5 Things I Learned About Gardening in 2011

Posted on Dec 6 2011 - 2:31am by Mike Lieberman

It’s December that means it’s time to start breaking out the “2011” lists.

Here are five things that I learned about gardening in 2011.

Getting a Better Yield in Your Container Garden

  • One way to achieve this is through succession planting. That is when you space out your plantings, so as you are harvesting one crop another is growing right behind it.
  • After your seedlings start to grow, you’ll want to thin them out. This will give them room to grow and allow the strong ones to survive.

Organic Doesn’t Mean It’s Great

  • The best example of this is Miracle-Gro and their Organic Choice line. Yes it is organic, but it’s still Miracle-Gro who is partnered with Monsanto.
  • Since I live in a city there are things that I cannot control. One thing is the construction that is going on in my neighborhood. It is likely kicking up all kinds of dirt and toxins into the air, but that doesn’t make my garden any less organic.

Seed Saving

  • I saved seeds for the first time this year. I saved lettuce and parsley. Will get those planted in 2012.

Growing Your Own Food is a Political Act

  • This was one of the more controversial topics when mentioned. By growing my own food and inspiring others too, I see myself as a food activist. It touches on environmental, political, health and a variety of other subjects that most people don’t associate it with.
  • Talking about Michelle Obama and the White House Garden was a topic that pissed a handful of people off and resulted in people no longer reading my site, connecting with me on social media channels, as well as some hateful emails. I see her as a front to distract people from what her husband is doing.

Failure Will Happen

Those are some things that I learned about gardening in 2011, what did you learn?

18 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. CJ December 6, 2011 at 10:21 am -

    I learned patience (or my lack of it). My husband said he would build me a garden in June. It’s December and there is still a pile of dirt and a pile of wood in my back yard.  Oh, and it started to snow today, so it looks like there will be a pile of dirt and a pile of wood in my back yard for a while. Grrr.

  2. anotherkindofdrew December 6, 2011 at 10:26 am -

    Growing Your Own Food is a Political Act

  3. Lynn Mortimore December 6, 2011 at 10:39 am -

    I learned a lot about gardening this year as well! I learned that not only is the Miracle Gro company evil, but often your plants won’t bear fruit because of the high nitrogen levels. I learned a lot just by doing. Since this was my first time, I looked at every step that I was able to bring plants to as a success. So The seed starting phase was fun, I learned the process of thinning the seedlings and starting plants indoors. I also learned that in my zone it can get to be 110 in the summer and that severely stunts the metabolism of many varieties of plants. Perhaps one of the best lessons I learned was that gardening will surprise you! I thought my plants were done. We already had some frosty nights and the plants had never given any fruit. I was ready to chalk it up as a learning experience and try again next year. Then one day I saw these dark bulbous things out of the corner of my eye. They were cucumbers! So after a long hard road of growing plants and accidentally doing things to them that pretty much killed their fruit production, I actually ended up with a tiny harvest. I ended up with 4 pickling cucumbers, two small banana peppers, and about a pound of cherry tomatoes, all of which popped up all the sudden after I had given up on them for the year. I also learned that in my zone I am blessed with 9 or 10 months of growing time! I can’t wait to get started next year! My goal is to grow a ton. My partner and I call it “grow a ton, lose a ton” because we feel like we can take a stand against the culture that is making people unhealthy and ourselves overweight by growing our own food in our garden. We have done tons of research about how to grow complete nutrition in our garden and we are chomping at the bit to get started!

  4. Jenn D. December 6, 2011 at 11:01 am -

    2 things:

    1. If you’re starting from seed, plant a lot more than you’ll use. You will have duds.

    2. If you’re planting greens, plant a lot. Each plant doesn’t give a lot, especially if you want to cook said greens.

  5. Rishi December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm -

    Save seed!!!  Its more important than you think.  If you save seed you’ll breed those seeds to grow in your soil and your environment.  Plus you know where your seeds are coming from.  Keep away from GMOs, grow heirlooms. 

     Hybrids don’t have the same nurturing qualities as heirlooms!  Visit local farms to collect their seed.  You’ll save money too.

    Growing your own food is so important, but its also important you do it right!

  6. Mike Lieberman December 6, 2011 at 7:27 pm -

    Slow and steady wins the race 😉

  7. Mike Lieberman December 6, 2011 at 7:27 pm -

    True dat brother.

  8. Mike Lieberman December 6, 2011 at 7:29 pm -

    Thanks for sharing. I just learned some more too!

  9. Mike Lieberman December 6, 2011 at 7:29 pm -

    Good tips on that.

  10. Mike Lieberman December 6, 2011 at 7:30 pm -

    True indeed, but getting started is even more important. The rest will unfold over the course of time. When I first started, I was guilty of using “Organic” Miracle-Gro products. As soon as I learned more about them, I stopped immediately.

    One of the main reasons that people don’t start is that they want to do it “right” and wait for the perfect conditions….which don’t exist, so they never start.

  11. Lori December 7, 2011 at 9:14 am -

    I learned that 1) if you don’t give lima beans enough water as they’re flowering for the first time, they won’t fruit properly and you’ll end up with a poor crop.  Something to do with the pollenators being more active around healthy,  plump flowers.

    2) Where I am, in Eastern Maryland, lima beans are still maturing a few weeks before Christmas (this year, anyway), and the pods will keep producing beans even when the foliage is almost gone.

    3) The leaves of sweet potatoes are edible! There are plenty of recipes online, mostly Filipino.

    Great post.

  12. Mike Lieberman December 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm -

    Thanks for sharing. For some reason the word plump made me laugh. Sounds like you got the lima beans down pretty well. If I grow them, I know who to ask the questions.

    You are the second person to mention that about the sweet potatoes. Never knew that before. 

  13. Hawkecho December 29, 2011 at 9:40 am -

    We’ve been growing for 3 years now (not including all the years my mom did when I was little).  I started originally with 2 fairly small raised beds and we’ve added 2 or so a year since then so we now have 4 large beds and 3 small.  2011 saw the addition of blueberry & blackberry bushes to our mulberry trees and a little bird helped us out by depositing a honeysuckle under the branches of one of the mulberries.  Yay for wild gardening!

    What I learned in 2011 – wow, until I typed it all out I didn’t realize quite how much I learned:

    1. Strawberries prefer beds to pots.  After overwintering 3 years in a pot on the deck they were sad and scrawny, regardless of the feeding, primping & prepping of the soil.  So mid-summer I hauled the giant pot to my newly emptied bed and started replanting, hoping for the best.  I honestly thought I’d end up killing them, but seeing as what poor shape they were in already I decided it was worth the risk.  Lots of water & sunshine later, about a month, the 9 sad little plants had completely taken over the bed!  I can’t wait for next summer’s crop!

    2. Pumpkins liked to climb but didn’t fruit, Cantaloupes didn’t mind the climb but lost more than a few melons (even hammocked!), Cucumbers love it and Watermelons are 50/50.  I planted all my vines along our split rail, wired fence since I had read about someone who had done the same thing, saving garden square footage & had great results. Me?  Not so much.  I’m not laying it all at the base of the fence though, I need to do a little more research.  The fencing I used gets the most sun of all the stretches but it by no means gets enough for some plants (like the zucchini which also got a mid-summer yank-n-replant & later thrived in a bed) and it’s also at the base of a berm covered in pines so the acidity from the pine needles might be too much for some of the others.  I’ll be trying vertical vine gardening again this year but in a different location.  Research followed by Trial and Error is the best way to learn.

    3. Variety is important!  I learned this year that there are many plants that not only won’t flourish but may not fruit at all if there isn’t variety.  Blueberries, strawberries and apples are just some – but specifically the ones in my yard.  Strawberries will fruit in a mono-culture but you won’t get many and they’ll be small, and yummy but just not enough!  Apples & blueberries will flower but won’t fruit unless they’re pollinated by a different variety – so always have at least 2 kinds.

    4. Tepees work great!  I built tepees in some of the beds (for Peas & Peppers) out of 4 old branches (at least 1″ thick), twine & zip ties.  I placed the twine too far apart for the peas to grow upwards comfortably (about every 8-10″, this year I’ll do it every 4″) so I spent a lot of time gently untangling them and urging them to the next tier.  I’ll also be using them as tomato cages this year as they’re MUCH sturdier than the metal ones that we had to stake & reinforce several times throughout the summer.

    5. Containers can work really great, if you use the RIGHT plants.  We did really well with a bunch of large containers (9 or 10) on our deck.  Originally these were filled with purely decorative plants like grasses & flowers.  2011 saw all those container plants moved to walkway beds & other established decorative areas.  The containers were then filled with various herbs: Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley, Oregano, Basil, Lemon Balm, Mint (those last two I learned should NEVER be planted together, lemon balm looses horribly), and the Cilantro was a fail and I’m not sure why. Some of the other containers held Yellow and White Onions which did well, Celery was another fail – just not enough water I think, and we tentatively tried our hand at Potatoes which are officially the best I’ve ever eaten!

    6. I got my kids more involved in the gardens by having them pick a plant or two that THEY wanted to grow.  My son picked Popcorn (which was AWESOME!), my oldest daughter picked Peanuts (which got hit by the same mold/blight as the commercially grown fields, so even though we had a good sized crop, we couldn’t dry & eat them), and my youngest daughter picked Pumpkins.  And it worked, they’re already talking about what they want to try this year.  (I just realized that all 3 picked a “P” plant!  LOL)

    7. I learned about Permaculture.
     My sister-in-law received certification in Permaculture this Fall so
    I’m looking at turning my mono-culture beds & yard into Permacultured
    areas. “It teaches us to create settings
    and construct ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and the
    resilience of natural ecosystems.”  Basically I’ll be planting plants
    which are harmonious together like moving the Hosta, and adding Rhubarb, under
    the pines.  They thrive on the acidity of the pine needles, will halt the
    erosion that’s happening on the hill, and the rhubarb is an edible.  I’m
    feeling overwhelmed the most by this aspect of the up coming year!  The
    most excited but also overwhelmed.

    8.  and finally… mulching BETWEEN and AROUND the beds is nicer on the knees and requires very little care overall – no mowing, no weedwacking – just a little bit of really easy weeding.

  14. Mike Lieberman December 30, 2011 at 7:51 am -

    NIce. Thanks for sharing all that you’ve learned with us.

  15. Johnna January 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm -

    I remember reading some where that using old window sheer curtains are good to cover over greens and cabbages to protect them from cabbage worms. And the light and rain can still get through the sheers.
    Also learned:
    A) All plants like rain water better than city water. B) If you must water between rains the plants prefer being water from below or with soaker hose type set-ups rather than being sprinkled overhead.

  16. Mike Lieberman January 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm -

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. Gustoso May 13, 2012 at 11:24 pm -

    That’s what I like most about gardening. There is always, always something new to learn.

  18. Mike Lieberman May 14, 2012 at 6:36 am -

    All the time.

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