Gardening was difficult for us 2 years ago when we attempted it last. Things were growing perfectly during the wet months but as soon as the Texas heat hit, everything shriveled up and died. This year, we're taking extra precaution by installing a drip irrigation system and later on covering the top of the garden beds with mulch to keep the moisture in. A drip irrigation system is actually very simple. It's a bunch of pipes attached to the hose that run along the roots of the plants. There are small holes every foot or so that let the water trickle out slowly. This prevents run off and allows the water to seep into the soil fairly deep without evaporating much.
We've also been fertilizing the soil with organic fertilizer (Garden-tone) and our own compost. It's important to choose organic fertilizer and not Miracle Gro because of many reasons. Miracle Gro is owned by Monsanto, an evil corporation trying to monopolize on everything farming related. They create a variety of genetically modified seeds, and accuse small scale farmers of stealing them. They collect money by suing innocent farmers and making their lives miserable. In addition, Miracle Gro is made of petroleum, and why would anyone want to feed that to their vegetables which we end up consuming?
We also avoid the use of pesticides, and weed every day. I'm sure most people would hate weeding but it's actually very relaxing for us. Plus, if some bugs want to nibble on a portion of our plants, we let them. That's nature, and I'd rather consume some bug spit than chemicals that are meant to kill weeds and insects.
I know I sound like a nerd, but going through and checking up on each plant has been both a rewarding and relaxing part of my day. My dream is to have a full on garden that can provide for both Anthony and I throughout the spring and summer months. Plus, there's nothing better than serving a savory galette made with fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden and freshly milled flour. Our dinner parties feel like a small scale farm-to-table restaurant. I call it garden-to-table.
I have some updates!! It is now May 5th, and our garden has blown up since the last time I wrote this post. The one garden bed that looked pretty bare is jam packed with three different types of squash. I was worried about them at first, but after a few weeks of no growth, they have started growing overnight. For about a week, there were multiple yellow crookneck squash babies growing, which stirred a little excitement in me but they all quickly shriveled up. After some digging around on the internet, I realized that the squash and cucumber variety have a difficult time fertilizing because of the separated female and male flowers. I've also never seen honey bees (the natural pollinators) in my neighborhood which is the other problem. Since then, I've been going out in the mornings when the flowers are open and hand pollinating each of them with a small paintbrush. Today when I went to go check on the squash, I knew my efforts had paid off because look at how big this squash is getting!
Another exciting news. This morning I ate my first cherry tomato from my garden! There was one that had just matured, and Anthony and I took a bite of it each. This variety (sweet 100) is known to be really sweet, and sure enough it was. I can't wait until we start getting hundreds of these sweet tomatoes so that I can cook with them! It's like a jungle in the sweet 100 area now because I had no idea this variety was going to get so tall. I'm going to guess it's at around 6 ft now. I probably should have placed them in a row instead of in a square, because the two of them in the back don't get as much sun as the other two. Tomatoes need full sun for 8 hours a day, and I have already started to notice that the ones in the shade of the other tomatoes aren't producing as much fruit. Ah well, things to consider next year. And if you are living in Texas and want to plant tomatoes, make sure to do it as early as possible. I planted mine in the beginning of March because as soon as the night time temperature hits 90 degrees, they stop producing fruit. At least, that's what the person at the nursery told me anyway.
As for the corn, I'm not sure if it's doing so well. I'm seeing tufts of hair from the miniature corns which got me doing a little dance but there's not much pollen yet. Also, I thought corn stalks were supposed to become 6 ft tall, and mine are around 3 ft. The internet says that the most probable cause of that is planting too early. March may have been a little to cold for them even in Texas. Another thing to keep in mind next year. As for pollination, big farms that plant lots of corn will not need to intervene because the wind will organically make that happen. Home growers will most likely have to hand pollinate especially if you plant in a row like I did. We'll see if we start seeing pollen in a couple of weeks!
Lastly, I wanted to show you guys my basil section. From the left, sweet basil, mystery basil (???), and purple basil. We've noticed that the mystery basil and the purple basil have the most concentrated flavor and they are great in caprese salads!. It's amazing how the flavor varies so much with the different types. I've also noticed that if you pick them and don't eat them immediately, they lose their flavor fast. If you can only get your hands on store bought basil, make sure you put their ends in water and at room temperature to prevent discoloration and to keep it's freshness!