Gardening Novice


My ancestors were German farmers, but somewhere along the way the green thumb gene got spliced out of me.  Despite enjoying an abundance of homegrown green peppers, squash, and tomatoes in my youth, I never seriously shadowed my grandparents nor my mother in the garden.

My youthful experience gardening involved one sad attempt at growing carrots from seedlings, an endeavor so fraught with impatience I harvested little orange worms (they do not deserve to be called carrots) no bigger than a pinky toe.  I hung up the trowel and spade after that attempt, and determined that all of my future vegetables would be store bought and enjoy endless refrigeration in a yard-free condominium.

However, each summer as the sun grows warm I miss the fresh taste of garden tomatoes.  I also, inexplicably, long to get dirt beneath my nails. I have recently become very aware of sourcing food locally, and it seems to me there is no better local source than my own backyard.

There have been many stumbling blocks to garden domination.

1. Soil. It turns out that soil is very important to the success of your garden.  Too dense (like the clay-like mud of our yard) and plants don’t have room to grow or absorb nutrients. Too loose (loamy) and the beds won’t retain sufficient amounts of water leaving your plants thirsty.  Talk to your local nursery about the local soil.  My guy was very helpful in setting me up with some soil to supplement and loosen up our existing dirt.  If you are looking for a cheaper, more green alternative to purchasing soil from a nursery composting is a good option.  We got a late start on it this year and therefore went the lazy route, but I am eager to use compost in our garden next year.

2. Space.  While I did not end up in the full-service penthouse condominium of my dreams, our yard still presents special challenges.  We’ve opted to use square foot gardening techniques to organize our garden.  Some plants will take up a single square foot of space, and other plants like the zucchini take up four or more spaces on the grid. Since most of our seedlings started out the same size, using this square foot method helped ensure we buffered each plant with enough room to grow.

Additionally we are experimenting with other space savers like vertical gardening and upside down planters.  So far we have had mixed success due in part to poor planning (Who knew the garage cast that large of a shadow in the afternoon while we are work?), but ultimately we look to have an interesting and robust crop coming.

3. Cost. Free vegetables aren’t free.  We thunked down a healthy amount of start-up cash to get our garden going.  Lumber for raised beds, soil, and even the seeds and plants themselves set us back a little more than we anticipated.  However we built the garden for longevity and hope to reduce our costs next year.  Additionally. we have taken the garden beyond just the edibles and taken tips from to improve our landscaping to reduce home energy costs. Ultimately, knowing exactly where our food is coming from carries more value than the few extra dollars invested this year.

I am excited to see if I have reclaimed my heritage come harvest.  I hold out hope that if I squint at in the right light (and rub some freshly cut grass on it) my thumb will reflect a healthy green hue.

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