Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A couple's first gardening experience

 Crossroads Garden Club welcomed one of our members, Dianne Carnicom and her husband Mike as speakers for our August meeting. Dianne and Mike planted their first vegetable garden in the spring and summer of 2013 and we were very curious to learn what kind of experience it was for them.

Sometimes new gardeners hit a wall on their first attempt and we were treated to an open and honest evaluation of what it takes--mentally, emotionally and physically to begin a fairly arduous task and see it to the end of the growing season.

The Carnicoms, longtime residents of Coweta County's Thomas Crossroads area had limited space for gardening. Their subdivision didn't prohibit growing a garden but they didn't know if they had the room or if their soil would yield enough to make gardening worthwhile. After researching the possibilities, the couple chose to make raised beds in their back yard.

They felt because of the limited space and not much experience, the raised bed method would create less work since there would be no tilling, and better soil and weed control. In their research on the internet and from long-time gardening neighbor, Wilma Smith, they felt the yield would be greater and it would fit in better with their lifestyle. Mike, a manager with the FAA and Dianne, a substitute teacher at Woodward Academy, decided to plant some of their favorites including tomatoes, squash, okra, beans and sugar snap peas.

The Carnicoms chose to build their beds from composite deck materials with end posts covered with copper caps. Underneath they laid down a weed barrier and they were ready to begin.

Seeds were purchased in early March and they started tomatoes in individual containers, inside. While the tomatoes were growing, they worked to fill the beds with a mixture of Miracle Grow Potting Soil, Black Hen Compost and peat moss, purchased from a garden supply store. Into this mixture, they planted their seeds and plants.

Their neighbor, Wilma Smith gave them encouragement and later furnished bamboo poles from Smith's bamboo “forest” to stake the beans and peas.

As the plants grew, the Carnicoms were surprised when the squash plants seemed to outgrow the containers in which they were planted. In the center of the squash, okra seeds had also been planted and the squash plants grew so large, they had to remove the okra to a different planter.

The Carnicoms had a similar situation with their tomatoes and though they didn't move them to create more room, found their size created problems when staking and tending the plants. They soon found their beds overflowing with large beautiful plants and were both elated and surprised with the results.

Dianne said that Mike would go out each afternoons after work to coax the peas and beans up the trellises and though the peas needed some help, trellis-climbing was not a problem for the beans. They naturally found the stakes and easily grew up and over the trellis.

When the weather warmed up, the okra soon began growing and according to the Carnicoms, turned into trees.

As the couple began to evaluate their harvest, they noted the peas were okay, the squash were amazing, the green beans were good, the tomatoes were great and the okra did well after they were provided with their own bed.

Pests were controlled with liquid Sevin and some of the tomatoes developed blossom end rot which was controlled by spraying with a commercial end rot spray. Also, tomato vines would have probably grown better had they used cages to keep the limbs and tomatoes from touching the ground.

The Carnicoms felt the soil composition, bed size and trellis structure worked for them. This year they really didn't have to do much watering, but the open-bottomed beds aided in drainage and the location of the beds, in full sun, helped the plants to produce. They would definitely plant the okra later and in a separate bed and reduce the density of the tomato plants. If they had read the seed packets carefully, they would have noted the size of the mature plant, using this information to prevent some of the overcrowding.

In the final analysis, they would plan a little more, read the seed packages and make larger beds for their squash. Overall, the experience was very good and they will definitely plant a raised-bed garden again next year. They even have a garden addition, a "See Rock City" birdhouse. Mike said no southern garden should be without one. They bought it on a recent trip to Chattanooga.

As our club listened to their presentation, we loved their enthusiastic presentation and were inspired by their skill in adding the stylish copper caps to their boxes. We also admired the organizational techniques they used, like attaching the plant information in plastic bags to each garden box. Of course, we salute them for taking on the large task and succeeding with such enthusiasm.

It was a great presentation and we look forward to hearing what they will do next year.

Crossroads Garden Club meets on the 4th Monday night of each month, except December at 7:00 pm at 3072 Highway 154, Newnan, Ga. For more information email or We would also appreciate it if you would like us on Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Deberah! Looks like Dianne and Mike made a lot of progress, I find this very encouraging and inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing, love your blog, Joanie