These pictures and organic gardening ideas from my June garden might help you see (if you don’t already) that your garden doesn’t have to be perfection as dictated by someone else. Rather it can (and should) suit your individual needs AND be easy.
Lots of New Gardeners This Year/ Prompted by Fear?
Based on the number of questions I’ve received from new readers this year, a lot of people started gardens.
Of all the reasons to start a garden, my guess is that most are being prompted by the fear of shortages of fresh food in the stores.
Bill and I started a garden 41 years ago because we didn’t have money for food. So I totally relate to being concerned about food shortages whatever the reason.
The Greater Bonus
The greater bonus that I wasn’t fully aware of at the time was: when you garden with nature you’ll get some of the most nutritious food you can find. Good nutrition strengthens your immune system which is your best defense against any disease.
Will Newbies Find Gardening Doable or Too Much Work (and give up)?
Organic Gardening is easy. But since marketing (with its bottom line being only money rather than serving your needs) controls much of what people believe, not too many will know just how easy it is.
Many things that are marketed as “have-to-have” or” have-to-do” actually make gardening harder. At the very least, they give you more to do. But those things can become so firmly fixed as “truth” by the marketing that the majority adapts those procedures. When things become too much to keep up with and don’t go as easily as they thought, gardening is then considered too much work.
As I pointed out in a post on new gardening methods, it seems to be a universal law that even the worst of things or the biggest of lies can have a bit truth to them. That doesn’t make the complete package worth embracing. (I gave some examples of this in that post.)
If you garden with nature there’s not a lot to buy. And there’s minimal amount of work once you prepare for maximum success by using my 3 keys.
Even in Difficult Times Organic Gardening is Easier if You Work with Nature
Even in times when life throws you a time of intense difficulty and tending your garden is impossible for a year, you can work with nature and not have to start over. With a minimum of effort you’ll still be able to keep your “no till” garden intact. (I’ll tell you a few of my secrets at the end that enabled me to do just that.)
Sharing 40 Years of Organic Gardening Ideas With You
I’ve spent over 40 years finding ways to make gardening easier and easier. And I’ve written two books (one “hard copy” and one digital) and over 750 posts and letters giving you a lot of my secrets.
But most will still follow what they’re familiar with or what’s generally done in the kind of garden they choose whether it’s conventional/using chemicals or organic.
Yes, there’s always something to learn. But, as I pointed out in a recent post, by following my 3 keys to success you’ll have laid your foundation for success even when you don’t know a lot.
Garden June 2020
Still too small to be visible in the picture below (taken June 15) are hot weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and okra. Once they start their quick growth the garden in photos will look like a mass of green. Beds and paths will be indistinguishable unless you’re walking in the garden.
Even now the large blueberry bushes at the lower end are hidden from view by the tall stalks of lettuce going to seed and the tall peas.
Dill, thyme, rosemary, garden sorrel, and chard don’t show in the picture either.
If you click on the picture you may be able to enlarge it full screen to see more clearly.
Visible from left to right are onions, asparagus ferns, snap beans, broccoli, lettuces, collards, beets, peas, cabbage(covered with white row cover fabric), lettuce setting seed (the tall plants with light green tops), and a tall variety of peas.
I keep oenothera (the pink flowers) on hand in the garden for transplanting into the borders where and when needed. The red flowers (right center top) are daylilies. Two baptisia plants with formed pods show at the bottom right along with day lily foliage and some asparagus ferning out.
Probably got a bit overly optimistic about what I could handle this year. I sent pictures to a long-time friend recently and she called my garden a farmer’s market. With all the diversity, I guess it’s gonna be just that: my own personal farmer’s market.
Zeroing in on Individual Crops
Because of space and time considerations I don’t plant broccoli but every 3 years or so.
This year I transplanted the seedlings to the garden about the second week of April. I didn’t get the size heads that I would prefer but every one I did get (and am getting) was/is delicious. Also, I use the leaves chopped in a mixture of other raw veggies and a drizzle and toss of olive oil and vinegar.
My timing for transplanting is pretty much a guess based on what “I think” the weather will be. Our spring weather can be unpredictable. It’s said that when those cold spells come in the spring broccoli needs to be mature enough to still yield a good sized head. Or immature enough that the cold spells won’t cause smaller heads.
Yeh, right. Good luck with that. My crystal ball’s not working.
While my spring planted lettuces were growing, I had plenty of good lettuce from my fall plantings to tide me over even through late May.
I planted several varieties this spring:
Ella Kropf – didn’t germinate well. Red Iceberg didn’t either, but the few heads that did were beautiful and delicious. Jericho, Winter Density (my seed), Sierra Batavia (my seed) and Reine de Glaces are all looking good.
Small plantings of lettuce are throughout the garden especially in places that will get a bit more shade in the heat of summer. Most years I’m eating lettuce through July if it doesn’t get too hot and dry.
At least by October I’ll start lettuces for fall and winter . Seed used will be from my plants forming seed in the garden now.
If you grow collards you know how big they get. When planting them in the early spring I only plant a few and don’t let them get big. Every other day I harvest for fresh use (chopped) with my mixed vegetables.
All leaves looked pristine and beautiful until about a week ago when the harlequin bug showed up. (At least I know where to look to kill the harlequin bugs.)
I’ll leave the plants in for a while a longer until the lettuce gets bigger. Up they come after that. Will plant again in the fall and let half of that small planting get big for steamed greens. The other few plants I’ll keep small for fresh use.
I have several varieties of potatoes scattered throughout my garden. Some come in early, some mid-season, and some late.
There’s no room inside the house to store them, but they keep in the ground and I harvest as needed. This works great until a hard freeze. When that’s anticipated, I’ll take up enough to last me a month or so.
From left to right are beans, onions, an asparagus, strawberries, more onions, and broccoli. (The red flowers on the right hand side are daylilies.)
The asparagus was a volunteer and has done better than any asparagus in the garden. The majority have been lost to invasive roots.
(If you have “normal” trees like oak, maple, etc. you don’t have invasive roots. You have normal trees with roots that do normal things. It might be inconvenient but you can deal with them if you have to – assuming they’re on your property. But when you have roots that travel 120 yards from their source and cobweb through soil from the surface down 10 feet or more, you have invasive tree roots.)
When these beans started to germinate I had a vole wreaking havoc right in the middle of the row. Trapped for two days to catch him.
Then flea beetles got into the young beans. They outgrew them as you can see.
This planting is only about 5 feet in length. I planted another spot with beans the other day. I’ll plant at least two more times this season and have fresh beans up to a hard freeze.
My small plantings are enough to keep me eating fresh beans almost everyday once they start producing. Any excess I use for soups.
For years I grew peas and always enjoyed success. Then for about 5 years, they didn’t perform well. Only a few from each planting would grow and produce. I ordered from a different supplier each year and still had the same result.
This year everything changed again. Peas were beautiful!
I planted three beds of peas; each about 6 feet long. And I planted a 3 foot area with a tall pea that needed to be supported. I’ve harvested 5 times and gotten enough to eat a quart and then freeze a gallon and a quart for winter.
When Bill was alive we always picked and shelled peas together to cut the time down. Even back then I was careful to not plant more than we could handle in a reasonable time. (Peas are time consuming!)
And to make matters even more taxing, I like to shell and freeze within an hour of harvest for best nutritional value. That didn’t happen this year. It was anywhere from 2 to 6 hours before I could get to shelling and freezing.
There are still peas on the vines that I plan to dry and use for next year’s planting. I should have already pulled them up and draped them over a support to dry. Will get to that tomorrow hopefully.
At the top left of the photo above is the garden’s middle path. You can see five beds that are to the right of that path. From bottom row to top: Cabbages covered with row cover fabric. Finishing Peas. Young tomato plants. Aspabroc variety of broccoli, potato and lettuces. Onions.
The peas above have been harvested 5 times and still have peas that I’ll dry and use for next year’s planting. Behind the peas are tomatoes transplanted to the garden the first of June. Picture was taken June 17 and as of yesterday they’ve doubled in size. I’ll stake them within the next day or two.
Below is a volunteer cabbage from a core I buried as part of kitchen scraps during the winter. I’d already harvested the leaves before I thought to take the picture. Want to save seed and plant it next spring; and may a few this fall.
More leaves grew back quickly as you can see in the close up below. So far, I’ve harvested the leaves on this plant seven times (about 10 to 12 leaves each time) for fresh use with my meals.
More About the Cabbage
The wispy barely visible thin stalk in the middle is that volunteer cabbage you just looked at.
Under the white row-cover fabric are my cabbages. The small white section you see towards the top of the picture conceals two cabbages that I uncovered two days ago. Cabbage moths had found their way in, but I still harvested two small beautiful heads of cabbage after taking off the two messed-up leaves.
I had one chopped with my other veggies for lunch that day and it was without a doubt one of the most delicious cabbages I’ve ever had. There is NO WAY organic store bought can compare. They’ll do when I don’t have my own, but the taste (and I would think the nutrition) is totally different!
Yesterday I pulled back the fabric on the long row of cabbage after the rain. Gorgeous!! And no cabbage worm from what I could see. Their are holes in the fabric that I’ll tape up tomorrow. It was so wet this afternoon that the tape would not have adhered.
I bought seed for peanuts back in 2014. Patricia, a long time reader and friend, told me they were easy to grow. So I thought I’d give them a try since Bill loved peanuts. Never got to plant them after Bill needed me at his side 24/7 when he was sick.
In my garden it seems every couple of feet is another micro climate. Thus, I planted 3 small spots (like the one you see below) in various places. (Where they’ll do best will be revealed by planting in different locations. )
I don’t grow a lot of beets. I spaced these properly although you can’t see it in the picture. And the beets are fairly large. If I grow just for the greens I don’t pay attention to thinning them, but these I want for eating.
Planted another small amount in the upper garden but the flea beetles demolished the leaves. Hopefully the plants will make a recovery. If not, I’ll plant a few for fall.
Secrets to Keeping My Garden When I Couldn’t Keep My Garden 😊
Last year I was physically able only to handle planting a few rows at the lower end of the garden. Couldn’t even get straw to the upper end shown in the photo below.
You know what saved the upper end until I could get to it? My “good” weeds!
Why I Couldn’t Tend my Garden
As long time readers know, I was in my kitchen floor unable to move from late June of 2018 to October with a broken femur (thigh bone).
When I could finally walk (ever so slowly with a crutch) in the late fall of of 2018 I headed for my garden with much anxiety. I wish I had pictures to show you, but taking pictures was the last thing on my mind at that time.
Here’s What I Found
Veggies (except for my onion crop) had all rotted where they fell. My tomato stakes still stood but with nothing on them.
Volunteer summer poinsettia that I control and use as an additional cover crop when I don’t have straw had grown over the entire garden. It was thick and waist high.
The first thing I wanted to do was find and removed any “bad” weeds that had found their way into the garden during the growing season. The second thing I’d do was pull the summer poinsettia and lay it on top of the beds for mulch and organic matter.
(I wasn’t strong enough until this year  to move straw into the garden. In 2019 I relied totally on my good weeds and the summer poinsettia to mulch and feed my garden.)
One Secret to Easy Maintenance is Getting Out Perennials Weeds as Part of Your Initial Preparation
I’ve told the story many times: When Bill and I prepared our garden, we got all perennials weeds out. Wire grass can be persistent and although it was minimal after the initial preparation, we eradicated it entirely from the garden by year four. That makes garden life soooo easy!
The only place it gets in now is through the fence that surrounds my 2500 sq ft garden. But that’s easy to live with. And even during my absence it seemed to confine itself to the fence at the lower and upper end of the garden.
Bindweed is another that’s hard to get out due to it’s deep roots which spread underground. But through all the 20 years of being here prior to my broken leg, I managed to keep the bindweed pulled and confined to appearing in a small 4 x 4 foot area in the garden. During my absence it spread at least 10 feet. I look for any new sprouts as I walk through that area each day and get them out.
Other than those, the only “unwanted” weeds that the neglected garden had were two large wild perennial grasses and some nutsedge. Evidently the seed had blown in and grown where it landed.
Another Secret – a Border
I allow a two foot border from the fence to where the beds start. Then when creeping charlie gets in through the fence it mulches that part of the garden AND the border gives me time to get around to taking it out.
While I was out of commission it protected the edges and crowded out almost everything else that may have taken hold otherwise. And it comes up in mass in my good garden soil when I take it up. Easy.
Here’s What the Upper End of the Garden Looked Like in May of 2019
The brown you see is where I laid summer poinsettia and other “weeds” on top of the beds to decay.
Everything green came up in 2019 and included chickweed, mache going to seed, strawberries, and summer poinsettia seedlings, a lambsquarter, a couple of pigweed plants. (I like the leaves of lambsquarter to include with my meals each day.)
In the bottom left hand corner you see creeping charlie that covered the two foot border I allow from the fence to the start of the beds.
Just above the right corner you’ll see a row of onions that I had planted in March. The lower end of the garden was all I was able to plant last year. (2019)
A Best Kept Secret – Weeds Are Valuable
I love Chickweed as a covering for my beds in early spring. (It’s a good indication of nitrogen in the soil too.)
When I get around to planting the beds with chickweed in them, I take it up. Then I role it into a tight pile and place it on a bed that needs covering. It makes wonderful organic matter as it decays – but then, most weeds do. They have a lot of nutrients that will transfer to your soil during the decay process.
In May of 2019 I sent a private letter to TMG subscribers entitled “Don’t Waste Your Weeds”. I gave you all the details on what I was doing with my weeds.
Closer View of the Beds of the Unkept Upper End of the Garden in June of 2019
This next photo show my stakes still in the garden from 2018. I wasn’t strong enough to take them out.
The brown is what remains of the rolled-tight piles of weeds that I used to cover my beds in the fall of the previous year.
The green coming up in the paths between beds is mainly summer poinsettia. Also a few potato volunteers.
If you garden like I do, your garden can make it through a year without you and with minimal effort you’ll still be able to pull back your mulch (of weeds, straw, pine,etc.) and plant.
Please leave me a comment below and let me know if you find this post helpful.
Wishing you a great growing season.
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