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One of the biggest mistakes I feel that homesteaders make is to try to take on too much, too soon. They may find themselves in over their head and spiraling down a path of failure. I have chosen to start small, make mistakes, and fail at things without having survival on the line. Failing is part of learning as long as you find out what went wrong and fix it.

 

We have four raised beds. Two of them are 3’x3’, and the other two are 3’x6’. So far, we have tried to grow tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes, and some salad greens.

What has worked

This past season, our tomatoes did awesome. Before planting the tomatoes, I put some compost made from cleaning out the chicken coop in the beds. Tomatoes love a more acidic soil. I have also met another back-yard gardeners that planted tomato plants in an old chicken run and yielded seven to eight foot plants. I saw them with my own eyes. So, having chicken compost for tomatoes is a plus.

What failed

For a few years now, I have not had very good luck with squash. The plants keep dying without producing very much. One piece of advice I was told was to trim the vine. The theory is that more energy will go into producing the squash off of off-shoots than into growing the vine. I will experiment with this and see what happens.

Another issue that we may have had was squash beetles.

To be honest not much else produced very well.

Things That May Have Contributed

One of the things that I have read and heard pretty consistently is about soil quality. I started out filling my beds with the soil that was in the area. The soil here is very sandy because we live on the coast, and I had no idea what kind of condition it was in. Lesson learned. Get a soil test done. It will tell you exactly what your soil is lacking, and how to fix it based on what you are growing. I will be adding compost to all four beds, mixing it up, and sending in samples to maximize the yield for next season.

Another piece of advice I will put into my tool bag is to get good at growing one thing. Then, get good at growing something else, so on and so on. This way you can stay focused on one set of issues.

Things We’ll Do Differently Next Year

We like to do things naturally. No pesticides, no chemicals. After doing some research, there are a few methods that we’ll try to control, and get rid of, the squash bugs next spring. The first method is to prevent them early on. Squash bug eggs are shiny, oval-shaped, and copper colored. The best way to prevent them is to inspect your plants each week at the base of the plant, as well as the underside of the leaves. If you see eggs, you can wipe them off with a cloth and dispose of that cloth. Catching the infestation before the eggs hatch is a great method for saving your squash plants!

Another method that I think will be fantastic is to mix onion and garlic with water, let it steep so the scent becomes strong, then pour the mixture over the base of your squash plants. See! No chemicals, and it’ll get rid of the problem. You might have to do this more than once in the growing season, but how much better will your veggies taste, and how much healthier will they be when you use natural, organic methods for killing and deterring these bugs?

You can also plant other plants, called companion planting, that will help to repel squash bugs. This, again, for us, is a fantastic, natural way to keep those little nasties away! Some suggestions for plants that repel squash bugs are: marigolds (which also repel a whole host of other pests!), nasturtiums, white icicle radishes, oregano, calendula, and dill. These can be planted close to, and in between, each of your squash plants to help keep them healthy and pest-free!

Happy gardening!

And special thanks to my husband for co-writing this post with me!

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