summer raised bed garden

By Susannah Felts

Summer may be just kicking off, but for my daughter Thalia and me, the gardening season is well underway and we’re starting to see the payoff from all our labor and patience: Cucumbers! Patty pan squash! Tomatoes! Thalia is thrilled, eager to run to the garden regularly to see what new bounty awaits.

This mid-season point is also a great time to reflect on what’s gone right (and wrong). Allow me to share a few lessons my garden has taught me so far:

squash plants and blossoms
Beautiful, yes, but these squash plants also seem to be out to conquer the garden!

Give squash lots of room to grow.
While all of our other herbs have grown beautifully, the dill has been challenged by the sun-blocking leaves of the incredibly hearty patty pan squash planted next to it. I’d forgotten that squash gets enormous and will butt out other plants. I’ve tried snipping off leaves, but I swear new ones grow overnight. I’m glad it’s such a happy plant, but I’ll need to plan the garden layout a little differently next year.

Plant lots of lettuce – and plant it early.
Our buttercrunch lettuce plants produced beautiful, large leaves for two months—longer than I expected, probably due to the cool weather we’ve enjoyed. My only regret is not planting them even earlier, because I suspect we could have begun harvesting several weeks before we did. I’m already looking forward to planting a fresh crop at the beginning of the fall, when cool-season greens can be planted again in my zone (7A).

green cherry tomatoes on vine
Like my young daughter Thalia, these tomato plants seem to be going through a growth spurt.

Know thy tomatoes.
We are already starting to harvest some ripe fruit from our awesome Supersweet 100 cherry tomato plant—yay! But like the squash, this one has gotten a lot bigger than we anticipated, and we should’ve used a larger tomato cage. Next time, I’ll do more research on how large and sprawly the varieties we’ve chosen tend to get, and cage or stake them accordingly.

Protect spinach from the get-go.
Our spinach did well, too, though the plants got a slow start due to nibbling by some sort of critter. We solved that problem by placing old metal hanging planters over the plants, like cages. Next time I plant spinach, I’ll put those in place from the start.

Fresh, homegrown cucumbers and squash—and more tomatoes—are right around the corner, and the watermelon vines are coming along nicely. Thalia and I can’t wait to see what the next couple of weeks will bring!