you looking forward to planting in the Spring?


Thanks for reading!




CATEGORY: Wholesome Living


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