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Lessons Learned from a Scorched Garden

scorched garden

A couple of weeks ago we headed out of town for 4 days. We didn’t have anyone to water the garden for us (one of the downsides of living in the boonies!), so we figured it would be fairly wilted by the time we got home, especially considering the fact that it wasn’t exactly thriving before we left. What we didn’t count on was record-high temps that literally scorched my tiny tabletop garden.

Fortunately, despite the death of the plants themselves, much of their fruit had ripened in the meantime, and I was able to collect several bowls of these:

tomato harvest

Although my gardening project for the summer came to an abrupt end, I learned several important lessons in the process:

1. A Garden Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect.

I had several freak out moments at the beginning of this experiment, first when I discovered bugs eating my tomato leaves and then when the leaves on my grape tomato plant started to turn yellow and die. I was offered dozens of potential solutions and in the end I chose…to ignore them all.

It wasn’t really intentional, but with the busyness of summer, I just couldn’t add “figure out what’s wrong with my tomato plants” to the list, so I did nothing. The takeaway? They continued to grow and produce anyway. They weren’t breaking any records, but we were picking several grape tomatoes a day and watching the big tomatoes slowly ripen, so that still felt like a win!

2. Deeper Soil & More Room is a Must.

I love the tabletop garden, but if we keep it next year, we will definitely need to make it deeper. The soil was bone dry at the end of every day, even when we watered it in the morning, partly because of the shallow soil and partly because it was right outside our patio door and the sun reflected off the glass and onto the garden for much of the day. We may need to find a new location to avoid that little issue as well.

I think that the shallow soil and constant cycle between “sopping wet” and “bone dry” led to the aformentioned yellow leaves on the tomato plant, and — as predicted by several Life Your Way readers in the beginning — my tomato plants needed a lot more than one square foot to spread out. I’m considering a raised bed next year with tomato cages instead, although I do really love the convenience of the tabletop garden.

3. Gardening is Good for the Whole Family.

I never really doubted that this was true, but it was so much fun to see my whole family get involved with our tiny garden. The girls gave me regular status reports, and my 3.5 year old discovered that she loves grape tomatoes too (we’ve only got one holdout left!). Everybody took turns checking on the garden, and we gained a new appreciation for growing our own food.

4. The Process is Worth the Effort.

As a new gardener, it’s easy to lust over other people’s beautiful and “perfect” gardens while feeling discouraged about your own, but this time I was determined just to enjoy the process and learn what I could rather than shooting for perfection. I think I accomplished that, and even though our garden cost more than the harvest it produced, I’m looking forward to doing it again next year. (Things are just too busy to try to plant a second crop this year!)

I would have loved to show you a bountiful harvest and thriving garden instead, but it is what it is, and I don’t regret a minute I spent working on it!

How does your garden grow? Have you ever had a garden disaster?