Growing My Own Food

Dear Diary,

My journey as a gardener began with a small planter box that was built by my boyfriend at the time. We started with carrots, beets, and lettuce, eager to grow, we threw all of the seeds together hoping for the best. It took months, waiting by the glass window of our small 2 bedrooms apartment. The planter box also had a vinyl roof for us to cover and protect our baby crops from bad weather. Even with all the tender love and cares in the world, we had no luck with our harvest. The lettuce was small and flimsy, the beets never took root, and the carrots.. well tiny pepper-sized.

After a few months in the apartment, we struck a deal on our first home, and soon we began packing our boxes. Our new house came with a cute backyard, with a deck boxing it in like a small Japanese zen garden. With tons of kudzu growing behind our house, we set root to build our garden. My partner built the first garden bed, then came a second, and third. Between the first and the second garden bed, we used chicken coop wires to create a crescent shape for climbing vegetables.

Eager to start planting, I brought 5 baby tomatoes plants, 2 cucumber plants that I thought were Japanese baby cucumbers, 1 bell pepper plant, and 2 eight-ball zucchinis plants. You will soon notice a trend.

Trusting in the power of Google, I was convinced that I have made it through the last frost, and was safe to plant my veggies. But soon after planting the tomatoes, the bamboozle frost happened, luckily, all of them survived. But soon I realized, maybe I should have plucked one or two or three of them away, or just let mother nature take her course and wipe them out for me.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, and bell peppers are all great starter plants. But they require lots of nutrients and nitrogen from the soil. Since they all come from almost the same family (don’t quote me), this lineage can cause a downfall for the future of my garden. But waste want not, Linh you fool! I planted them in all 3 of my garden beds, so I will not be seeing that side of the family in a while (I was so looking forward to the Japanese eggplants, not cool!)

In order to encourage pollinators to do their job (typical symbiotic stuff), I planted wildflowers native to the region. If they can enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet of my flowers, maybe they can also be interested in pollinating my garden. And oh boy, did it work.

By the third harvest, I soon realized the downfall of my greed. You see, you can only eat so many cucumbers for a household of 2, all the refreshing dishes that I thought cucumber would save us money with, came down to 3 dishes. The menu could not accommodate that many cucumbers, so guess who will not be invited back for a few years.

With some research and eventually growing smarter, I realized overpopulation and lack of resources are just as bad for plants. So as soon as my garden dwindled away from the last huzzah, I had to get rid of the plants that turned shame from my garden (no hard feelings).

Preparing for my fall garden, I cleared out sick plants, replenished my soil by adding more soil filled with nutrients, added fertilizer that doesn’t contain toxic chemicals or harmful ingredients, and finally, I let my garden rest. But I soon realized, exposed soil isn’t going to retain the nutrients, and I was determined to keep them intact, especially after all the love and money I poured into “dirt”.

If you don’t know this, plants love nitrogen, since it act as a major component of chlorophyll, which plays a big part in photosynthesis. (thank goodness for Google and my Biology minor that I don’t use). Luckily, without needing to use more fertilizers, I decided on using plants from the legumes family to replenish my soil. Think peas, beans, alfalfa, clovers, and lentils, these little plants are going to be the saviors of my garden.

I graciously scattered seeds across my garden bed, leaving room for bokchoy and tatsoi. These legume seeds came as a package labeled cover crops that are meant to, you guessed it, cover the soil to protect it from losing moisture. It is the ultimate 2 in 1 combo that is environmentally friendly, pollinators friendly, and wallet-friendly.

As a close to my first chapter of gardening in 2021, here are a few things I hope I can improve on. Please do not make the same mistakes I did, take it from me, the newly enlightened green thumb gardener.

  1. Always research and plan your selection. Some families can be greedy with resources, so you need to be aware of this in order to avoid suffocating the soil.
  2. Do not be greedy and plant too many plants.
  3. Try natural remedies to improve the health of your garden before using chemicals
  4. Mix in flowers to encourage pollinators
  5. Trust the process, let mother nature take her course with your plants. Too much TLC will do harm than good.

What should I grow next year that is not from the same family as tomatoes and cucumbers?

Thank you for reading!

Linh

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