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Whatcha Growin?: Growing Your Own Food

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A post in another thread about the tomatillos from her garden made me think this might be something people want to talk about (and mods if gardening belongs in its own off topic place that makes sense too).  

I live in Texas and bought my first house this May. I've begun gardening for the first time this year and have tomatillos (that haven't produced yet), red peppers (the same), cucumbers (I didn't realize they started out green and when they turn white it is too late, oops! I was waiting for the 3 in my yard to turn green), cantaloupe and watermelon.  I also have a pecan tree. 

 

What do you grow? What do you like do with it once you've grown it? Where's the best place to get starters (or do you start from seeds?) etc. What area are you in? 

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As long as we keep the growing thing food related, it can stay!

 

I do NOT have a green thumb, so I don't know anything about zones and stuff.  However, I grow my own herbs in mason jars.  I LOVE having herbs like that.

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I love going out to the backyard to pick dinner!

 

I'm in Los Angeles, and have a lemon tree and two orange trees (one navel, for eating, and one Valencia, for juicing).  I desperately want an avocado tree, but only have room for a dwarf variety.  I plan to add dwarf peach and nectarine trees.  I'd like a lime tree, but don't really have the room, so I'm going to try grafting onto my lemon tree.

 

I grow herbs - rosemary, mint and thyme year-round, plus the cilantro that comes up each year from letting the plant go to seed, sweet basil that never survives even our mild winters and thus has to be replanted (one of these years I'll get smart and put it in a pot so I can just bring it inside when it gets too cold), Thai basil, and another thing or two that floats my boat any given spring.

 

Then for the summer season I always have a couple varieties of tomatoes and squash, cucumbers, cayenne peppers and carrots, and then a couple of wild card spots for something new.

 

I rotate crops to help the soil (e.g. after the tomatoes, I always grow peas to replenish the nitrogen the tomatoes suck out). 

 

I want to start growing garlic.  Also greens (collard, kale, etc.), broccoli and cabbages, but those are nitrogen-sucks, too, so I need to ponder on placement some more.

 

I get my eggs from someone nearby with well-treated backyard chickens, as I don't think my cat would like having chickens in her yard.

 

I'd say it's about a 50/50 split as to whether I grow from seed or a starter plant, but I get them from other local gardeners or the nursery.

Edited by Bastet
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I rotate crops to help the soil (e.g. after the tomatoes, I always grow peas to replenish the nitrogen the tomatoes suck out).

*sigh* That's why my squash didn't do so well. I planted them where my tomatoes used to be. I took a soil test in those rows and was surprised to see how low the nitrogen was.

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I'd love a lemon and/or a lime tree, but since I'm in Texas and the winters are too harsh I'd have to buy huge, expensive pots to put them in so I could bring them in in the winter so that's out for now.  When I lived in the LA area in the 90's the house I lived in had a lemon tree in the back yard. It made me so happy. 

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*sigh* That's why my squash didn't do so well. I planted them where my tomatoes used to be. I took a soil test in those rows and was surprised to see how low the nitrogen was.

 

The more I learn about gardening, the more I realize how little I know.  It can get overwhelming, but reading about what plants will do well following each other in the same place - like the example I gave of peas to put nitrogen in the soil, then when those are done (leave what remains of the pea plants and till them into the soil for further help) tomatoes in that spot since they need lots of nitrogen, followed by peas again (or beans, alfalfa, etc.) to replenish the nitrogen - and what plants placed next to each other will help repel each others' natural predators are definitely worth the time investment. 

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That would take a very long time for a tree to even get to the point to where it produces fruit.

What I read online was that it would be 3 - 5 years. Theoretically I'll be in my house 3 - 5 years. :) I have this ridiculous urge to grow things from seeds even though growing things from plants that have already started have yielded better results for me. 

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Garden actually looks pretty good this year. The stars of the garden are the tomatoes, but I'm getting some pretty good other stuff this year.  The garlic was a little smaller than last year, but that could be the late start it got in the spring. We had 9 million feet of snow here over the winter, so it took at least three extra weeks for the last bit of snow to melt on top of them and for them to get back to growing early spring.  Nevertheless, I've got plenty of garlic to keep me happy for several months.

 

I grow all of my tomatoes from seed. I got caught up with the heirloom tomato crowd a few years ago, and have fallen into a pattern of growing about two dozen plants a year, usually around 10-12 different varieties. This year I'm growing Cherokee Purple, Anna Russian, Kosovo, Nepal, Matina, Aunt Gertie's Gold, Little Lucky, Zogola, Black Cherry, Chapman, and Sungold* for sure, and I think I've got another few that I can't remember today. I rotate in lots of different varieties, but a couple like Anna Russian and Little Lucky never come off the list.

 

*Sungold is a hybrid, but is too awesome not to grow.

 

Got a bunch of other good stuff growing this year. Have picked a couple zucchinis, and should get a couple more before they crap out. I had a hard time getting the cucumbers to germinate, but the couple that did are now prolific. My pole beans survived the bunny threat, but then got crushed by Japanese beetles. I've made a mental note to put down the grub-ex next year to kill the bastards when they are at their most vulnerable.  And I got a couple nice pumpkin vines growing next to the driveway. I'm finding it easier to keep them fed and watered, they require a lot of both, when I look at them every day when I get home from work. It is also fun monitoring them with the kids, since they're right there every time we leave or come home.

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We don't have a yard, so the hub and I have a couple of plots in the community garden, where we grow a little bit of everything.  Right now we are swimming in string and wax beans and have loads of green tomatoes. Hopefully, soon to be red tomatoes.  Broccoli has started to slow down, but I just planted the fall crop; ditto the cabbage.  Harvested a row of potatoes today - yay!  Peppers, sweet and hot, all over the place, and the winter squash are doing well. Chard and kale also doing well.  Fall lettuces and spinach have been sown.  

 

Seed or start?  Depends.   Lettuce, spinach, beans, beets, kale, chard, winter squash, fall broccoli and cabbage = seed.  Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, spring cabbage and broccoli = starts. 

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This is my third year growing cherry tomatoes and Hungarian wax peppers on my balcony and while the peppers are doing okay (but not great), my tomato yield this year is pathetic.

 

The only thing I'm really having luck with this year is basil.

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A lady down the street from us was complaining the other that she didn't have any tomatoes growing on her vines.  There were blossoms, but no tomatoes, she said she hadn't seen any bees.

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You can attract bees by letting some basil (a common companion to tomatoes) flower, or by planting flowers and/or herbs nearby.  The bees in my garden spend most of their time on catnip and hyssop, followed closely by nasturtium (takes up a lot of real estate, so if you have limited space, this may not be the one for you), zinnia, cosmos and sunflowers (which take some time to mature, so not a quick fix).  To keep this in the eating mode, you can eat the flowers of the nasturtiums; most people add them to salads. 

Edited by harrie

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A lady down the street from us was complaining the other that she didn't have any tomatoes growing on her vines.  There were blossoms, but no tomatoes, she said she hadn't seen any bees.

Tomatoes are not entirely reliant on bees. They aren't 100% self pollinating, but they don't need a honey bee to go from one flower to the next either. The flowers will pollinate themselves if a bumblebee lands on it and shakes the pollen loose. They will also pollinate themselves with enough of a breeze to shake them back and forth a little bit to shake the pollen loose. One of the most interesting things I've seen for people who believe they need to help the flowers pollinate is using an electric toothbrush on the plants. Just set it on the stem where the flowers are and turn on the brush for a few seconds to mimic the job the bumblebee would do.  

 

A more likely reason for blossoms not to set fruit would be bad temperature ranges. If the temperatures at night are too high, or too low, the blossoms won't set fruit.

 

This is a pretty good explanation of the whole story.

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I've done the pollinating with a q-tip when I was an apartment dweller. No butterflies or bees came up to my balcony so I tried something I read online. Didn't really take. It's only now that I'm in a house with an actual yard I'm getting produce. I think the grasshoppers help too by shaking the flowers. 

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Happy spring! I put cucumbers, red and jalapeno peppers into the ground recently (I'm in TX so theoretically the last frost is long over). Last year I ended up with a watermelon and maybe 1 or 2 canteloupes that grew. This year... well if I can keep the dog from eating the cucumber plant that would be a good start. Anyone else start growing things? 

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Not yet -- I asked the Agway guy if they had determined the last frost date yet.  (Usually they post the date on the counter at some point.)  He replied "July 18" because that's how this year has gone.  (I'm in CT.)  

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I'm on the east coast of Canada. Our frost risk date passes with the first full moon in June. This year, that is June 2.  It is forecast that the last of our snow will not melt until mid-May. 

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I probably planted a bit too early but my feelings won't be hurt if nothing grows. I didn't put much effort into it and I only spent $10.00 on plants so no harm lost really. For my area they say May so I'm only a few weeks early.

I planted tomatoes, cucumber, jalapeño, green pepper, watermelon, strawberries. I was thinking salsa and fruit when I made my garden this year. In the past we've done a 1/4 acre garden but with two kids I just haven't been able to keep up with it, not to mention, I don't can so most of it goes to waste. I was only going to do container gardening this year but I changed my mind at the last minute and tilled a small plot for the above mentioned plants. I'd like to start composting as well but I need to do some more research on that.

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My efforts on composting, so far, have been to throw stuff in a corner of my yard. I need to get on to turning it. It's been raining so much here that mold is a concern. I like the idea of gardening. Actually doing so seems to be less exciting for me. I'm like a little kid in that regard. Last year (and this year) my goal is to be able to make my enchiladas with the stuff from my garden. 

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I'm pretty bad about actually tending to my compost pile, too, but that just means it takes longer to break down -- nature eventually takes care of it for me.

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Joanne, you and I must be garden-related, I too love the idea of a garden. After that, not so much. The weeding and pruning and watering (but not too much water!) and bugs and fertilizing just wear on me. I start strong but once it starts getting hot and humid out I lose interest.

I was actually kind of hoping my perennials wouldn't survive the winter, then I would just go back to lawn and plant a few pots on my patio. Unfortunately most things are showing up now and I am too cheap to rip out plants that I spent all that money on.

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I have a very small area for a garden, and have been trying to grow stuff for years and only certain things ever work out. Tomatoes, jalapenos ( to make amazing pico de gallo), purple carrots, parsnips, beets and tomatillos. The tomatillos work so well (and I'm in Ontario) but they end up so BIG. You need two plants to pollinize each other, and they become these massive bushes with lots of fruit.

 

I still have frozen tomatillos from last years harvest so this year, my attempt is growing heirloom tomatoes. I bought some from the store (expensive), saved the seeds and have started them indoors. Hope they work out. Those tomatoes are only for sale in the more higher end grocery stores here, so if I can grow it myself, then awesome!

 

I don't like the taste of grocery store tomatoes because they are not ripe. But vine-ripened tomatoes, in a caprese salad is heaven!

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So far not a bad year.  Picked our first zucchini today  - actually, five - because you never pick just one -- and gave four away.  

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Cabbage is pretty much ready, and broccoli is getting there. 

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I was getting to do some weeding and found I have a volunteer tomato plant growing.  Not sure how a seed got there - we do compost but this is no where near the way to get to the compost bin.

 

It is very young still, but I'll claim it!

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I was getting to do some weeding and found I have a volunteer tomato plant growing.  Not sure how a seed got there - we do compost but this is no where near the way to get to the compost bin.

 

It is very young still, but I'll claim it!

I have a volunteer squash plant growing in the side of the compost bin that is currently empty. (It is 8X4; after harvesting the good stuff a month ago, I moved everything over to one side for better cooking.)  It may be a zucchini. It may be a yellow squash. It is most likely a pumpkin as that would make sense given that's where the after-Halloween pumpkins went last fall.

 

I think I'm going to let it be. Maybe that super rich soil will churn out a great big pumpkin for us.

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I have a volunteer squash plant growing in the side of the compost bin that is currently empty. (It is 8X4; after harvesting the good stuff a month ago, I moved everything over to one side for better cooking.)  It may be a zucchini. It may be a yellow squash. It is most likely a pumpkin as that would make sense given that's where the after-Halloween pumpkins went last fall.

 

I think I'm going to let it be. Maybe that super rich soil will churn out a great big pumpkin for us.

I have either a pumpkin or gooseneck squash plant growing out of the bush in front of my house.  Last fall the effing squirrels got at the pumpkin and gourds I had on the porch and knocked them into the bush--I was too lazy to fish them out, so I just let them decompose, and now voila!  Some sort of gourd growing.  The plant is HUGE, and has blossoms already, so I'm waiting for teeny-tiny baby squashes to develop.

 

I also have some basil in a pot on the deck.  I am not so good at growing things :) 

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This year my lettuce and basil did very well. But this heat wave that followed a very wet May is wrecking havoc on my tomatoes. Either the blossoms wilt and fall off or the tomatoes get that blossom bottom rot. I wonder if it's too late to put mulch around the tomato plants.

Edited by BatmanBeatles
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You folks are just bragging.   My leaf lettuce is less than an inch tall, and my spinach seeds apparently got washed away in the rain. We've had such a lousy season I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to plant anymore than that, plus a few tomato plants and some basil. 

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You folks are just bragging.   My leaf lettuce is less than an inch tall, and my spinach seeds apparently got washed away in the rain. We've had such a lousy season I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to plant anymore than that, plus a few tomato plants and some basil. 

 

No, we had a rough start too - and we have a mouse (or more), so the first two times I put down seeds -- lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots -- none of them came up.  I finally put in lettuce starts, and I have always scoffed at people who buy them, because it's freakin' lettuce!  Sprinkling red pepper flakes around the bed when I plant seeds has improved the germination rate (for beets, carrots, winter squash)  significantly though.  We're away for a few days, and I dread checking the garden when we return.   

Edited by harrie

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This year my lettuce and basil did very well. But this heat wave that followed a very wet May is wrecking havoc on my tomatoes. Either the blossoms wilt and fall off or the tomatoes get that blossom bottom rot. I wonder if it's too late to put mulch around the tomato plants.

No, it is not too late to mulch. It's probably never too late.

 

And there isn't much you can do about the heat affecting the blossoms.  That is what it is, but you can deal with blossom end rot. Control of blossom end rot is dependent upon maintaining adequate supplies of moisture and calcium to the developing fruits.  That link also explains what kind of fertilizer can help.

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The unceasing rain here (we blew away the record for the wettest June ever in Illinois) has just about quenched any enthusiasm I had for gardening.  All the plants, including the weeds, are just unbelievably green and lush, but I can't even step in the garden to try to take care of anything.  :(

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We (east coast of Canada) had our usual total rainfall for the month of June by June 3.  We gardeners wanted to blow our collective brains out.

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No, it is not too late to mulch. It's probably never too late.

 

And there isn't much you can do about the heat affecting the blossoms.  That is what it is, but you can deal with blossom end rot. Control of blossom end rot is dependent upon maintaining adequate supplies of moisture and calcium to the developing fruits.  That link also explains what kind of fertilizer can help.

 

I love that Cornell Coop site - it's just one big rabbit hole, as the hip kids say.

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I thought I was growing some of my own food this summer, but apparently I was mistaken. Over the course of the last two nights something has come and completely decimated everything. They even ate my marigolds - I didn't know anything would eat those stinky things!

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We just mulched our tomatoes and peppers - late in the season largely because of the weather and our resident mice- and the peppers perked up noticeably within a day or two.  I guess they had been sort of baking prior to the mulch, given some the heat we've been having.  

 

Our experience with blossom end rot is that it happens on the first couple of tomatoes, then works itself out.  I would guess you might have to wait for the tomatoes that start after the calcium application or that were tiny at the time of it; but I hope it works faster than that.  For future plantings, you can put a handful of bone meal (or calcium if you have leftovers)  in the hole where you're planting your tomatoes to give them a good start.  

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I'm just trying to keep my plants evenly watered at this point.  It hasn't rained in a week, which actually makes it easier, as I control the amount of water they get everyday.

 

So far, so good. Most of the plants are growing nicely and most fruit is developing properly.  I'm getting the first cherry tomatoes now.  Always exciting.  (A month from now it will be like, "Oh my God, does anybody want some cherry tomatoes?")

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After a few false starts my summer squash is coming in.

Oh, right! I forgot to mention that so are mine.  I planted yellow zucchini this year, and the two plants got HUGE about 10 days ago. Then some of the leaves in the middle got yellow, so I gave it some plant food about 4 days ago.  When I went out to water them this morning, the plants are even bigger, and I counted 6 little ones and a bunch more coming.  Typical. Zero then too many.  I do need to plant some more seeds so that I get a second crop later in August.

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We had a really late season, so I didn't have much enthusiasm and planted only a few things.  I always grow a couple of types of mesclun, but this year I couldn't find the brand I normally buy, so I planted a different type.  I harvested some for the first time yesterday.  It tastes like weeds!  So I pulled it all out.  Sad face emoticon.

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When my neighbors start slamming doors and turning out lights as I drive up the street (I'm assuming because they don't want any.more.zucchini), I give extra veggies to local soup kitchens and food banks.  With today's batch, I apologized a little and said that if they were tired of zucchini, they didn't have to take it.  The gentleman in charge told me that this particular group, besides feeding 35 residents, provides food for about 150 families so there are no worries about overdoing the zuke.  If you're interested, ampleharvest.org has a pretty good search thing. 

 

Some of our tomatoes are finally starting to turn red, so yay!  

 

In a week or two, I am planting kohlrabi and more beets, plus more lettuce and spinach, for fall harvest.  Kohlrabi is new to me, so if anyone has any helpful hints or things I should know, I'd love to hear about it.

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We have such a short spring up north the only way to reliably grow peas I've found is in deep window boxes.  I got two blanched and frozen packed quarts out of them, the pea flavor is so pronounced a few go a long way in a soup so that's fine for two.  The boxes have now been planted with spinach, I'm trying a diff variety that I hope won't bolt.

 

I'll gladly take anybody's summer squash! I had to give it up, between that and cukes the squash beetles know my address.  Eventually pinching them with fingers gets old.

 

I used to grow green and wax beans but they take some room unless you want to stake pole beans and pick them in the middle of mosquito season.  I admit I'm getting old, the garden has gotten away from me, so I need to get down to the market and pick up some fresh beans to cut and blanch and freeze! 

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I'll gladly take anybody's summer squash! I had to give it up, between that and cukes the squash beetles know my address.  Eventually pinching them with fingers gets old.

I try to find and destroy the eggs before they hatch. It's a pain to have to look under every leaf.

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I'll gladly take anybody's summer squash! I had to give it up, between that and cukes the squash beetles know my address.  Eventually pinching them with fingers gets old.

 

I used to grow green and wax beans but they take some room unless you want to stake pole beans and pick them in the middle of mosquito season.  I admit I'm getting old, the garden has gotten away from me, so I need to get down to the market and pick up some fresh beans to cut and blanch and freeze! 

I get the squash vine borer. Hideous creature that kills perfectly good plants in a day. I had to skip an entire season of any type of squash a few years ago to give my poor plants a fighting chance the following year.

 

I let my parents grow the beans for me. Every time I try, they get killed by either tiny little bunnies (bush beans) that I can't figure out how to keep out of my garden or Japanese beetles (pole beans.)  I trade them things that grow much better in my yard such as the summer squashes I mentioned earlier and garlic.

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