2nd Summer of Veggie Love & Lessons Learned

My mother-in-law's voice was echoing in my ear: "You always want to get your garden in before June." Mind you, it was already June 2nd, and I knew I was pushing it. Thus began my second summer of vegetable gardening. Obviously not actually my plants...I'm not advanced enough to start seeds. Someday, maybe.

Remember last summer when I planted my first vegetable garden and it turned into a riotous jungle of produce? And then I promised a recap, which never materialized? Yeah, I know. Bad form on my part. It was just a bit depressing. I don't have a pic of my end-of-the-2017-season garden because it was not pretty. (Also, I apparently managed to lose all my pics from the end of June through the end of August. Thank you, Instagram, for leaving me some shred of photographic evidence of my first attempt at vegetable gardening!)

So, instead, I'm going to give you a mini-recap now, complete with lessons learned. Worth the wait? I'll let you be the judge. 1) My tomato and cucumber plants were out of control in 2017. Like, completely. I attribute this to two factors: (a) I foolishly ignored my garden for a weekend in late July and that was all it took for me to go from sort-of-in-control to full-on, uneducated damage-control. (b) I was under-pruning them from the get-go, particularly the tomatoes, so it was always a matter of time.

Seriously, though. These guys were beasts. My cucumber vines ended up winding all the way across my garden and putting out fruit where the sad, misshapen carrots once lived. And the tomatoes, holy moly. They were colonizing the entire garden, running over the eggplant in the process. No additional staking or supports made any difference. These tomatoes apparently believed in Manifest Destiny and were heading for my garden's West Coast come hell or high water.

2) Blight happens. Remember how my tomatoes worried me last year because they took forever to grow fruit and then the fruit took forever to take on any non-green color? Well, we didn't even get to enjoy that many of them because we got some @$$hole-ish blight that came swooping in at the tail end of the season, basically just as soon as the plants were all starting to produce edible tomatoes.

In the end, we were able to enjoy the first few batches of cherry tomatoes from our three plants, but none of the tomatoes from the larger plants were good. They were actually mocking me; getting big and round and just starting to turn the right color and then BAM, blighty and gross. It was depressing.

3) I was overambitious. I wanted to plant all the vegetables last year, so I did. But I didn't really know how to take care of them, and it was too much to learn all those things at once. My mother-in-law was a great resource (my own expert right at the other end of the phone), but I definitely didn't take enough advantage of her knowledge. I always want to figure things out on my own, even I don't have to (and probably never would).

Plus, I squeezed things in so that most everything got a little tight. My poor eggplant was no match for that dense wall of tomato plants. In the end, I was able to find a zucchini 3 inches from a cucumber, right smack dab in the middle of a whole lot of (blighty) tomatoes.

THERE YOU HAVE IT, MY LESSONS LEARNED.

If you're hoping I took these lessons to heart, well, I can only say, "I hope so."

Here's the day I planted my garden this year...4 cucumbers, 3 tomatoes, 3 peppers, 1 zucchini parsley, basil, rosemary & thyme added later plus 2 pumpkin plants outside the bed

For reference, here's last year's garden on its first day... 6 cucumbers, 7 tomatoes, 1 eggplant, 8 chard, 8 carrots, 1 zucchini

This year, everything is different. We lost my gardening-guru/mother-in-law a few months ago, and it was devastating. I cried while planting the tomatoes because I miss her so much. And then, the next day, I looked at them and realized I'd forgotten the advice she gave me last year, so I dug them up and replanted them the way she told me.

It made me realize (again) that, even though she's gone, all the love and memories and advice lives on. Which is better than nothing (though vastly inferior to the real thing).

This year, I'm ready for whatever comes. If everything flourishes and stays in its section and doesn't attempt to annex its neighbor, great. If not, at least I learned some new lessons. Maybe I got my garden in late, maybe I had to replant the tomatoes. But the most important lesson I learned last year is that, for me, gardening is more about the journey than then destination.