Part of the problem with having a food/gardening blog around for nearly five years is that you start to forget what you’ve already posted about. This is especially true with food and gardening because, in all likelihood, your own grandmother or great-grandmother has more to teach you than I do. But I’ll keep trying just for the heck of it! If you’re new here, check out some of these past posts on gardening to get you started.
Grant and I have been doing some planning of our own, so I thought I would share that here, as well as some links and tips that I recommend for beginner gardeners. Even though we have a few years of gardening under our belts, we still feel like beginners in many ways. And, as I tell our Project Eden gardeners, the best thing about gardening is how much new stuff you learn each year, whether this is your first year gardening or your fortieth.
I love lists, so here are my top five tips for beginner gardeners:
- Just plant something. Even if all you have the time, space, or energy for is one small pot in the windowsill, just do it. Plant a bush bean from seed (so easy) or a compact tomato plant or a jalapeno pepper. Here is a helpful guide to help you decide when and how you should plant various plants depending on where you live. Just plant something!
- Start small. Gardening is so simple: put a seed/plant in some dirt in a sunny spot and water it every once in a while. But it can also get quite complicated, especially when you start reading what all of the “experts” say. So keep it simple. Plant just one or two things this year and see how that goes. Add to it next year, and the next.
- Get your kids (or neighbors/nieces and nephews/grand kids) involved. Our five-year-old and nearly three-year-old help us plant, water, and weed. The kale seeds Maeve planted last year came up all in one giant mound all together, and Jasper still isn’t very good about knowing the difference between a bean plant and a weed. So I won’t promise that the kiddos will do the gardening thing well, but that’s one of my favorite things about gardening: you can’t really screw it up completely. Our kiddos will try anything that comes out of the garden, so there’s that too.
- Plant stuff that you like to eat. Now that we’re a little more experienced at the gardening thing, we venture out and plant some crazy varieties of stuff, but in the beginning, you need some confidence, so plant what you know that your family will eat. Here are some easy varieties to start off with. Direct sown seeds are seeds that you plant directly in the ground versus transplants that need a head start indoors before transplanting to the garden – you can start transplants yourself or you can buy them (see my posts on starting seeds for more details). For beginners, I’d recommend buying tomato and pepper transplants.
- Cool-season direct sown seeds include: peas, lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, seed potatoes, onion sets
- Warm-season direct sown seeds include: beans, pumpkins, summer squash, and cucumbers
- Cool-season transplants typically include: broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower
- Warm-season transplants typically include: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and melons
- Ask questions (or Google). Gardener types love to talk gardening, so make friends with one and ask for their advice. Or if you’d rather not, just Google your questions. There is so much (free and decent) information out on the interwebs (stick with the more well-known sources if you’re nervous, like Organic Gardening, Vegetable Gardener, or Urban Farmer’s Garden Guides). Some helpful posts to get you started:
- An explanation of all those terms on your seed packets – what they mean and why they’re important
- The most important part of any garden is the soil. I would recommend that you test your soil first if at all possible. Here are some tips for prepping your soil.
- Once you’ve prepped your soil, you’ll want to keep it healthy. Check out some composting basics, these DIY compost bins or call Keith at Castaway Compost (and tell him I sent you!).
- Comment below with any questions, and I’ll do my best to get you the answers! There is no dumb question!
More Veteran Gardeners
Here’s my top five list for the more seasoned gardeners reading:
- Find a new gardener and help them get started. I know this requires a bit more work, but helping equip new gardeners is a great way to learn for yourself and recapture the excitement of gardening (if you’ve lost it). Gardening is revolutionary act, so the more people you can help get sucked into, the better off we all are. If you’re looking for a new gardener to partner with, check out the Project Eden Gardens!
- Plant something new that you haven’t tried before. Check out my 2015 seed post for some ideas. We’re trying some perennial fruits this year, which we haven’t done much of in the past. Trying something new keeps things fresh and challenging.
- Keep learning. Check out a gardening or permaculture book from the library. Attend a local gardening workshop. Grant and I love this guy’s videos – he has stuff for the beginner gardener to the most experienced. He is so fun and motivating to watch, and we learn all sorts of new stuff every time we check out one of his videos.
- Expand your gardens or sign up for a community garden. We are adding another beds to the gardens in our backyard, but we don’t have much more room to grow and still have good sunlight. So we’re signed up for a plot at the Project Eden Gardens just to be able to grow more stuff.
- Extend the season. This is something, every year, that we say we’ll do better. We would like to try a DIY hoop house this year so that we can start earlier and keep gardening later in the season. We do have some tomato Walls of Water that helped our tomato plants get bigger faster last season. Some other ideas:
Now it’s your turn – share your tips for beginners and veterans alike in the comments!