Gardening

Lessons Learned from Gardening on the Front Stoop

This year, with much help from Krista, I started my first ever garden on the front stoop of my rental unit.

Read the journey from beginning to now in my previous posts:
Gardening While Renting
Taking Over the Front Stoop

I was excited to see what I would be able to produce in my very limited, small space, though my expectations were not very high. I was approaching the entire gardening adventure as an experiment to see what was possible.

Garden fully grown

Where things went right

Lettuce

My lettuce plant grew amazingly well! I had a steady supply of little bunches of lettuce shortly after it was planted. The plant grew tall instead of as a lower bunch, likely due to the plant searching for more sunlight.

The lettuce plant did eventually get aphids. For a while it appeared that my adding a basil plant to the garden got rid of the aphids, but when the lettuce plant outgrew the basil, the bugs came back.

Eventually the lettuce went to seed and I pulled up the plant.

Basil

I planted basil from seed paper I received as a thank you card. The basil grew so well on my windowsill in full sunlight that I started to propagate some more plants.

Propagating Basil

Propagating a plant basically means growing a new plant from a cutting of the parent plant.

To propagate my basil I followed these steps:

  • I chose a section of the plant that had approximately 4-inches (10 cms) of stem from the leaves and cut it from the plant.
  • Next, I placed the cutting in water, changing the water every couple of days.
  • Eventually roots will start to grow.
  • Once the roots are around 2-inches (5 cms) long, I planted the cutting into soil, watered it, and placed it in full sunlight.

Cucumbers

The cucumber plant also grew very well. Because my garden space was limited, I created a trellis with twine to allow the plant to grow vertically. The plant climbed and grew without any issue and has produced multiple flowers so far.

After excitedly sharing about my cucumber plant with a friend, I learned that I will need to hand pollinate my cucumbers if I’m wanting to get any fruit. At first I panicked, thinking I may have missed the chance to do this, but it looks like I only have male flowers so far and will have to keep an eye out for the female ones.

How on earth do you hand pollinate a cucumber plant?

That was my question!

And the answer is very much like a sex-education talk about the birds and the bees. The basic answer is you take the pollen from the centre of the male flower and rub it in the centre of the female flower.

Here are two videos I found helpful:
Short 1 minute video from Bonnnie Plants
More in-depth 7 minute video from MIgardener

Where things went wrong

While there were certainly some exciting aspects to gardening, there were a few things that didn’t go well.

Kale

With the limited sun exposure my garden would get, we chose to plant kale. Kale was actually the plant that we expected to do the best, but it did not grow at all.

We are not sure what happened, but after being trans-planted in the main garden from the container it was sprouted in, the plant just didn’t grow.


Tomatoes

The tomato plant overall grew well. Multiple times this summer I thought I killed the plant because a number of the lower leaves turned yellow and eventually fell off.

I was told to remove the “suckers” as the tomato plant grew. These are the small sprouts that grow in the corner between the main stem and branches of the plant. I did my best to prune off the correct little bits, but pruning plants still feels above my gardening level.

I did have one small fruit growing on the tomato plant, but sadly this disappeared when I went away on vacation. My neighbours were so kind and watered my garden while I was away, but their toddler was a little too intrigued by the mini tomato and plucked it from the plant. I can’t blame her too much because it was a cute little tomato!

Radishes

If you remember from our original plan, radishes were on the list to be planted. I was excited to plant them as they sounded easy to grow and I would have been able to plant them again after harvesting.

Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, I was limiting my trips out and didn’t get to buy these seeds. They are on the list for next year, though!

The Big Picture

While I didn’t get a massive harvest from my garden, it was a completely worthwhile experience. The process of growing my own food gave me a greater appreciation for produce in general.

The ups and downs that come with the sun and clouds, how devastated I was when my tomato plant leaves were turning yellow, and the joy that I felt at the sight of the first fruit all gave me an appreciation for what goes into growing food for a larger population.

My little gardening experiment has made me feel more connected to my food. While I haven’t gotten the biggest harvest out of it, I’m so glad that I gave it a try and hope to grow more next year!

Have you been gardening this year? What lessons have you learned from your garden?

17 Comments

  • Clarissa

    This is great. Ever since lockdown started in March I have been missing nature, and I really wanted to start a vegetable garden. But like you, I am renting and have very little space and am not allowed to dig in the yard. So we settled for an herb garden. We’ve got basil, cilantro, sage, rosemary, and thyme. The basil especially is really going off and we even made our own pesto! It was delicious. But I grew up with huge veggie and fruit gardens and can’t wait to get back to that some day. Thanks so much for letting me vicariously enjoy your veggies! ☺️

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Renting makes certain things a lot more difficult! Sounds like you’re making great use of space for your herb garden, though! My basil is growing so well too, but I keep forgetting to add it to recipes. I’m not used to having fresh plants around hehe!

  • Michelle (Boomer Eco Crusader)

    It is rewarding to grow your own food, even just a little. I have been planting tomatoes in pots on my deck in years. This year, I started seeds indoors from seed in the winter. I also expanded my garden to peppers, potatoes, peas and beans.

  • Vinn

    Cheers! It’s all about making a step to grow green. This summer we have abundant produce of zucchinis, some tomatoes, watermelons, eggplant and I’m growing basil too. Gardening is a constant learning process. We will try to do better next summer!

  • Jaya Avendel

    Gardens take such time to cultivate and get right; you have to keep moving on with what you learned to do better. We have had some terrible failures and some rejuvenating successes! Basil was among our successes this year and I love it on summer tomato and mozzarella stacks.
    Thank you for sharing this; I hope you keep at it. 🙂

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thank you! It’s so encouraging to hear other people’s experiences. I’m really looking forward to taking what I’ve learned from this year and applying it to next time 🙂

  • Holly

    This post was so much fun, Alison. I’m sorry to hear that several of your plants didn’t fare so well, but hey, it’s still a lot of fun, right? Gardening, even in small doses, is therapeutic, don’t you think? There’s just something about connecting with nature by caring for plants that aids mental health.

    I love that you did this while renting too. It’s important that everyone gets the chance to grow their own food. Like you said in this post – it surely gives a new appreciation for where produce comes from, and how much effort it takes for us to have food on our tables. So many people don’t realize the hard work farmers do for us every single day.

    Thank you so much for sharing your gardening adventures with all of us! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the read. ❤

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      You are so right, Holly. Connecting to nature is such good therapy. Even my tiny garden brought me a lot of joy this summer. I can’t wait to see what grows next year 🙂

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

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