Learning to Garden: The Results

To celebrate my first summer as a home owner, I decided to try growing some stuff.

I…was not very successful, but the fruits of my labor weren’t so disastrous as to chase me away from grassroots forever. My crops just grew (or didn’t) in buckets this year, like I could have easy done on my old apartment balcony, really, but I’ll find some room to install a raised garden and some flower beds next spring.

Summery of my harvest! From most bad to not-so-bad:

Garlic

My bucket garden book forgot to mention that you need to plant garlic in the fall. Or maybe it did and I wasn’t paying attention. Anyway, around now is supposed to be a good time. My mom says she plants her before the big frosts and covers them with newspapers or mulch to keep them from sprouting too early. Perhaps I’ll give it another try.

We did end up with one garlic bulb that somehow got mixed in the with the onions, but it was way, like waaay too tiny to do anything with. A few other garlics sprouted and died shortly after. The others just rotted away.

Herbs

I planted cilantro, basil and green onions. They all sprouted, grew a little, but died before they had grown enough to be harvested. My money’s on a combination of disliking their pot and the chilly nights (it gets cold here, even freezes a couple of times in the summer).

The aerogarden ended up being a better herb supplier, with thai basil, mint and dill going wild. We’re eating the basil but are having trouble finding uses for mint and dill.

Aerogarden: For when all else fails.

Not sure yet what I want to do next year. I think the herbs can do well indoors and I have just the right re-purposed clementine wooden boxes in mind. The key would be finding somewhere with natural light (not easy in a 60 year old small house), but out of reach of the cats. (Our cats are so weird. I know some cats like plants, but ours take it to the next level. No greens.)

Onions

I watched some videos on how to tell when onions are ready for harvest. My onions were ready unusually early, but who am I to argue with Youtube? Out they came.

They ended up being really, really tiny.

Cute and embarrassing. I think #5 from the left is my one random garlic.

I used them raw for salads and they were tasty, but no more flavourful than something you’d find in the store. Perhaps I grew them too close together, or perhaps I used the wrong soil type. Apparently you have to use specific fertilizer for bulbs? Will look into that.

Spinach

Thankfully, spinach loves cool Central Alberta summers! My first round grew so fast and wild that I forgot to take a picture. When it bolted mid-summer, I figured it was still early enough in the summer to try round 2.

Well, here’s round 2.

Only two plants grew this time and I haven’t been eating as many salads so I haven’t harvested them (they seem to grow better if they’re getting regularly snipped), but I’m full of joy knowing that spinach feels at home here. Once I get an actual garden, I’ll be sure to plant a few waves of spinach. I’m giddy about all the grocery trips it’ll save me.

Next summer plans

If I can figure out the tiny-house-and-cats-and-few-windows puzzle, I’d like to get a head start, growing herbs and tomatoes indoors in April. I’m having a love affair with winter squash as well, and would like to give it a try. Summer squash grows well here (and everywhere, really, even in Asia we came across people trying to give away zucchini. Zucchini overproduction is a universal phenomenon.) I do have one of those plant lights but I’m not sure if I can remember to use it and I have no idea if it works as well as natural light.

Of course, I’m hoping for some flower beds and a raised garden for my onions and spinach. My compost should be ready for use by next summer as well, which is exciting.

And maybe next year I can get some not-so-tiny onions.

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5 Responses to Learning to Garden: The Results

  1. grimmtooth says:

    Well, to be fair, onions of that size or smaller are well known as ‘scallions’, and are quite useful in a number of ways. Mongolian Beef, for example. I love green onions, personally, and like to chop them up for all sorts of dishes, such as pasta salad, egg salad, and potato salad (hm, I detect a theme!)

    I do have a strong feeling that cilantro isn’t going to do well in the Great White North, though. Might be a bit out-of-band for that particular herb. šŸ™‚

    • Ophelie says:

      These guys’ green parts are too grown out to be used as scallions. The green parts are were just like grown onions, only the bulbs were tiny. Only the bright side, the cats LOVED the green bits. They went wild when I bought the onions in, trying to play with and chew on the long stems.

      I did actually try to grow dedicated scallions, but they died right after sprouting. I’ll try again next year, in their own better suited pot. My (ethnically) Chinese husband does most of the cooking so we must go through two grocery store bunches a week. I was hoping to cut down on that by growing my own, but it looks like it’ll have to wait.

      Surprisingly, basil seems to be harder to grow out here than cilantro. My cilantro grew decently until something killed it (dryness? violent rain? not a fan of the pot? too much sun/shade?) but the basil barely sprouted. I’m told basil isn’t a fan of temperatures below 10C which isn’t unusual at night, even in the summer. I can give them both a try next year, in better pots and start them indoors so they’re heartier when they’re exposed to the elements. According to the government, Canada is actually a major cilantro producers! Although, by Canada they could mean the Okanagan Valley in BC which has an abnormally good growing climate.

      • grimmtooth says:

        Oh, do be careful with the cats! Most members of the lily family are poisonous to our feline friends – garlic, for example. I don’t know if onions count, but if you noticed any of them getting sick afterwards, that’s probably why. Takes a lot to actually KILL ’em, but who likes cat barf in the carpet?

        I need to take a crack at fresh herbage at some point. I suspect here in Florida things might be easy to grow. Fresh basil is SO much better than anything you can buy in a store (other than fresh basil from the store).

      • Ophelie says:

        Good to know! Looking it up, it seems that onion is indeed toxic to cats, although I can’t find anything about the stems. I don’t recall them being particularly sicker after playing with it (one of our cats is a chronic puker so it’s hard to tell with him) but better safe than sorry.

        I would imagine anything not requiring a desert would grow really well in Florida. It is essentially a massive greenhouse. If all else fails, though, basil grows wild in an Aerogarden.

        I didn’t realize you were based in Florida. Hope you were too affected by the recent hurricane! It looked terrible.

      • grimmtooth says:

        Hehe, in my experience, the two things that grow best in Florida are lizards (skinks) and kudzu. But if you can fight off the kudzu, the skinks will keep the bugs away for you!

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