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Help......I have a confession!

 
Gary Lewis
Posts: 132
Location: Maine, USA
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I have a confession to make.

I am a hopeless gardener. Everything I try to grow is a failure. Tomatoes split, potatoes get the Colorado potato beetle, square foot gardens look like square foot weed gardens et etc

My wife tells me its cause I am never at home to tend to things (i travel a lot for work in summer). I am reducing my travel to overcome this obvious issue but now fear my lack of a green thumb will just keep me failing.

Soooooooo...what the hell should I try to grow that will give me some confidence back?

My family love to eat:

peas
broccoli
carrots
potatoes (if I can only stop the damn beetles)
snow peas

And I live inland in souther maine!

Help




 
David Livingston
master steward
Posts: 2994
Location: Anjou ,France
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How about Black currents ?
Indesructable easy to propagate Kids love them - jam ,tarts and juice all great and healthy .

David
 
Craig Dobbson
gardener
Posts: 1426
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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I've had pretty good luck by simply over planting everything. That usually cuts down the weed pressure while things are establishing. I choose things that can be harvested at any size as well. That leaves more wiggle room in the harvesting schedule as you can pick a carrot when it's two inches or twelve and it's just as good. I just harvest them in thinning fashion as the season progresses. This works well for many things. Snap peas, beans, squash, kale, beets, carrots, cabbage, potato, parsnips and leeks do this pretty well. Anything that goes to seed, is allowed to do so and mature. those seeds are used for establishing new plots as they often aren't true to type but make nice free animal feed. Perennial things are really where it's at for me though. Sunchokes, asparagus herbs, cane fruit, grapes, nut and fruit trees make up a much larger part of my seasonal harvest and they require so much less effort.

As for pests, I've got plenty. One of the hardest things to do to allow a crop to be killed off by pests, but that's how you establish healthy populations of predators for those pests. Row covers, traps and deterrents only go so far and you'll have to either pick other crops or get busy hand-squishing potato beetles and the like. Every year I plant potatoes and every year i pick beetles on a daily basis until it becomes easier to just chop off the tops of the potato plant. I usually end up pulling the tubers when they are between "new potato" and "fist" sized, which works out well because it allows me enough time to plant and harvest a second carrot crop in that bed before freezing weather shuts us down.

One of the good things about producing food for home use is that it doesn't need to fit some market standard. You can enjoy huge beets or little ones. Anything that never forms a beet root at all , is still just as good if you like to eat the greens. Crooked nobbly potatoes still taste fine and who cares if the carrots grew all twisted and multi-rooted. That just makes harvesting more fun. Kids really like it when they pull weird food stuff out of the ground. And for some reason they are more inclined to want to eat the whacky looking things anyway. Win win

I've failed more crops than I've harvested in some years, but usually when there's a failure in one crop there's a bumper harvest of another. Keep your chin up and stay positive. You'll get there.

Best wishes

 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1424
Location: Central New Jersey
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Gary, be a hopeful gardener! Sure, pests get our plants. My potatoes this past year did not get eaten by beetles, some bleeping varmint bit them all off at ground level (not cut worms, it was chipminks, groundhog or voles, pretty certainly. These were big,healthy, flowering plants when they got chomped).
Many of my tomatoes got blossom end rot, most split (largely a cosmetic issue) but despite that, we had more tomatoes than we could handle.
Squash that we planted failed to produce anything, but the volunteers out of the compost pile were great!
Melons were a bust, cabbage and kale a total failure. Peas did ok, bush beans and peppers were ok. Sunchokes struggled, hoping next year they will do better.

We had some degree of success and lots of frustrations. But here is the kicker. We live in the New Jersey pine barrens. We have monolithic sand for our soil. and over the past two years, utilizing methods and lessons I've learned from permaculture, we are actually building soil! In twenty year on this property I have never had a garden that made me want to keep trying, until this last year. The year before, we started using some permaculture techniques and we saw hints of progress. This year some of those hints were confirmed. I wish I had known about this stuff twenty years earlier!

Every year a garden is an experiment, a trial to see what will do well and what will not. Every year, we should both get a better sense of what will succeed where we are, and improve the conditions of our place so that more things will be able to succeed and the already successful ones will be able to flourish.

Every farmer is an optimist kind of have to be
 
Helen Gilson
Posts: 38
Location: Zone 6 Ohio but interested in Zone 6 Southwest
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Start a worm factory. You can feed the worms and the worms will feed your garden. You will get feeling all 'farmy' just by having made your own compost. You can do this inside an urban household basement even! Plus side is if you have young kids, they will love it and if you have teenagers you can gross them out or embarrass them. Double win!
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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It may be less a green thumb problem and more an observation problem. My favorite permaculture principle is "observe and interact" if you don't have time to take a quick look at the garden at least every other day, growing a big garden might not be for you yet. Low-work gardening still involves the gardener.

Make friends with mulch, that will help with the weeds. Take a look at which weeds are your main rivals. Learn their habits and you will thwart them

In my experience splitting tomatos usually has to do with water although deficient soil could be a factor as well. Have you had your soil tested? Was there a big rainstorm after a drought or did you water heavily before the splits?

My best defense against beetles is keeping an eye out for beetle eggs.I check the underside of the leaves and squish them all before they hatch. Again, this takes observation time!

Every problem has its own nuances. If you lump it all together under the category of "I'm not good at gardening" you will probably be right. If you take some time and attention to observe the conditions and details of your garden you will be able to tease out the best practices for your unique circumstance
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1217
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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forest garden trees urban
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My best crops are the ones I expect nothing from,and therefore investment little into.
From a bumper crop of tomatoes from volunteers to the mint I nursed seemingly to death only to find it finally taking over like I'd been "warned " about.
Delicious tillage radish green, sweet potato leaves, beautiful buckwheat for the bees, all just thrown on the ground or in a bed.
The black raspberries just keep coming and after last years crazy proliferation of delectable plums from a tree only two years from purchase, I am ready for a grove of them.
Easy does it,if it's hard to grow let it go for now.
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 353
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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William Bronson wrote:if it's hard to grow let it go for now.


I agree! Grow easy stuff!

Maybe you can focus on just a small garden this year, rather than overstretch yourself with a full garden. I had a lot of failures in my veg patch this year too, and it was really discouraging. I did, however, put up a small raised bed in midsummer very close to my back door, and even though the rest of my plantings had failed, I was able to focus on this bed and keep the leafy greens in it alive and growing; they're still alive now, even.

I also agree with the suggestions of planting some fruit bushes or trees. Even though my vegetables were a complete washout, my fruit all produced--they don't succumb to the same pests and problems that annual vegetables do, and are therefore more likely to give a harvest. At least I got something edible this last year.

One more thing: if you are gardening to produce food for your family, maybe you could consider some animals such as chickens or ducks, to produce some food. Though my veg all bit the dust, I still had plenty of weeds and bugs, which my chickens turned into eggs and fertilizer for me. Though I should probably add that my chickens added to my vegetable failures in small part: on one or two occasions they were able to break into the veg patch and scratch up tender seedlings.
 
Jd Gonzalez
Posts: 207
Location: Virginia,USA zone 6
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Can't go wrong with planting the "three sisters," corn, squash, and beans.
 
Gary Lewis
Posts: 132
Location: Maine, USA
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Beans has been our only success! Thanks for reminding me about that
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: northern California
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A few loose ideas:
--Learn what grows wild and how to use it. Many weeds are edible and/or medicinal. If you have access to any land at all it is often possible to wildcraft a pretty significant amount of food. The process of learning about it will teach you a lot about ecosystems, soils, microclimates and so on that will help your gardening.
--Choose one or two things that are notably easy according to multiple sources and try them every which way until you master them. For instance, lettuce and radishes. Get cheap bulk seed....radish seed is sold this way for sprouting. And let some go to seed and save your own. Having lots of seed means being able to afford lots of experiments and lots of failures...rather than expensive hybrid seed. Then go to it. Start some in pots and trays. Plant some in rows. Plant some broadcast. Do it at different seasons and in different places. Then pay attention to which do better and which don't and figure out why. Observe. Get out there at night with a flashlight and see who's munching. Learn to identify insects. Then, based on these experiences, do the same thing the next year with six or ten different things, and do the same thing. Don't give up unless you personally manage to kill the planting three times.....
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1268
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I've always been a plant killer too. Last year I seeded my berms simply for a cover crop type thing. I did use a huge variety of seeds and I was amazed to get lettuce taller than my 3 year old. I did absolutely nothing to any of the plants on that berm. 0. Now, there was a fair bit of seed that didn't come up and some of it died back before doing any good. Still, it was amazing. I'll be planting the things that came up again and again and again.

That's what I would tell you to do. Get a massive amount of variety, throw it out and see what happens.
 
Chris Knipstein
Posts: 45
Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana
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If you just can't be there enough to keep weeds down, you might try mulching the garden as a way to do it. The film "Back to Eden" at http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/ is a good example. The basics of this are putting down a good soil and or compost if your soil is lacking, and then covering it with a good thick layer of ground up green branches and twigs with leaves and all. (3 inches or so) If you know anyone who has put down hardwood mulch around there house in the landscaping for years, not bark nuggets or cypress, but hardwood mulch just go dig in it around the house and you will see how nice it breaks down.

Others use straw, newspaper or cardboard with a covering or whatever you have available to put down a good mulch layer. A quick YouTube search will likely bring up more examples of ways to do it than you will have time to watch in a year. (Avoiding black walnut tree mulch as some plants are killed or stunted by it.) https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/HO/HO-193.pdf

 
chip sanft
Posts: 354
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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You might try talking to your neighbors. Every place is different, of course, but my experience is that seed savers usually have plenty of seed to share. I know we do. And we're happy to give them to appreciative folks. Those seeds would be suited to your climate and general conditions, too, and so more likely to succeed.

Also, we have had great luck with scallions -- buying bunches, using most of each scallion but saving the 3-4" at the bottom, soaking it in water till the roots shoot out, then transplanting. Not every one will put out roots in water, but we've had nearly 100% success after transplanting with those that did.
 
Kate Muller
Posts: 180
Location: New Hampshire
11
bee chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Gary Lewis wrote:I have a confession to make.

I am a hopeless gardener. Everything I try to grow is a failure. Tomatoes split, potatoes get the Colorado potato beetle, square foot gardens look like square foot weed gardens et etc

My wife tells me its cause I am never at home to tend to things (i travel a lot for work in summer). I am reducing my travel to overcome this obvious issue but now fear my lack of a green thumb will just keep me failing.

Soooooooo...what the hell should I try to grow that will give me some confidence back?

My family love to eat:

peas
broccoli
carrots
potatoes (if I can only stop the damn beetles)
snow peas

And I live inland in souther maine!

Help







Gardening in Maine.

Peas and snow peas need to planted in spring as soon as the snow clears and the worst of mud season is over. I am in southern NH so your growing season is basically the same. My peas go in between the end of March and the end of April depending on how the winter has been. It is better to plant them early than wait till May. If wit till May it gets too hot before you can get a good crop in. Plant spinach seeds as ground cover but do not mulch the bed. Our springs are too cool and wet and mulch will slow the soil from warming up and drying out.

Peas and spinach can be planted again late July to the beginning of august for a smaller fall crop.

Broccoli can be grown from seedlings in the spring. Plant lettuce, radishes, spinach, pack choi and other fast growing salad greens between the broccoli seedlings in the spring to use as an edble ground cover. I just spread the seed and thin with a pair of scissors as the broccoli gets bigger. These can be thinned till sometime in June when they bolt. Remove them and put mulch down between the broccoli plants. I use grass clippings, straw, or shredded maple leaves from the previous fall. Adding mulch in mid to late June helps keep the weeds at bay and retain water.

I haven't successfully grown carrots or potatoes yet.

 
Kate Muller
Posts: 180
Location: New Hampshire
11
bee chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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David Livingston wrote:How about Black currents ?
Indesructable easy to propagate Kids love them - jam ,tarts and juice all great and healthy .

David


Currents and Gooseberries are hard to find because they are illegal to grow in Maine.
 
dara finnegan
Posts: 23
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When mentoring people in gardening, I run into this alot. People plant a garden and then for alot of good reasons, they are gone and do not tend to it. Then they fail and get frustrated. It's very understandable. So how about this. Just plant one thing. Let's start with potatoes. In order to plant the things and leave them they will require a good amount of mulch in the form of hay or straw. Plant the potatoes down in about two inches of soil. Now cover with about 12 inches of straw. Walk away. The potatoes will come up, but there is good chance they will come up after the potato bugs have come and gone. The bugs time their arrivals based on the plant coming to fruition. I have some people in my area delay their potato planting till after the middle of June for this reason. Call your county extension agent and ask them .
The best kind of potato I have found so far is something called Dakota Pearls. It is a white potato with the characteristics of a red, and it keeps a long time. Do you have children? Pay them per bug on the potato plants. Learn to grow one thing well. Conquer the bugs! I have recently started dehydrating broccli leaves, (they are absolutely delicious) and dehydrating the heads also. Amazing. The broccli does not get mushy when you cook it up. I only get to the net once a week. be glad to help if I can.


 
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