Garden Log #3 – Growth Update

Hey plant lovers!

I hope y’all are doing amazing. I’d love to share an update with you on how my garden is doing. I was hoping to do these Garden Logs a little more frequently but the busyness of work and other personal duties (plus my pandemic induced procrastination) led me to keep pushing it off. But we’re here now!

Cucumbers and Squash

The most exciting update I have today is that my cucumbers are growing splendidly honeyyyyyy. It hasn’t even yet been 2 weeks since I first noticed them growing and now they’ve seemed to pop up everywhere! So far, I have about 7 that are ready to harvest but part of me wants to leave them on the vine for another week or so to see how much bigger they can get. But I do want to harvest soon so that I can encourage more growth and not let them go to waste. I’m already thinking about all the salad and veggie dishes that I can make. Someone even suggested pickles! I can taste them as we speak. Check out these babies below!

I’m actually really excited because these cucumbers are growing so abundantly already and they were literally so easy to get started. This was my first year growing them but I definitely plan to have them as a staple in my garden moving forward.

I’m also witnessing some nice growth with my butternut squash. There are several budding sprouts. They are special to me because I actually grew them from the seeds of squash that I ate last year. I haven’t been able to see any of the zucchini squash growing yet but hopefully they will surprise me soon. I will never get over that feeling of seeing something in the garden that I didn’t see the day before. It always seems like something isn’t growing and then suddenly you have a bunch! It’s a humbling feeling. Nature always has a way of reminding me to not underestimate its power.

If you haven’t grown cucumbers or squash, I definitely recommend it as they are soooo easy. It took a little less than 2 months to get the growth that I have now. My only advice is to make sure that they are in a place where you can control their growth because these are aggressive growers that can definitely take over your garden if you don’t monitor them closely. So allow them space. Last year, my zucchini squash plants were a bit too close to my other plants so, although it turned out fine, I decided that I’d give them some more space this time around. But when I tell you, they are still trying to take over! The vines have left the confined space and are now traveling outwards (as seen below). It’s actually pretty cool, I love the designs that are on their leaves.

I’m going to them let them do their thing though because there’s nothing else in their way. I’m just worried about the lawn mowers possibly cutting any of the growing squash by accident. But hopefully that won’t happen, we’ll see.

Lettuce, Kale, Brussels Sprouts, etc.

I don’t know what it is but it just doesn’t seem like I’m meant to grow certain plants this year, LOL. I was so excited to grow lettuce, kale, and Brussels sprouts because these are some of the staple greens in my vegetarian diet. But no matter how many times I get them started, they get eaten. I even put up a gate and that still didn’t work! The plants grew to a nice size that made me think the gate was working but an early morning visit to the garden this week proved that to be false.

The garden visitor(s) struck again! And they seem intent on eating my greens whenever the plants show any considerable growth. Although I haven’t caught it in action, I think that it is either a groundhog or a raccoon doing this work because I’ve seen both in the area before and the groundhogs even have a nest in the vicinity of the garden. This morning I found a slight hole dug into the ground where my lettuce plants used to be (sigh). Based on my quick google search, it seems to be what a raccoon hole looks like after they’ve been digging for insects.

Raccoon hole?

But a few weeks ago I sowed some more seeds that I’m hopeful and excited for this time around. On July 21st, I sowed some Mesclun Spicy Mix seeds which, according to the package, “includes 20% lettuces ‘Red Salad Bowl’; 20% mustard ‘Mizuna’; 20% endive ‘Green Curled; 20% radicchio ‘Red Reviso’ and 20% arugala ‘Rocket’.” These are very successful so far and grew pretty quickly. If you’re looking for something to plant in the mid-late summer then greens like these are definitely recommended because they are fast and easy growers. Look below for how much they grew in two weeks! Now that they are at their this week, I have begun to use them to make salads and it’s been delicious.

On July 26th, I sowed some more of the Heirloom Paris Island Romaine Lettuce seeds I originally used plus some Buttercrunch lettuce seeds I purchased a few weeks ago. I’m also really excited because I sowed some things that I didn’t think to grow earlier in the season but that I hope can be successful. I added Pak Choy (Chinese cabbage), ‘Clemson Spineless’, okra, ‘Dragon’s Tail’ Radish, ‘Jalapeno Gigantia’ hot peppers, ‘Italian Pepperoncini’ hot peppers, more ‘Detroit Dark Red’ beets, and some microgreens.

Since my garden visitors seem to enjoy greens just as much as I do (but don’t care to leave any for me to have), I am considering trying out some natural repellent techniques to protect them. From what I’ve read online, you can use a natural mix of aromatic vegetables like garlic and chilli powder to keep critters – like raccoons – away because they don’t like the smell. If I try this, I will definitely keep you all posted on the results.

Peppers, Peas, Beans, etc.

In my shelf-garden bed, I have peppers, peas, green beans, carrots, beets, and a random basil plant that grew there on it’s own (which is a whole ‘nother story). I had to build a cage around this garden bed because my visitors were ravaging the beans, carrots, and peas. The shelf had originally had ‘China Rose’ radish but since the plants needed more space – and many of them were destroyed by the critters – I decided to transplant them to a better protected garden bed. I put 2 beet plants in their place. I really love beets and haven’t had them in quite some time so I can’t wait ’till these grow!

Since I added the cage nearly 3 weeks ago – which was late, I know – , the plants have shown a considerable difference. The green beans are beginning to sprout, the carrots seem to be growing, and the ‘Snowbird’ Peas look nice and healthy. I’m also beginning to see some nice new growth with my Cayenne peppers. I’m so excited for these because I absolutely love spicy food and I can’t wait to use them in my stir fries, soups, and more. I also have several ‘California Wonder’ sweet pepper plants but they haven’t yet begun producing but I know (hope) they will soon. It’s amazing what can happen when plants know they are protected.

Tomato, Radish, Basil, Herbs

So far, my tomatoes don’t seem to be growing as abundantly as they were last year. Last year I grew ‘San Marzano’ tomatoes which were plentiful by late June – early July. By this time I was picking bowls and buckets full of them and sharing with neighbors and strangers alike. This time I decided to grow a different variety – Heirloom ‘Rio Grande’ – which are a kind of grape/cherry tomato. I absolutely love these kinds of tomatoes because they are perfect for salads and other meals where I don’t want too much chunky tomato flesh.

But the ‘Rio Grande’ tomato plants seem to be growing smaller than I expected. I see about 4 very young tomatoes growing so far but I expected these plants to be farther along in their cycle by now. Granted, I did start these plants later in the season (May). However, they seemed to be growing slowly even when I first sown them in my seed starter kits. I first thought it was the strand itself but I noticed that my basil plants are significantly shorter and less voluminous than they were at this time last year as well. I’m not sure what’s going on but it may be due to the soil. Although I added new soil and compost to the garden bed before transplanting, I think the brand of soil I used (some random brand that I found in Dollar General because I couldn’t make it to Home Depot) wasn’t as nutrient rich as the Miracle Gro brand that I usually use. I’m kind of sad because tomatoes are another staple in my cuisine and basil is my favorite herb to grow. But I am still thankful that they are growing at all and I am holding on to hope that they will surprise me with a growth spurt as well! I’ll continue to stay faithful in needing and nurturing them.

Final Thoughts

I am (re)learning so many lessons this season in the garden. When gardening you truly have to practice persistence, creativity, faith, resilience, and gratitude. Even when you are met with unexpected challenges you must be persistent in trying to resolve them by using creative solutions. And then you must have faith that things will be okay, even if they don’t turn out the exact way that you intended. By being resilient, you don’t let these challenges interfere with your plans or continued efforts. You just keep nurturing the garden just as you normally would. (So to it is with life.) And finally, whatever the outcome is, you must be grateful that you had the experience. That you were able to learn what works and what doesn’t. That you were able to grow something using your bare hands. That you have delicious fruits of your labor. And that you can try again next year!

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