I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m a shitty gardener. I know the rules, but I break them all the time. I’m too lazy and distracted to do a proper job of planning and maintenance. My garden is a series of closely planted, haphazardly trellised, wildly growing crops and anytime a spot opens up I toss a handful of radish, bush bean or lettuce seeds in the space to fill it in. It’s the complete opposite of the way I teach gardening. It looks absolutely nuts but for the most part it works. Except for when it doesn’t.
There are times when the weather doesn’t co-operate and puts a damper on my plans for an abundant harvest. One season it rained heavily and the soil couldn’t properly air out. Mildews and blight took much of my garden (Cucurbits didn’t stand a chance) but some things could be salvaged. In response I ripped up all of my blighty tomatoes, pulled all of the healthy green tomatoes off and pickled them. I might have to do the same this year as some of the tomatoes I bought in seem to be showing signs of early blight. The others, however, seem to be going strong.
One big mistake I make year after year is not thinning my carrots. They grow in and end up competing for nutrients and shading one another. I end up with stubby little carrots with long, abundant tops. The average person might feel some level of disappointment over it, but I took the opportunity to make a batch of Carrot Top Pesto with the greens and still had enough funny, stubby carrots to make a batch of spicy pickled carrots.
(Nubby carrots before pickling and a jar of carrot top pesto)
Remember: Error + Salvage= SUCCESS!
(Only picking a few raspberries a day, but I’ve got abundant leaves for tea!)
My raspberry bushes take up a ton of space in the garden. Though it is the shadiest part of the space, I often wish I had that portion reserved for faster growing, shade tolerant crops. It takes a few seasons for the bushes to produce much of anything but instead of crying about it, I just harvest the leaves of the plant for teas that help with digestive complaints and menstrual discomfort. It also tastes great and is high in vitamins and minerals, so if your gutty-works or woman parts are working just fine, enjoy it as a refreshing and nourishing beverage with slices of citrus and a bit of raw honey. I have a sensitive tummy so I find that this helps to soothe it when it’s feeling a little queasy.
In another season or so, my raspberry bushes will have really established themselves and I’ll get a larger berry harvest, but in the meantime the rest of the plant provides me with another form of sustenance.
When I sow seeds in a place thats a bit too shady and the seedlings get spindly, I pluck them up and use them like sprouts. When some of the leaves on the greens I’ve grown get a little chewed up by insects, I blend them into a pesto. When I plant things to close and I have to rip out some established plants to make room, I dry them out on the pavement and use them as mulch. Just because I’ve failed to produce one product, it doesn’t mean there isn’t some other matter there that can be put to good use.
It’s important as a new gardener to try and think outside of the box. Read up on the crops you are growing. Find out what components are edible, their benefits and how to prepare them…you’d be surprised at how many parts of common plants are just forgotten about or composted instead of being used, which in many cases can substitute things you’re probably already spending your money on!