Posts Tagged ‘gardening mistakes’

Sadly, you'll never see this in my garden.

Sadly, you’ll never see this in my garden.

If you hang around me more than a few minutes, I’m going to figure out a way to bring up the subject of raising food. It might be livestock, but more likely it will be fruits and vegetables. I love growing edibles, one look and you can tell I love eating them, and I love talking about growing food.

There are lots of people who are better gardeners than I am, and maybe one or two who aren’t, but nobody likes talking gardening more than me. Ask anyone.

There are, though, some things I can grow really well, and others that I just can’t grow even if my life depended on it. Today, just for giggles, I’m going to tell you my absolute best and worst.

Let’s start with best, because it’s easy. Most of you already know what it is. My most prolific results come from hot peppers. So far, I have never gotten a bad result from hot peppers. Sweet varieties have been a little more difficult, though I’m getting the hang of them, but the hot varieties are like in my DNA.

I’ve cut back in recent years, because I get so many peppers I can’t figure out what to do with them. Around here where we live, there aren’t many people who like the hotter ones. In fact, we have friends who don’t even use black pepper. As a result, a lot of my peppers end up dried and turned into powder. I have dried cayenne peppers from 2009 in the pantry. I kid you not.

This year I only grew 5 varieties of hot peppers: jalapeno (3 plants), Habanero (4 plants), Thai (3 plants), Yellow Ghost (three plants), and Yellow Moruga (1 Plant) and I have harvested enough to last us years. I will make one more harvest at the end of this week and then simply pull the plants up.

As successful as my peppers have been, there is a fruit I simply can’t grow; cantaloupe. I have NEVER successfully harvested and eaten a cantaloupe that I have grown myself. A couple of years they all burned up, one year the chickens got them all, but the biggest heartache of all was the year I had several one day from a planned harvest and one of my dogs got into the garden and ate all the ripe ones. We know it was her because A. we caught her in the act, and B. she crapped seeds for days.

Do I sound bitter? You bet I am. The truth hurts. I didn’t even try to grow any this year. I will try again….eventually.

So there you have it; the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. What about you? Are there things you grow well? Varieties you can’t grow for love nor money? Jump on the comments page and tell us about it. Spill.

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Earthbox Self Watering Containers

I need to ask your forgiveness. I followed some very bad advice in my container garden this year, and worse, I passed on the information before I tested it. I trusted the source and just ran with the idea. What a mess I made. For once, I hope you ignored my advice. If you listened, I hope the things I’ve learned will help you fix any problems you might be having.

Regular readers know I love wicking beds and self-watering containers. I use them almost exclusively now. They are easy to build and are extremely water efficient. Last year, I even learned that if you have good wicking action, you can top water and don’t need to worry about the fill tube.

Over the winter, the same source who found that top watering was ok, also posted that you don’t need to have rocks or other ‘reservoir’ in the bottom as long as you have good drainage. I got very excited about that and built all my 2014 self-watering containers that way. And…I taught the method in a Gardening 101 workshop this past spring. Who does that? Who passes on a gardening tip that he hasn’t tested? Well, I did.

The results have been disastrous. All the containers I built this way have had poor results: stunted and dying plants. I am getting terrible anaerobic activity in the bottoms of the buckets and containers. It’s a mess. I’m in the process of fixing it now. Fortunately, I only have about 20 containers built this way, mostly buckets, to deal with, so it isn’t too labor intensive.

First, I want to apologize to everyone who listened to me and implemented this. I was WRONG. I should not have recommended something I had not proven out. Please forgive me.

Now for the good news: It’s an easy fix unless you built a huge wicking bed this way. If you stuck to containers like I did, there are two ways to correct it mid growing season. One is to simply pick up the bucket and drill holes in the bottom, or if the plant is too big, drill a hole as close to the bottom as possible. The excess water will drain out and the anaerobic activity will slowly cease.

SAMSUNGAlternatively, you can do what I did. I started over. I emptied the buckets into a wheelbarrow (what a stink. Anaerobic soil is foul.). I added fresh soil conditioner and planting mix to it to freshen it. While it rested and drained for a few minutes, I filled the buckets up to the drain hole with lava rock that I got from a Big Box Store. I put a layer of landscape fabric over the rocks and refilled the bucket with planting mix. Simple.

As a control, I emptied two buckets that had been built the right way (as described in the paragraph above). They needed to be replanted because the pigs had eaten the tomatoes out of them. When I emptied them, there was no bad smell, drainage was good and

landscape fabric as wicking material

landscape fabric as wicking material

the plants had strong root growth.

Lesson learned.

I love to hear from you and so do other readers. Please feel free to respond with your own garden mistakes and how you dealt with them.


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rain manI have always loved Gardening Programs on TV and radio. Maybe not as much as fishing shows, but I do enjoy them. I am a huge fan of Paul James the Gardener Guy. To my mind, he is to gardening what Alton Brown is to cooking; quirky, knowledgeable and entertaining. I used to enjoy The Victory Garden and British Gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, back when I lived in the U.K.  One of my new favorites is P. Allen Smith. Oh, let’s not forget Georgia’s own, Walter Reeves. His radio show makes getting up early on a Saturday morning worthwhile.

These gardeners are amazing.  Their gardens are gorgeous. Their creativity and knowledge appears limitless. I admire them and soak up as much information as possible, because, you see, I am ‘The Anti Gardener Guy’. I am ‘The Village Idiot’. My garden is a hot mess, held together by string, zip ties, duct tape, and glue.  I am clumsy, unskilled and way less than gifted. I am the Rain Man of the garden set. Yet year after year, my garden produces abundantly.

Brittan and I are asked regularly how hard it is to grow food. Some say they could never do it.  I beg to differ. I am of the opinion that if I can do it, anyone can.  With that in mind, I am hoping to launch a You Tube channel in February called, “Gardening With The Village Idiot”.  My goal is to share some of my experiments, experiences, successes, and failures with the world in an attempt to entertain and challenge other wannabe gardeners to jump in, get messy and grow something. After all, everybody likes to play in the dirt.

Please send in your veggie gardening questions or ideas.  I’d love to hear from you.  Each month for the rest of 2014 we’ll be holding a drawing from the names of people who comment on this blog or on the You Tube Page. Winners will receive really cool prizes like; seeds, free produce, books, or maybe even a roll of duct tape so you can fix your own mistakes. Stay tuned.


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It’s still August.  It’s still hotter than the Devil’s natural habitat and we are way short on rain in Georgia right now, but it’s still called a Fall garden.  I didn’t name it, don’t shoot the messenger.  Harvest, presumably there will be one, will be in the Fall (presumably there will be one of those, too).

Planting is well under way and some kale, corn, beans and squash have sprouted.  I’m very excited about that.  I’m a bit disappointed in the percentage of germination so far, but maybe it’s still early.  I’ll give it another week before I get too whiny.

This week will see beets, turnips, cucumbers and collards go into the earth.  I have been trying to get some onion sets, but no luck.  Finally, someone at Pike Nursery told me that it will be another couple weeks to a month before they even arrive.  I guess I just need to chill.  Chill.  Right.  It’s 96% humidity right now and over 75 degrees.  I know, I was out working in it at 5:30.  Fortunately, there wasn’t much to do this a.m except sweat.

In the, “Oh, crap, it’s a disaster” department; Saturday afternoon, the dogs managed to get into the garden.  That never ends well.  They found my seed boxes full of sprouted cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage and shredded them.  It was not a fair fight.  It was a massacre.  I was not, and am not…happy.  Brittan says, “They’re just dogs.”  I’m wondering if they taste like chicken.  Oh, well, the damage is done.  Tonight I must replant and see what happens.  This time I will surround the seed trays with land mines and razor wire.  Watch, though, it won’t stop the dogs, but I’ll lose a limb.


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Sometimes, not so well.

This has been a tough year here in the burb.  I’m already working on next year’s plan, because this one is all but shot.

Our broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts bolted.  That was our fault.  We waited too long to transplant them.  Our winter squash got hit by boreres and our first batch of summer squash did not get pollinated.

Now I find that something has ruined our crop of Roma tomatoes.  This is especially bad, because Roma’s are our most important crop.  We can and freeze gallons and gallons of it.  Brittan makes ketchup and pasta sauce.  I make barbecue sauce.  All of a sudden we have a problem.  And I don’t know what it is.

At first I thought it was birds, but no longer believe so, because our slicing tomatoes are pretty much untouched.  I then considered rabbits, but now believe it is an insect of some kind.  The tomatoes are all half eaten and now the plants are drying up.  I am absolutely devastated this morning.  I refuse to take a ‘nuclear’ option with chemical pesticides.  That violates everything we’re trying to do.

I think my plan is to get, or make, some insecticidal soap.  I will enlist the assistance of my Bride and pick all the partially eaten fruit, then spray with the soap.  I will also take cuttings from healthy plants and start some earthboxes to see if I can get at least a small harvest from that.

Folks, these are the consequences of natural farming.  We don’t rely on pharmaceuticals to keep our crops productive, so occasionally we have problems.  On the other side, we also don’t ingest or sell toxic residue into the human population who consume our products.  On the whole, the trade is worth it.  Today it doesn’t feel like it.

There have been successes, too.  Our potatoes are looking great.  Our asparagus bed is coming along nicely and we would have some nice produce from that next spring.  We’ve enjoyed some nice squash and had an early abundance of bell and jalapeno peppers.  Our experiment with beets went well enough that they will be our primary fall crop.  We did great with green beans and so far, our slicing tomatoes look like they will be fine.  Oh, and we did great with cherry tomatoes.

The biggest success has been our herb bed.  The basil, oregano, thyme and parsley are phenomenal.  We have had fair luck with rosemary, too, though most of it is in the sun room.

The fight goes on.  We feel good about our choices and wins outnumber losses.  It’s just that with these Roma tomatoes, it’s a heartbreaking loss.  It’s like Kentucky losing to Duke.  Totally unacceptable.  Stay tuned, we may yet snatch victory from the jaws of…. whatever is eating my stupid tomatoes!


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From January we have fought an uphill battle to have a decent tomato harvest this year.  Everything that could go wrong has.  If you’re not a regular reader, check the archives.  On Wednesday evening, nature reached deep for a knockout punch.

After supper we drove out to the farm to move the sheep and chickens.  While there, the sky turned black and the lightening flashed, so we hurried through our chores to avoid getting caught in it.  We mostly succeeded.  The heavens opened just in time for me to put the freshly filled feeders into the chicken tractor.  No big deal.  Wrong!

The rain pounded down like hammers.  It was like a monsoon on steroids.  “At least I won’t have to water the veggies,” I remarked as we unloaded the truck back at the house.

When I went out to the garden yesterday morning (Thursday), my heart sank as I saw the destruction wreaked by the previous evening’s storm.  Tomatoes lay all over the ground.  The plants were smashed and broken.  In some cases, the bamboo tripod stakes were snapped in two.  The devastation was awesome! (just not in a good way).

Last night, I took some twine and rescued what I could.  But overall, the crop is done.  Oh, we’ll have enough for our own summer use, but there won’t be anything for a farm stand, that’s for sure.

Over the weekend, we’ll take some cuttings from a few of the plants and try to create a late season crop, but my expectations are not high.  Stuff happens.

As Job said in the Bible, “The Lord gives.  The Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

We lost a big battle.  But we will win the war.  I so vow! 🙂

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We had a flash storm last night.  It brought blessed relief to the ground and to the air temps.  But this morning I discovered the storm had a sting in it’s tail.  When I went out to the garden, I discovered my already feeble tomato plants had been savaged.  I have broken limbs and stems everywhere.  What a mess.  After work this evening I will salvage what I can.  Praise God for beans, sweet potatoes and squash.  They are difficult to damage.

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