It is unfortunate that it takes a whole year to glean knowledge from gardening (unlike, say, dancing or singing), but the small tidbits of new information make the whole process, good or bad, worth it when you see the successes the next season.
While I have had some sort of garden for a few years now, this year was my biggest, making things a bit more of a challenge. So with out further ado...
I should have:
- Amended the soil better: One of the biggest challenges with gardening in Florida is the "wonderful" sand we have to grow in (note sarcasm). With a small budget, I was only able to get a about 5 bags of Black Cow to be spread throughout my garden. I added my own compost, but that's another bullet point. However, pink eye purple hull peas do excellent in that sand!
- Mulched: Would have reduced watering, and held on to the rain water, which is so much better (my plants always took off after a rain).
- Stuck with a garden my budget would allow: Lack of amendments and mulch was due mostly to the available cash for gardening. With a smaller garden, one bale of hay, and the 5 bags of BC would have been sufficient.
- Soil and dirt are completely different: A local farmer was featured on our PBS station, and he said he uses leaves as one of his amendments. So, after a spring yard cleaning at church this year, I brought home 35 bags of leaves, and piled them behind my garden... and let them sit. A few months later, I went digging in the pile and under the top layer of still whole leaves, found the best looking black soil I had ever seen. I don't know if I have ever been that excited about gardening up to that point. It felt good, it smelled good, it didn't compact! I even found a few worms in there, which is a very good sign.
- Compost is not a pile of sand where you throw your yard and food waste, and expect the sand to turn to soil: As hard as I tried, my "compost" piles never did what I wanted. I now know that dirt has no place in the compost pile. Hopefully I will be able to build a proper bin, and get real compost for next year.
- Weeds are good for watermelons: A friend of mine told that while watermelons like heat to germinate, the actual melons prefer some shade. He said for lack of weeds, he puts palmetto fronds over them for some sunscreen.
- Nature has all the answers: I watched the fairly new documentary, Back to Eden, and was amazed and inspired by the wealth of information featured. It reports on gardener Paul Gautschi’s experiences over the years as he studied to find a better method of gardening, one he feels God has always had there for us to use. One that is less work, less stress, and has less impact on the environment than any other system today. This is the system I hope to implement this coming spring. I have begun mowing and bagging the brush on my property, and piling it in my garden plot, in the hopes that it will do much the same as the leaves and produce a good soil layer for me to plant into. If you have not yet watched the video, I highly recommend it.
I would be hard pressed to say that any of my gardening efforts were failures in that I gained knowledge I never had before, and can therefor use that to my garden's advantage next season. While of course disappointing when a harvest is less than ideal, there is hope of an even greater abundance next season.
Have a safe and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!