Gardening update: rookie turned kale professional?

by Melody on July 17, 2011

This has been our first year really attempting to grow some of our own produce and for serious rookies, I’d say we’ve been pretty successful.  We’ve learned a lot and done A LOT of things wrong, but we are keeping a journal to hopefully learn from our mistakes for next year.  We have also managed to do a few things right and are really enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of our labor.

You can check out my initial gardening post here.

In our first bed, we planted snap peas, Walla Walla sweet onions and spinach.  The spinach took off like wild fire and we honestly had more than we could use so we gave it away like crazy.

My husband built a great trellis out of chicken wire for the snap peas, but the way I planted them turned into one big hot mess.  We had tons of peas, but most of them were impossible to get through.  I ended up ripping them out and replanting just along the back of the bed to hopefully avoid the pea jungle again.

The peas we did have were out of control delicious though, so I can’t wait for more.













Can I ever grow kale?  Apparently I was a professional kale farmer in a former life.  It could also be that it’s just very easy to grow.

In our second bed we planted kale, cilantro and cucumbers.  I have probably harvested the kale five or six times and it is coming back stronger than ever.  Honestly, I’d never cooked with it before so I’ve been forced to get a little creative.  I made a version of Olive Garden’s kale, sausage and potato soup and blended it raw into smoothies for my kids.  I also pureed a huge batch in the blender and threw it into the freezer to add to pasta sauces.

Our cucumbers are going strong as well.  I planted them along the sides of the bed so they can trail over.  My kids are getting a kick out of the tiny little prickly cucumbers that are starting to pop out.

I harvested the cilantro at least three full times before it went to seed, which is way more than I’ve been able to do in the past years.  I started it from seed this year instead of buying starts, so I’m not sure if this is why.  Either way, it’s mighty delicious.













For our third bed, I started tons of tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers and pepperoncinis inside in a small greenhouse.  They did really well, I hardened them by putting them outside for a few hours a day for almost two weeks and then planted outside.  They all died except for three sad little plants.

I truly have no idea what I did wrong, but I nursed those babies back to health.  I’m a little protective of them now, ever since there brothers and sisters made such an abrupt farewell.  I felt so sad for them that I added some flowers to the corner of the bed so they wouldn’t feel lonely.







I wouldn’t say that we have come anywhere near supplementing our produce this year, but I feel like we have made some great strides.  My son has been helping me water every day and I think he has finally grasped the idea that all these vegetables grew from the seeds that we planted.

Gardening was so overwhelming to me in the beginning (and truthfully still is).  I felt like the only way I would ever feel comfortable was just to jump in feet first and figure out what works.  And what definitely doesn’t.

I would love to hear about your progress this year.  Please share any tips you have for me, I’m trying to turn into a gardening sponge!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue July 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I live on the other side of the mountain so things are a little different, but we always put plastic over our tomatoes and peppers when we first set them out-my husband bent PVC pipe into an upside-down U and puts the plastic over with bricks along the edge to keep it down–We need it mostly at night if the temperature is below about 55 degrees. They like warm temps. even if you harden them off. Cilantro will go to seed when it gets warm out. Peas do need trellising even the short ones and they tend to be done as soon as it gets warm also–over there you should be able to plant another crop, such as cucumbers after the peas die since cucmbers need a high nighttime temp. so keep them inside for a while or direct seed them fairly late. The boxes look great!!


Melody July 17, 2011 at 8:32 pm

That’s a great idea about keeping plastic over them. We went out of town for a few days right after we planted and I wasn’t able to keep an eye on them. Lesson learned. Thanks for the tips! I’ll tell my husband you think the boxes look nice, he worked so hard on them!


Emilie McFarlane July 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm

It looks amazing. Please come help me with my garden, which is ridiculously terrible this year.


Real Life Pastor's Wife July 17, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I’d like to recommend a great use for all of that kale! My family and I have been big into Green Smoothies over the past 7 months, and kale is our favorite green to use. You can see some recipes on my blog
and kale can be substituted in any recipe (we usually switch between kale and spinach). The best news is, you can freeze kale raw when using it this way then just blend it into healthy smoothies that the whole family will love later. Enjoy!


Lora July 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Melody – your garden looks GREAT! I haven’t been able to do it this year so I am a little jealous!

You might really enjoy Square Foot Gardening. The newest version of Mel Bartholemew’s book “Square Foot Gardening” is my gardening bible. I LOVE your garden boxes and I’m sure you would be able to do his method in those if you liked the sound of it.

He was an efficiency engineer and when he retired, he started gardening. He soon realized how inefficient typical gardening is and came up with some amazing ideas! He even teaches you how to garden almost year round anywhere. Anyway, I’m not an expert and just started square foot gardening a couple years ago, but I thought you might want to check it out! Here’s the website.

Best of luck!


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