Sophomore Gardener: Year 2 of gardening begins in earnest

Posted on: June 10, 2019 | Written By: Mike Palm | Comments

Note: With the guidance of editor Doug Oster, Mike Palm is chronicling his adventures (or perhaps misadventures) in his second year of gardening.

Well, I’m not the New Gardener anymore. I’ve been replaced, but in a good way. Everybody Gardens videographer Jess Levo is just getting started with a small patch in her backyard. (You can check out her latest story here.) I only have one season under my belt, which included a ton of prepwork. And Doug thinks I still have a lot to learn, so we’ll continue this experiment in earnest.

I actually planted a bunch of cool-weather seeds in April, mostly from the Everybody Gardens Seed of the Month Club. (Shameless plug: Join it here.) Some of the seeds wouldn’t be my top picks, but I figured what the heck? So I followed all the directions for spacing and depth, adding lettuce, beets, purple kohlrabi, Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach and Seven Top Turnips (for the greens.)

The lettuce and spinach provided plenty of salads, and the lettuce is still going. I pulled out the spinach last weekend after it started to bolt. I tried the kohlrabi leaves, which I read online that you can eat, in a salad. After trying them, let’s just say if I were starving, I would eat them. Other than that, I’ll pass on kohlrabi leaves for the future. For some reason, the bulbs didn’t grow. On a postive note, my wife’s classroom pet, a bearded dragon named Queen Malika, chowed down on those leaves so I left a couple plants for now.

I didn’t have much luck with the beets either. The greens were big, but the biggest actual beet was only about an inch. Oh well.

I also waited too long on the Seven Top Turnip greens. When I cut some for a salad, there were tiny little spikes on the bottom. They felt pretty sharp against my fingers, so I didn’t imagine it would be better on my tongue or throat, so I passed on those. Next time, I’ll have to look up a recipe for cooking them because I read they dissolve when cooked.

Doug says: That spring garden looks amazing to me. I wonder if you should have waited on the beets, they take a few months to get to full size. Those little ones are tasty. There’s still time to put some in, if there’s room. I’m blown away by that early garden, considering most “normal” gardeners just started planting. You’ve done well so far!

With the cool-weather vegetables out of the way, it became time to turn my attention to the warmer weather veggies. The tomatoes were a big hit with the family (especially my wife and my father-in-law), so we decided to almost fully devote one of the two raised beds to tomatoes. I put in three larger plants (Super Sweet 100, Early Girl and Cherokee Purple) from a Memorial Day sale, plus Potato Top and Chocolate Stripe plants from the EG/Doug Oster Plant Swap last weekend. To fill out the garden, I added some Heart of Italy and more Chocolate Stripe plants started from seed. Those are much smaller than the other plants.

There was a little bit of room so I added some zinnia seeds on the edge of the planter.

On both sides of the trellis, I planted cucumber seeds. I’m hopeful they do better than last year when they never got going.

Doug says: It’s a good idea to have the different sizes of plants. Some will be ready sooner than others and when they aren’t all planted the same day, they will all have to deal with the same weather and pest issues. Remember to mulch those tomatoes and the other crops once they emerge. I think they would benefit from some organic liquid fertilizer over the season. I love Grow from Espoma.

The cheapo trellis system that I built last year survived the winter, but I figured a minor upgrade was in order. The string flew around last year because there was nothing to hold it down. This year, I cut an old dowel rod to length and tied the strands of string to that, then buried it. Then I tied the other end of the string to the top of each trellis. We’ll see if this system is more successful.

Kentucky Wonder pole beans were planted on both sides. I also added a row of lettuce for succession planting. Maybe I’ll add another row in a few weeks, so I always have fresh lettuce. There were only 2,000 lettuce seeds in the packet so I should be good there…

I have room between the April lettuce (plus the kohlrabi that won’t be there much longer) and the beans, so I’m open to suggestions.

Doug says: Wow, talking about bolting and succession planting, you’re an old hand at this. Trellis looks great, I think it will work much better. Think about bush beans too, they are earlier than the pole beans. Can you squeeze some peppers in, too? Since you were so successful with tomatoes last year, peppers would be a natural for this season. Great start to the season!

More from Everybody Gardens

See also, Hot Peppers Will Make You Cry … Sometimes!

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Shop special Everybody Garden products today!

Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”