Growing up we always had a kitchen garden. Nothing fancy but staples like Beefstake tomatoes, Iceburg lettuce and carrots. My mom loved tomatoes and would bite into them like you would an apple. Vegetables bought at a supermarket just don’t compare to the flavor burst.
I really should have paid more attention to what my dad did to his garden because his Beefstake tomatoes were huge, sweet and juicy. Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm He always made gardening look so easy!
The house my parents bought had incredible rose bushes that the previous owner had lovingly grew. He had even grafted different varieties together so when they were in bloom it was a splendid burst of gorgeous colors and our house was always filled with the lovely scent of the roses we had cut.
When I had my first house I was so busy that a kitchen garden was just a sweet memory. However, the last couple of years I finally decided to make the time and have a kitchen garden. It’s a lot of work, but we’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labors with fresh organic tomatoes, salsas, tomato sauce and so much more.
I have an herb garden in front of our gazebo which gets a great deal of use and two larger gardens for vegetables this year. I’d like to plant a cutting flower bed of Peonies, Hydrangeas and whatever else suites my fancy, but for now that’s on the back burner.
The soil here sucks—its the only way to describe it. For the last two years I’ve spent a lot of cash on soil amendments like mushroom compost, cow manure, organic compost etc. and it still needs work. Recently, I read somewhere or heard it on a video that it takes 7 to 10 years to get the ground in shape. Ugh! Last year I learned we have a couple of black walnut trees and these things are not good for growing a vegetable garden.
Black Walnut trees contain a natural substance called JUGLONE that inhibits the growth of many plants (or just plain kills them). And it’s contained in every freaken part of the black walnut tree—bark, wood, leaves. It’s strongest in the roots. Now here’s the zinger—the roots can extend out 50-80 feet from the tree. Our first garden is 45 feet from the darn thing and there’s another one at the back about 60 feet away from the kitchen gardens.
Guess what plants are noted for dying quickly within this range? Well, of course the most popular home-grown veggies (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes) and my ornamental favorites like petunias, azalea, viburnum, hydrangea and rhododendron. Guess what I planted right beside the black walnut tree–two azalea bushes. UGH! I need to move them. Those darn black walnut trees even kill off Blueberry bushes too. I thought last year that my garden yield was a lot lighter than I was expecting and I was blaming myself. It wasn’t me it was those darn trees! It’s too late to make major changes so I’ll be adding milk to the water for my tomatoes along with making sure they get enough fertilizer from organic
Next year I think I’ll be doing Square Foot Gardening and work smarter not harder. Doing raised bed gardening with good soil from the beginning should give me increased yields while circumventing most of the problem with the black walnut tree. The last tree I cut down cost $1,000 and I’m sure this black walnut will be the same. For now we’re just cutting the branches off and keeping it trimmed back as best we can ourselves.