This year was my first attempt at vegetable gardening and I have
learned some lessons the hard way.
1. Tomato cages are only good in theory. I went with 6' tomato cages
because I live in Texas and wanted as much foliage to grow as possible
to shade the fruit. Yesterday, my 8.5' tall tomato plants fell to the
ground because the cages wouldn't support them anymore. Next year I
will get out the table saw and the brad nailer, buy some fence boards,
and make some super-sturdy 8' teepee trellises to hold them up. My
solution this year was to drive some cedar spikes in to give the cages
some support, then hack back the tops of the tomatos. I will maintain
them at 6 feet this year.
2. People plant in rows for a reson. I planted my tomatos in a 4-3-3
cluster for aethetic as well as shade reasons. However, it makes
picking the fruit a bitch. Also, the ones in the middle aren't making
it. This is fine because of the next point...
3. Plants yield more than you think. Our household is just me and my
wife. 10 tomato plants are WAY too much. Luckily I know how to make
sauce and salsa and I know how to can. The neighbors and co-workers
are loving me, though.
4. Cucumbers keep growing and growing and growing. And growing, and
growing. I'll have to learn to pickle, but these would be big-ass
pickles. 10-12 inches long or so.
5. Cilantro, yes. Lettuce, no. Home grown cilantro is great here. I
think it is too hot for the lettuce. It was bitter, so I yanked it.
6. Don't underestimate bermuda grass. Next year, I'll use a
pre-emergent and put down newspaper. This year, its hoe, hoe, hoe.
But, I don't wear a big red suit. Nor do I have reindeer.
7. Don't wait to put down the soaker hose. I don't have room to
manuver and put it down now, so its overhead watering.
8. Pick just before red, don't wait. They will ripen in the kitchen,
but something will eat them if they get too red on the vine. I just
wish whatever animal that is having them would finish the job before
taking a bite out of the next. (Every tomato that goes fully ripe is
getting one 1" bite taken out of it)
9. There is no shame in planting from seedlings. Our seed planting did
not turn out so good. Only the cukes and cilantro came up well. I'm
sure I could do the research and get better results, but one step at a
time. Maybe I'll build a greenhouse "wing" onto the shed I'm building
for doing seedlings.