RIP my Squash Plants - Mistakes and lessons from my very first attempt at growing food.

cloxchulanthevegginator

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RIP My Squash plants. We're in the middle of June and it's about time to start looking to carrots and broccoli prep so I made the touch decision to go ahead an pull up my squash plants and throw them in the compost mostly because over the course of the last 4 days I've been going out regularly to work on pest controls and continued to find more and more squash vine borer grubs in the actual stalk of my plants. Today alone before pulling the plants out I pulled out 5. Did I walk away with abo****ely nothing? no:
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but I didn't get much haha. OKAY So lets get on to the knowledge

All things consider for one raised bed, soil, compost, fish emulsion fertilizer, accessories like tools and watering wants, and a compost tumbler and seeds I am in for about 5-700 dollars US the bulk of that was about 523$ to get the bed, compost tumbler, tools, and seed starters. things like fish emulsion and water wands, watering cans etc came as the need was perceived and indeed the watering cans helped me get the fish emulsion at the base of my plants better. I am in an 8A zone

A Quick Conceptual Note

In IT we have the concepts of Automation and Observability. Automation should be self explanitory, but Observability is basically where we put data collection agents in our infrastructure (Servers, Routers, Load Balancers) or Coded into our application. we use this information to more effectively operate software products that generate revenue and control operating costs. I'm very quickly learning the same thing applies to gardening and you should strive to observe and automate everything you can. For example you can both Observe and Automate your water consumption with programmable water controllers that will both time when your plants get watered, and how much water in gallons goes through to your bed. So moving forward I will be looking for these kinds of opprotunities to make my growing both more economical and more efficient.

Mistakes and Lessons: Getting and Prepping the Bed.
  • Inadequate soil prep and amount
    • When I got the beds I went store bought cause it ended up being cheaper than renting a truck and driving out and back to get the dirt. The best option for soil would only deliver at 3 cu yards or more. So what I did is when out and bought a bunch of bags of peat moss and black kow compost and mixed it into the bed which according to the bag will feed for about 3 months and I'm comfortably past that window. What ended up happening is I lost a lot of fill to compression from watering and as a result, i feel like the base of my plants were more exposed than they should have been and then my soil itself was more growing medium than soil.
  • No Amendments
    • So one thing I think I probably should have done is bought some amendments and mixed them into my soil before planting anything. I don't have a brand in mind specifically because this is something i haven't done up to this point, but I can vividly recall see bagged soil amendments in both Mark and EG's videos that are for furits and another that's for veggies I just can't remember the brand. This is something I'm going to research and add in the short time so it can be in the soil breaking down while the bed rests between plantings
  • DO NOT RECOMMEND: Dead grass clippings as mulch
    • So, I thought I was really lucky to have come across a bunch of bags of grass clipping from our cul-de-sac as I had planned to use them for composting and as mulch.I gotta say I don't recommend them as it was TOO GOOD at creating a barrier over the soil. it eventually matts into a firm layer (which I think is part of breaking down) whereas with mulch I believe the water can still get through to the soil beneath meaning there's water for the roots to find on exploration and I blieve you WANT you want that surface area of both moist soil and root growth to help you plants be more resilient. Another thing I would say is this probably throws off the balance of my soil. There's now a sh*t ton of carbon (Green Nitrogen, Brown Carbon) in my soil that I'm going to either have to wait to break down forever OR scrape the top layer off and throw in the compost heap.
    • Kinda what I ended up doing is scraping the mulch from around the base of my plants and watering there.
  • Level Surface
    • There's nothing I can really do about this but had it been an option I probably would have taken a rototiller to the ground and created a level patch to place my bed on. Water pooling was a thing

Mistakes and Lessons - The Actual Growing
  • Not Watering and fertilizing regularly
    • So I started off noticing stunted grow as my plants STARTED to grow. This caused me to do some research and I determined that fish emulsion was probably a good bet to keep my plants healthy and that definitely did kinda turn things around but then my next probably became watering. I started off watering at about 2-3 days but am realizing now with the texas heat that that needs to be actually something like 1-2 days. Alot of vegetables ARE water (squash, tomatoes, lettuce etc) so it's imperative that we keep our babies well watered.
  • Not respecting dimensions requirements on the package
    • So each package tells you the area in feet or inches you should keep around your plant. I did not do this. lol I didn't do this so hard and that was such a mistake. It made watering and, pest control, and I would argue the plants bearing fruit difficult as everything was bunched up and the plants were competing for space to get sun.
  • the bed was not heterogeneous
    • So one thing I notice is that when you watch people's gardening vlogs and videos you'll notice that each bed is dedicated to a thing and in one bed I have Tomatoes, Squash and Green Beans in one bed. So something I'm going to have to give serious thought to is getting 2 more beds and some soil so I can even EXPERIMENT and LEARN correctly, nevermind grow enough food to eat. I think a reasonable expectation is it will take 2-5 years until you can get to that point (depend on how much money you have) because seasons are a thing and you only have so much time to experience and experiment before the next season is upon you and it's time for a new crop and growing conditions.
  • DO NOT RECOMMEND: soaker hoses. Drip irrigation seems to be the way to go.
    • okay so this is going to be short. I found a highly rated soaker hose on sale at lowes for 15 bucks so i decided to try it. and it sucked. The water didn't distribute evenly which was the first and biggest probelm and then soil penetration was also an issue cause of my poor man's mulch. I might try it again but it honestly seems like drip irrigation that drips water directly onto/into the soil at the base of the plant is the way to go, idk how else to say it other than after these past 3 months growing that approach seems to intuitively make sense to me now. I guess one other thing I could say is a drip system puts water in the soil at a pace it can absorb it whereas watering with a wand you'll notice your water moves away from where you're watering becuase the soil cant absorb it as fast as it's being poured on it.
Closing thoughts:
  • Check your garden daily, KNOW your garden like you kid or your family. it can allow you to nip things in the bud and it gives you great insight and knowledge into plants and the growing process.
  • Water at the base of your plants as much as possible.
  • water, water, water,
  • Ask for help - this forum has honestly been huge for me when people share their knowledge. I get the benefit of DECADES of people's trial and error in reading in mere sentences and I can honestly say there were 2 or 3 key paragraphs from responses to my posts that gave me even the success i had so far. To put it into perspective, nothing died till I killed it and I walked away with something, however small, to show for my efforts. my understanding is a lot of people even fail their first time around. so, I'm happy but I know i need to learn and double down more.


So I'm going to go out this after noon and start some carrot starts and plan my next steps. In the near term I see myself purchasing amendments, and more soil for my existing bed. and then I need to look into the feasability of getting 1-2 more beds, soil from a proper supplier mulch and drip irrigation. I will also be prioritizing learning about compost since it's essential to being self sufficient.


that said. comments always welcome!
 
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Mandy Onderwater

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It's amazing to see the learning process you are going through. You are learning what does and doesn't work for you.
Sometimes cutting your losses to be able to start over properly is exactly the way to go. That way you can do much better and get a lot more joy out of your garden! I've recently ripped one of my strawberry plants out as it was giving me more grief than joy.

I'm personally a container gardener, but am slowly trying to learn how to grow things in-ground as well. Starting out in containers has allowed me to learn many things, including how much water to give (as it'd drip down the bottom), how much sunlight a plant needs and I could move them as needed, how much space a plant needs (rootbound when I lifted them out) and so much more. I think I'd really recommend a new gardener to have some potted plants to learn from.
One key element I didn't think was important when I started was to have good soil. This means soil that has the right consitency. You want it do be able to crumble even when wet, but also not be too loose or water just passes right through. On top of that it needs some fertiliser that the plant can feed from as it needs it to grow healthy. I learnt this from having a tomato plant that.. well.. was alive, but it never looked good and it died when it tried to fruit as there was no fertiliser to keep it's energy levels up.
With the containers I had 3 tomato plants after, each in their seperate container. One in the bad soil, two in good. Then one of the good ones got fertilised, whilst the other two didn't. I guess we all know which one did better than the others! Yes the ones in good soil both did well, but the one fertilised did much better and had more, better looking fruit.

There is so much to learn and I love the process. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Happy gardening :D
 

JP 1983

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little confused ... i read "Squash", so i think Squash or Pumpkin ....
but Picture is of Zucchini ???
Linguistic variant for the denizens of North America. What Australians call zucchini, our New World friends call summer squash or, in some areas, courgette.

Zucchini is Italian for the marrow gourd, a botanically similar plant to the commercial zucchini.
 
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