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Chronicles of a Novice Gardener

Being an environmental studies student, and eager to put ideas about sustainable ag. to use, I finally built a garden this summer. This is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. It's been an adventure. As soon as I got home from college this May, I plunged into the process.

My suburban soil is an ungodly mixture of sand and clay, so I bought a raised bed kit (4' by 8'. Cedar) and a carful of gardening soil from Agway. After digging out the hillside, assembling dovetails, and spreading soil, I went out and bought plants. 11 tomato plants (One heirloom: Cherokee Purple, as well as 9 Early Girls and one cherry), 4 cucumber plants, 3 strawberries (two of an ornamental variety, one of an unknown variety), and some misc. herbs.

On reflection, the plant purchasing may have been a little overboard. I always underestimate how large plants will grow, and the thing is turning into a jungle. My tomatoes have outgrown their cages, the cucumbers are homicidal maniacs and keep trying to strangle the tomatoes, and the strawberries are happily colonizing any extra space with runners. On the upside, I've now got tomatoes out the wazoo, the strawberries are the sweetest I've ever tasted, and I've got cucumbers on the way (I'm extremely fascinated by these. I've never grown cucumbers before).


So I was out tonight watering and checking things out. The heirloom tomatoes are blowing my mind; they're already the size of a bar of soap and still haven't turned red and JESUS CHRIST GIANT HORNWORM.

I took the unwise route and killed it first and googled second. Turns out I should have let it live; it had parasitic wasp larvae on it, and those guys are very useful about killing garden pests. All the sites recommended I pull an infested hornworm off the plant and put it in a jar so the wasplets could get big and fly away. Handy things to keep in mind in case I should find another one.

I've been pretty lucky with pests so far; a fence took care of whatever was eating the strawberries, and I combed the rest of the tomatoes and didn't turn up any more hornworms.

So this has been my gardening adventure so far. I'm already planning to expand next summer; watching the plants grow and getting fresh fruit is addicting. Gardening is awesome you guys!

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