Victim of the Garden Pests

Victim of the Garden Pests

Strawberry plant

Strawberry plant

I’m excited to have my first produce of  the season! I recently picked my first strawberries of the plants. The strawberries weren’t as sweet as I hoped, but they should reach their peak in the next couple of weeks. Even though I’m starting to see the results of all my work; I’m facing a familiar problem as last summer.

Garden pests! The villains of  every garden. They are the equivalent of the character in a Lifetime movie who shows up and then everyone starting getting killed. Fortunately this isn’t a Lifetime movie and I realize what’s causing the problem.

Strawberry eaten through by a pest

Strawberry eaten through by a pest

Last week, I found a rather plump slug having a feast on a strawberry and removed it from the garden. The slug had had done this to the berry. See the photo to the left. I actually found it kind of impressive that the slug had hallowed out the fruit. But also very annoying.

Last year, I solved the pest problem by building a fence around the garden. The fence still keeps critters out, but now I have to worry about insects inside the garden.

This calls for a visit to the local gardening center so I can find organic pesticides that will keep my fruit and vegetables safe. Check the next post to see what kind of advice I receive.

Blame it on Flat Stanley!

Flat Stanley in downtown Raleigh

Flat Stanley in downtown Raleigh

A good friend of mine asked for help with her daughter’s class project on Flat Stanley. My role involved taking pictures of him in various locations and sending the pictures back. I admit that I had a great time with the assignment.

Flat Stanley in the garden

Flat Stanley in the garden

Flat Stanley even helped me in the garden. Unfortunately, since he was so new to gardening, he made a fatal error with one of my tomato plants.

Tomato plants need extra support when they get to a certain height or they won’t grow upright. My plants had flopped over so I knew it was time to get out the stakes and anchor the tomato plants with string.

In his excitement while tying the first support, Flat Stanley stretched the tomato plant a little too much and snapped the plant in the middle. So my pretty tomato plant ended up looking like this:

Broken tomato plant

Broken tomato plant

Blame it on Flat Stanley! If you don’t want the same thing to happen to you:

1. Be very gentle when pulling the plant towards the stake.

2. If you feel any kind of resistance, stop.

3. Hold the plant very carefully with one hand and tie with the other. It’s even better if you can get someone to help you either hold the plant or tie the string to the stake.

4. Don’t let Flat Stanley help you garden.

Predictably, the top of the plant died. I had to cut it off, so now it’s half the size of the others. I’m hoping the plant will grow back or at least produce some fruit from what’s left.

Veggie Gardening Virgin lesson learned.




How My Garden Grows

Today’s post title is a play on lyrics from an old Oasis song. I’ve been nostalgic for the ’90s lately, especially music. Maybe it’s because I grew up during that period- junior high through half of college. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have adult stresses to deal with. Maybe it’s because I’ve never gotten over my disappointment of not becoming a Fly Girl.

As a side note- Notice I didn’t put an apostrophe before the s in ’90s. It’s because the word is plural not possessive. Misused plural/possessive apostrophes annoy me to no end.

Now that the rant is over, my plants are growing! It’s been raining here so much that I’ve hardly had to water the garden. I was worried that all the rain would flood my garden but as you can see below, that hasn’t been a problem.

I fertilized everything two weeks after planting. I bought some organic tomato and vegetable fertilizer during my last trip to the garden center. I didn’t fertilize all of last year, even though I know I was supposed to. I think fertilizing has really helped my plants. I just need to remember to keep doing so all summer.

Some of you may notice that I let the strawberry plants flower. I read that you shouldn’t let them if you want a bigger yield for next season. But if you’d rather have more strawberries this year, let them flower away. I wanted the instant gratification of strawberries this summer. Well as much instant gratification as you can get from planting, tending to and waiting two months for the fruit to ripen.

Everything seems to be on track!


Week three of the garden. Strawberry plants in front, tomatoes in the back.


Close up of my strawberry plants










Cucumber plants coming in


Lettuce plants coming in


Getting the Garden Back in Shape

I’m already far ahead of where I was at this time last year. I didn’t even plant anything until late May/early June, which was a big mistake. I was determined this year would be different. I started thinking about what I wanted to grow in late February, picked up materials in late March and planted in early April.

In the south, the last frost is around mid-April. If you plant before then, you run the risk of having your garden affected by frigid nights. I was willing to take the risk because I’m courageous that way. And I knew that if we did have a frost, I could throw a sheet over the plants to protect them.

So off to my local gardening center to pick up soil, compost, fertilizer and seeds. The staff was extremely helpful in picking out materials based on our needs. We ended up leaving with two bags of mushroom compost, two bags of rich vegetable garden soil, four tomato plants and cucumber, pepper and lettuce seeds.


Me mixing everything together with my high-tech shovel

Once I got to the garden, I had to combine the new with the old. I added a top layer of soil and compost and then had to mix everything together. I don’t have any fancy gardening tools so everything was done with a shovel and lots of manual labor. Doing the work ended up being very relaxing.

Once that was done, I finishing readying the garden by forming rows for the seeds and plants. I thought that was the correct strategy until I read online that for smaller gardens, you should plant in square zones that you can reach from either side of the garden. Planting in rows wastes space and should be used for very large gardens. The space between rows for walking on can compact the soil and impact plant roots. Oh well. This seemed to work okay for me last year so we’ll see what happens this year.

Check out the final results.


Ready for plants and seeds!

Six Gardening Lessons Learned

This will be my last post about my garden for the year. I’m not planning on doing a fall or winter garden. Thanks for those of you who have stopped by and taken the time to read about my gardening adventures. I did this mostly for myself and to help others who were gardening virgins like me, but it was nice to know that others read the blog too.

I will start again in the spring, although I won’t be a veggie garden virgin anymore. A quick rundown of what I learned this summer:

1. Start early- You can start planting after the last frost of the spring, which in North Carolina is around mid-April. I figured I still had plenty of time after that because it didn’t start to get warm until mid-May. Due to procrastination, I didn’t really get started until the end of May. Next year, I will start a lot easier so I get more produce out of the garden.

2. Root vegetables are evil- I will stay away from root vegetables. I had long carrot tops in my garden and picked them figuring  the carrots would be several inches long. Wrong! The two carrots together probably added up to two inches. When I told someone about my underperforming carrots, she admitted that she had the same problems of being able to tell when root vegetables were ready.

3. Watermelons will take over the garden- I planted watermelon because I enjoy them and thought they would be great to eat throughout the summer. Unbeknownst to me, watermelons grow on very large vines that like to spread out and up, taking over everything in its path. Much like the blob. Fewer watermelon seeds next year.

4. Fertilize more- I fertilized very few times over the summer. I bought rich soil and thought that would be enough. This is probably the reason why my produce was rather anemic. I will fertilize more next summer and hopefully start a compost bin.

5. Beds need regular maintenance- I made sure to do regular weeding, watering and all the typical maintenance but once the heavy rains came over  a week to one and a half week period, I dropped the ball. The mini floods caused the garden mounds to flatten out. I didn’t rebuild them because I didn’t want to disturb the growth process. Now I realize that I should have rebuilt the mounts to improve drainage.

6. Take no prisoners when it comes to garden creatures- I knew I had a problem with creatures in my garden for several weeks before I took action. The fence proved to be very effective. Lesson learned is not to wait so long next time. Take decisive action and don’t put up with creatures eating your vegetables and pooping in your garden.

I’m sure there are many more lessons I’ve learned throughout the summer, but these six immediately came to mind.

Thanks for reading and see you in 2015!

State of the Garden Report

All last week I was expecting to go out to the garden to see part of the fence collapsed or a big hole in it. But the good news is that it’s still doing it’s job. No signs of four legged visitors disrupting the soil. I can relax and just enjoy taking care of the garden.

I did get a question last week on how I was going to get in and out of my garden with new fence installed. I answered that I would use a step stool to get in. When asked what about getting back out, I stared blankly for a few seconds because I didn’t have a good answer. I probably should’ve developed a solution for that dilemma. On the bright side, I did some weeding this week and could lean far enough over the top of the fence to get it done. There are some space between the rows so I can get in there if I need to and avoid trampling the plants.

To report on the current state of my garden: The two watermelon plants I planted last month are doing very well. The vines are starting to take over. I planted two more and they’re starting to bud. I have three cucumber plants which are getting bigger every day. I planted two more and those are popping up as well. I haven’t seen any pepper or carrot seedlings yet though. I’m hoping those appear this week since I planted those at the beginning of the month. We’ve gotten several days of good soaking rain this week, so watering on my part was at a minimum. Overall, a good week in the garden!

Pictures of my garden as of July 20 below.

Still waiting for the problem of overabundance in my garden

Still waiting for the problem of overabundance in my garden

Side view of the garden as of July 20

Side view of the garden as of July 20


Gardenin’ Ain’t Easy

Much like pimpin’, gardening ain’t easy. At least for a beginner. Well, remember when I said that the garden wasn’t much work at this stage? I was wrong, very wrong.

I’ve been watering the garden regularly and monitoring plant growth. I think most of you know about the pest that’s been visiting. I’ve come up with a solution for that problem. The next free weekend I have, I’m going to build a fence around the garden.

The other issues I’m having are an ant invasion, possible drainage issues, and soil erosion in the smaller bed.

I was fixing a hill that had been dug up this weekend. When I was turning the soil, I noticed something that looks like larvae crawling around. I’m guessing it’s ant larvae, but I could be wrong. One non-harmful solution I’ve found is a mixture of vinegar and warm water. You spray it at the edge of your garden and on any mounds you find. The mixture doesn’t affect the plants and is supposed to get rid of the ants. I plan to try that this week.

Late last week I found something funky growing at the edge of the larger bed. I was pretty grossed out by it so I pulled it up before I thought to take a picture. I thought it could be a fungus. We’ve been getting a lot of summer storms and rain lately so the garden bed is pretty much saturated. Whatever it was hasn’t popped up again, but I’m keeping a close watch. If the bed isn’t draining properly, I’ll have to create a drainage system.

Since the heavy rains last weekend, the soil in the smaller bed has become compacted. The mounds are much smaller and I’ve discovered rocks that were hidden under the hills previously. When I first set up the garden, I put most of the purchased soil in the new bed. The smaller bed mainly had the original clay-like soil. I meant to go back to the store and get more soil and compost, but never got around to it. I’m adding that to my to do list as well.

On the bright side, the cucumber plants in the smaller bed and the watermelon in the larger bed are growing well. Take a look:

Cucumber plants in smaller bed

Cucumber plants in smaller bed

Watermelon plants in larger bed

Watermelon plants in larger bed

The Honeymoon Period is Over

I’m now in the maintenance phase of gardening. The initial high of starting my own garden has started to fade. It’s kind of like the period a few weeks after the wedding. Once the party and celebration are over, you gotta deal with the day to day stuff. My husband’s pretty awesome and I was very happy to marry to him, but the honeymoon period eventually ends. Real life has a way of doing that. Anyway, that’s what’s happened with my garden; I’m out of the honeymoon period and I’m now keeping up with the day-to-day.

I’ve been tending to my garden by watering every other day and weeding regularly. Actually, I’ve only been weeding the pre-existing 4X4′ bed. The 4X8′ bed with the soil and compost mix and lining doesn’t need to be weeded. Awesome! Note to self- next year start from scratch on the smaller bed and get new soil for less work. Come next spring, I’m sure the future me will be saying thanks for the tip.

The garden is less work than I thought it would be at this stage but then again the seedlings still aren’t very big. I have to admit it’s really cool to see the seeds I planted just  a few short weeks ago grow into actual plants and eventually food!

I planted six cucumber seeds and three are growing. I had a fourth but I accidentally pulled it up when I was weeding the smaller bed. Whoops. I planted six watermelon seeds and out of those, four sprouted. After they got to be about 3 inches tall, I had to thin them out to three. Easy enough, I just plucked one from the dirt. Later that week, I wish I would’ve left it. What I suspect is my garden pest had pulled up the third one so I was left with two. Not cool. The carrots and lettuce are still pretty small but they’re growing slowly but surely.

Below are current views of my garden.

Cucumber Plants

Cucumber Plants

View of both beds with a little green.

View of both beds with a little green.