When moving to the state of Louisiana, Casey and I wanted to find a place to live that would have a large enough yard for us to start gardening. At our first house here in Ruston we tried small, slightly raised garden beds. We had some success, and some failures. The most aggravating event was the lubber grasshoppers that ate all of our high producing green bean plants over just one weekend!
We moved to a new house in April of 2018, which caused us to be behind in the planting season for the Southern US. After the stress of moving was settled, we began planning what would work best in our new backyard.
Casey and I compost all organic materials we use, mostly plant and food waste. We had a bit saved up and decided on a method of using the compost in our new backyard. This method would be to remove the top layer of the soil, then dig a long trench a few inches deep to fill with our compost matter. We then would fill the trench and pull more of the soil up to make a hill over the compost line. We then placed the plants down the row, spaced according the the plants growing needs.
For our 2018 growing season we created three sections. The first we started with different types of hot peppers. We also planted a couple flower varieties to encourage pollinators as well. All of these were bought at the local Farmer’s Market.
The first to start producing were the Carolina Reapers. Wow, were these successful! The spice on these was hit or miss though, sometimes having a mild taste and others packing plenty of heat.
The flowers bloomed on and off throughout the spring and summer, and even into the fall we had peppers to pick!
The two other types of peppers were late bloomers, the ghost peppers started to produce peppers in August. Casey experimented with different recipes to create his own hot sauce with the hot peppers from our garden. I enjoyed putting the Carolina reaper sauce on my burritos!
While we were working our first section, we also began germinating seeds indoors hoping to increase the success of the plants we would have. However, we mismanaged the germinating seeds and had to start them over again.
We started planning our second section mid-summer, digging it out and placing the compost in the rows. Unfortunately, we forgot to routinely check on our germinating seeds, and ended up with nothing to plant. Luckily, the Louisiana Tech Greenhouse had been selling plants at the Ruston Farmers Market, so we were able to buy a variety from them to put in our second garden section.
With plants that have been grown first in a greenhouse, you have to be sure to harden them before you plant them in your garden. This means you need to let them adjust to being outdoors in their containers, before you plant them in the ground. Planting them right away would be too big of a shock, and they are less likely to survive.
In our second section, we planted a couple tomato plants, a variety of bell peppers, two milk weed plants, lemon basil, lemon grass, and a couple other flowers that didn’t quite survive the transition from the carport to the dirt.
We had a problem with aphids living on our milk weed plants. We used banana peels to ward them off, which seemed to work relatively well. We didn’t see any monarchs or chrysalises this year – but are going to keep planting and try again!
The third section of our garden was planted in August, coming into the fall season. We again bought plants from the Louisiana Tech Greenhouse and used our composting material to create the rows.
We planted more tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, Joi Choi, and a variety of kale and collar greens.
In this section, we noticed that some seeds we had in the compost (maybe from watermelon or cantaloupe) started to sprout in the rows alongside the other plants. We removed some of them, but decided to let the others go to see how they would do.
Later in the month of August we started seeing caterpillars eating away at our leafy greens. We were attempting to not use pesticides, so we went out every morning, noon, and evening to pick off any caterpillars we found. It was a nice surprise to see a parasitic wasp flying about and carry off a caterpillar it found – nature doing it’s job!
Summer & Spring wrap up:
I think we could be better with our composting. Right now we don’t churn our compost, and I would like to start doing that, as well as add in some earth worms to speed up the process.
We could also do better with germinating our seeds. I really wanted to do green beans again, but didn’t have the time. It was a little stressful with moving, but a crop I definitely enjoy the most!
Lastly, I wish I had a better method for keeping the lubber grasshoppers off of our plants. I have read a lot about pesticides, but we are not wanting to put any chemicals on our plants. If anyone has a suggestion for this, please leave it in the comments below.
Fall is fast approaching, and we are working on getting more of the autumn plants ready for this season. I will let you all know how we do later!
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