Monday, July 18, 2011

I AM AT A GARDENING CROSSROADS

and I'm not sure what to do. I know herbs. I spent years reading about herbs and perennials, planting and experimenting, but veggies and fruits... not so much. My first attempt at gardening a little over 5 years ago turned horrible. My carrots didn't grow, my tomatos were consumed by some unknown creature, and my gourds were planted incorrectly so they turned to mush. After moving to our current home 3 years ago I planted strawberries and it went well (no pests, no stealing, great production, easy to harvest). Year two I graduated to lettuce, broccoli, onions, raspberries, corn and cucumbers. That is when it hit me. I had no idea when to harvest anything. I asked and read what I could but I still didn't know how to recognize when something was actually "seeding" or "flowering." What one would call a flower, I didn't. Sorta like beekeeping... I don't know what is normal and what isn't. Our corn was destroyed by earwigs, the cucumbers turned yellow because their vines had nothing to attach themselves to, the brocolli ended up flowering, the lettuce was great but I didn't know you could cut it down and keep using it so instead I pulled it all out *sigh. The onions never grew very well and the raspberries were fantastic!

Year three. I decided to plant more raspberries and strawberries (easy to grow, don't have pests (not yet anyway), can recognize harvest time). We now have 4 raspaberry bushes and 16 strawberry plants. We also planted cucumbers (we have a wire for the vines this time), pumpkins, watermelons, dill, basil, gords and luffahs.

As of July 9, 2011The cucumbers are doing great.

The watermelon... not so much. It just isn't growing very well.

The pumpkins flourished.

The raspberries and strawberries are fantastic.

The gords and luffahs are amazing.

Dill and basil look healthy and big.

STOP!

I checked on things today after being gone for a week and what did I find?

The pumpkins have been taken over by something. I think it is a squash bug. The plants are still alive but I imagine not for long.

The rasberries and strawberries... well... the plant looks great but there are no berries to speak of. In fact, the birds are so bold they come down to eat them right in front of me.

The luffahs, gourds, cucumbers... all look fine and hopefully stay that way.

The dill and basil looks ready to be harvested but again... I'm not sure.

Here is where I'm confuzzled. (yes, that is confused + puzzled). I never know when to harvest things, how to preserve them, or how to prevent pests. I'm not giving up on gardening. I think I can get this but I need some help.

1. Is there a way to prevent squash bugs?
2. Is there a way to keep the birds from eating the berries?
3. How about harvesting... I want dill for pickles (yup, that's what those cucumbers are for) but I'm not sure when to harvest the seeds or how to save them for use when I can the pickles.
4. I want the basil a homemade sauce but do I harvest it now and freeze it for when I make the sauce? Can it be frozen?

The crossroads I'm at is deciding whether or not I just give up on the veggies. I find the berries much easier and of course, I can tell when they are ready for harvest and I know of numerous ways to use them but the veggies I'm not so sure about. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated because I will tell ya, having an entire family chearing on the pumpkin growth just to find out we failed just doesn't feel very good. The kids were not happy when I said they'd be getting their pumpkins for Halloween from someone elses garden patch again this year :(

Some pictures:

Vine base of pumpkins



Raspberries


Basil


Cucumbers


Dill