I’ll admit, I was pretty clueless about gardening when we set out on this quest to grow our own veggies. I guess I just assumed we’d plant and then the work was done. Boy was I wrong. Recently I wrote about things I learned for next year’s garden. It’s been a learning process every step of the way.
One of the big things I should have done is make a gardening calender for when I planted the crops, and when they should be ready for harvesting. Next year! I’ve been reading gardening books and consulting Google for advice on when my crops are ready–and HOW to harvest them.
I just cut off the leaves, wash them and eat them. The lettuce regenerates pretty quickly, so we always have lettuce. Here is the romaine lettuce when we first planted it:
And it turned into this:
The lettuce is the biggest success of the garden, I think.
Until it bolted and I had to pull it all out. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to prevent that next year, unfortunately.
Apparently onions can be picked at any stage but the thing to look for is the leaves to lose their color and flop over. The instructions were to pull the onions up on a sunny day and let them sit in the sun for another day or so to dry. This drying kills the root system at the bottom of each bulb. The roots will be like little brittle wires when they’re dry. Onions are ready when the skins rattle and the roots are dry and wiry.
I pulled one really early and it tasted great–it was small, but tasty.
There are so many different kinds of squashes, and apparently different rules for all of them. For example, summer squash should be harvested when still tender and slightly “immature” but winter squash needs to be “fully matured.” How the heck do I know the difference?! I planted acorn squash.
Acorn squash is a winter squash (who knew?) and needs to be harvested when the rinds are tough. The easiest way to know when to harvest: it’s dark green in color and hard. This is where a gardening calender would have come in handy because the squash takes between 80-100 days to ripen.
The zucchini was the biggest surprise. I had no idea the plant would get so big and literally take over the garden. The advice from everyone was: “pick them young and pick them often.” Big zucchini is apparently flavorless or bitter. The zucchini can be picked in the “baby” stage and it’s supposedly sweet. The normal size when picked is 6-7 inches long. Baby zucchini:
To harvest, snip the fruit from the plant with pruners or scissors, or just give the zucchini a bit of a twist; the stem should come away from the rest of the plant easily. The zucchini is ready:
The zucchini was amazing. It would be tiny on a Tuesday and I’d get busy and forget to check them until Sunday and all of a sudden they’d tripled in size! I loved the zucchini. I gave tons away to friends and coworkers, plus we ate a ton of it all summer long.
These were pretty self-explanatory. When they are red they’re ready! Our tomato plants grew humongous and a few of them even toppled over because of the weight. There were hundreds of tomatoes growing on the plants. We got a few different varieties of plants so it was cool to see the differences in size and color as they ripened.
I picked some of the baby tomatoes that were ripe. They were delicious and sweet, tender and more amazing than anything I’ve bought in a store.
Once the tomatoes all came to fruition I had to become creative with ways to use them:
- Mozzarella, basil and tomato salads (my favorite)
- Tomatoes on green salads
- Homemade salsa
- Marinara sauce
Lots of yummy options!
I was really looking forward to harvesting this little guy:
For months I watched him grow, plump up, turn a golden green. I was excited to see it change colors. Then one morning I found this:
Yep, some little bastard destroyed my pepper. So so so sad! 🙁
Luckily one survived the slugs and I was able to enjoy my pepper.
Michael had done tomatoes and jalapenos before and they were successful. We did jalapenos this summer to go with our tomatoes and (what I thought was) cilantro to make salsa.
We chopped up the jalapenos and put them in a lot of things–turkey burgers, salsa, everything. They were tiny but delicious.
Finally, the herbs I planted were massive. They flourished and I didn’t really have the opportunity to use them as much as I wanted to. I wish I had been on top of things to make a bunch of pesto with the basil to freeze. I am currently in the process of drying some oregano and parsley though.
QUESTION: If you are a gardening, what was the biggest success and failure of your garden?