Update on my Veggie #Garden #GrowYourOwnFood

Since moving to Iowa last fall I have been increasingly excited about the opportunities to grow your own food. Don’t get me wrong – we tried growing veggies in FL but it was SO stinking hot and our soil was lousy in our yard and we were pretty limited to what we could grow! Shortly after we moved up here I attended a Hydroponics Workshop at Farmtek which just drove my desire to grow our own food even further! In addition to going nuts in my own garden I am also working hard on launching an agricultural program at our K-8 school since we live in a farming community. My first item on the dock is to raise the funds to purchase the school a greenhouse and start up a hydroponics program.

I also shared with you tips on how to save money on purchasing seeds and plants to start your veggie garden and even ways to save money by growing your own produce via canning and freezing! (Remember all those mason jars I scored at a yard sale?) So I wanted to share with you guys an update of how my garden is going. This is the biggest garden I’ve grown to date (about 45 ft x 16 ft) and I have actually started 3 separate smaller gardens in addition to this one!

I went out of town for 2 weeks and by the time I came back I could barely see my plants – I spent an enormous time weeding and am still working on it! I’ve also hit the season where all of the hornworms and caterpillars are flocking to my produce. My original plan was to go completely pesticide free but I came to an emergency “it needs to get fixed NOW” time and used what I could get at the time. Over the winter I will research better how to keep my garden chemical-free.

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I have 9 tomato plants of 4 different varieties. Heirloom (by far my smallest and least product plant), Roma, Better Boy, and Beef Steak. I am very familiar with growing beef steak tomatos so I they make up half of my tomato plants. I am extremely disappointed how puny my heirloom plant turned out – it’s about 1/4 of the size of my other plants. I plan on using these tomatoes to can salsa and spaghetti sauce. So far they are looking awesome and I’ve got plenty of fruit growing!

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This is my best broccoli head and we just ate it for dinner last night – it was amazing! It was my first time growing broccoli and I almost waited to late to harvest it. I have one more head growing by am headed to BlogHer this week so I will probably harvest it early. Out of my 6 plants so far I’ve only had 2 fruit but the others look healthy so I’m holding out hope that they are just late bloomers! Oddly enough none of my 6 cauliflower plants have fruited yet and they definitely don’t look as nice as my broccoli.

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My lettuce has certainly surprised me! This one particular section has two lettuce plants and is growing like crazy! I’ve been picking lettuce off of it every day for over a week and it is just multiplying and growing like a weed! It’s about doubled since I took this photo. I have three different types of lettuce and although it’s been almost 100* every day for the past week my lettuce has just been rocking my garden! I’m totally thrilled about this one! I’ve had so much that I’ve been taking bags of lettuce to all of my neighbors in our town every day!

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My pumpkin plants are spreading out nicely! This section of my garden gave me the most troubles overall because I just couldn’t keep it watered enough the first month. I had many of my plants die off even though I watered it twice a day. The soil was just bone dry and sanding which I’ve attributed to the horrible erosion we have (this end of the yard is slanted down into the cow pasture behind us) and the large tree not too far away soaking up the rest of the water. It’s been a constant battle keeping the dirt on this end of the garden watered but despite that I seem to have some strong plants and am just starting to see baseball sized fruit on it!

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I planted these 50 Pound Cabbage as part of Bonnie’s 3rd Grade Program with the school kids and they were growing fantastic until they started getting eaten! I am fighting hard with some Safer spray to keep this cabbage salvageable but to be honest I’m not sure whether they will be a complete loss or not. They are gigantic and I’ve really enjoyed growing them regardless and hopefully next year I will find a good preventative management for these.

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These heirloom cucumbers have REALLY taken off the past few weeks! I plopped them in the ground figuring I had nothing to lose and wasn’t really planning on taking care of them but they obviously went nuts! I harvest that cucumber you see below yesterday but it taste horrible. It has been suggested that perhaps I waited too long to harvest it so I am going to try harvesting them earlier next time and pray they taste better!

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They grew nicely but sadly this one ended up back into my compost heap! It was a pretty solid inside! Let’s hope I can salvage the rest!

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This is my prize sweet corn plant and is now almost taller than I am! My other sweet corn looks healthy by are about 2 feet tall so they have some catching up to do! This one though has a fabulous ear of corn growing wildly and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it!!

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Overall I am REALLY happy with my veggie garden this year. I’ve had some issues with hornworms (one ate my entire pepper plant overnight!), lots of erosion, and some things just plain didn’t grow. Above you can see that I’ve just started a second batch of broccoli plants in front of my tomatoes. My potato plants should be ready to harvest after I come back from BlogHer and I had a whole 2 carrots grow from an entire 2 rows planted.

I also have 2 watermelon plants that look healthy but am not sure if they will end up fruiting or not. And I planted strawberries, which I had no idea up here in the midwest that they don’t fruit the first year because they sure do in Florida! (different breeds) Hah – lesson learned!

At the end of August I am going to set up an entire crop of pole beans and some more lettuce. What I REALLY want to do for next year but don’t think I’ll be able to afford it is to make the entire area a raised veggie garden. It would definitely help me with my serious erosion problem (half of my onions are only hanging on by the roots and are entirely exposed!) but the cost of filling in the dirt and buying the timber to border this particular area is quite costly.

I also have two other garden areas, one with even more serious erosion issues, that I also want to raise as well.  If you have any ideas on how to cost effectively fill in that much dirt other than buying a truckload please let me know!! If any brand would like to sponsor my veggie garden next year that would be even more awesome! 🙂

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