My first lesson has been to remember to dig in a lot of compost before I get started. I have a feeling I should have done this at the beginning, because now I'm not sure that I will ever have the entire garden empty again, so it's going to have to be piecemeal now. A much bigger lesson would be to learn how to compost myself, but it always seems like such a big job, and I don't know where to do it - out at my garden or in my backyard? In my backyard would be handy, except that I'm a renter and I don't know when I'll move, and also it would be hard to transport to the garden. And my rented community garden isn't really big enough that I want to use my planting space for composting. So that's a lesson I have yet to learn.
Here are some brief notes of what I've learned so far with this summer garden ...
Peppers - plant them close together! This way, they support each other physically, and the leaves protect the pepper fruits from getting burned. I'm pretty sad about my burning pepper fruits, but too lazy to find something to block them from the sun. They're getting these awful brown spots, which sometimes eventually burn all the way through to the inside of the pepper. And they have so many peppers that they're all falling on their sides, which I'm hoping isn't a huge problem. Their buddies aren't close enough to hold them up.
Green beans - plant them closer to the edge of the garden, not in one big block. It's really hard to pick the beans on the plants that are farther from the path, so I find myself constantly stepping into my garden and compacting the soil. I think the smart thing would be to put the peppers in the middle of the block, maybe in two close rows with stakes the way I've staked my tomatoes, and the green beans around the edge.
Zucchini - one is probably enough. And buy plants, don't grow them from seed. Because really, what's the point if you only have one or two plants? And then you end up with something like what my yellow squash is - some weird hybrid that looks more like a winter squash and I have no idea what to do with it. That will probably be the first space available for my winter garden (so the first I'll have to compost!).
Cukes - maybe don't plant pickling cukes and slicing cukes right next to each other. I haven't accidentally pickled slicing cukes, because I planted the pickling cukes first and got sick of pickling before I even had any slicing cukes. So I don't know if it would be a big problem in future years. Also, I need to try to be more diligent about training them.
Tomatoes - pick the darn suckers off early and constantly! Actually, I did a decent job with my two rows of romas, and they're doing really well, although I must have left at least a couple too many suckers on one or two plants, because I faithfully tied everything up, but they're so dense I can barely get in to find the ripe tomatoes. And the heirlooms are out of control, all over the place, and producing far more tomatoes than we can eat. I am trying to decide if it's worth trying to can some of them for a fancier tomato sauce ...
Squash (winter) - cut the vines before they get out of control! I didn't know you could do that. I think I've got at least 10 butternut squashes growing, I have no idea what I'll do with so many except give them away. And they've more or less taken over my garden.
As for everything else, it seems to be doing ok - the eggplant, melon, basil, and parsley. I'll write more about those in future posts.