I am by no means an expert gardener; in fact at times I think I have more of a black thumb than a green one! However, over the past few years of us having a garden, I have been able to successfully grow things! Some plants were not so lucky and did not grow much, if at all, but most of what we planted did fairly well. And even though most of the garden did well, there are still several things that we need to change for this year.
After looking back at the things we did in the past and at how last years garden did, I found that there were several things we need to do differently this time:
Plan your garden space accordingly…
We tried raised garden beds for the first time last year and they worked out great for some things and not so great for other ones. The raised beds did not get as much sunlight as our big garden does, so I think that was the main reason certain plants did not do well there. But, now I know which ones to move to the big garden and which ones to keep in the beds, so I can better plan what to plant and where.
And when it comes to what I should plant this year, I now know what not to do! Last year, when we first placed those cute little seedlings in the ground, it all looked so good! Everything was spaced out nicely and there was plenty of room to get to each plant. However, plants usually do this strange thing called “grow” and then they grow and grow some more! That is ultimately the end goal of the whole gardening thing, but it makes for a very crowded space if you don’t plan accordingly…and I am speaking from experience here!
By the time things were ready to be picked, there was hardly any room to walk around or in between the plants, so we couldn’t even get to some of the fruits and vegetables without a struggle. This time we are eliminating a few of the plants that we don’t want to have again this year, moving things around and cutting back on how many of each fruit or vegetable we plant. Which leads me to the next thing we need to change…
Don’t plant too much…
I made the mistake last year of buying too many seedlings, which is why (as I stated above) I had the problem I did of too many plants all growing too close together. I bought some seedlings at a local nursery’s annual seedling sale, then what they did not have, I bought at the regular nursery.
Plus I tried planting tomato and pepper seeds inside for the first time. I honestly did not think that those would grow at all, so I made up for that assumption by buying tomato and pepper seedlings, just in case! I was wrong, and almost all of the seeds that I started indoors did grow, and that left us with a lot of seedlings! We did not know anyone who needed them and I did not want to just throw them away, so I planted them all…not a good idea! By the end of summer it had all grown so well that there was no room to get to some of the tomatoes or peppers, oops!
Another thing that contributed to our “too many fruits and vegetables” problem was that I bought a lot of different types of plants. Instead of sticking to just what I know we will eat and use, I bought new things to try, not knowing how they would do. These “experimental” plants were not a waste of time per se, but they did take up space in the garden; space we didn’t have to spare. But, now I know what doesn’t work well for us and what not to buy this year, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss!
And since I know what we are going to plant this year, I can start some of the seeds indoors to avoid having to buy them as seedlings, which I wish I would have done last year.
Start seeds indoors…
I did start tomato and pepper seeds inside last year, but I fully expected them not to grow! However, they did grow, which as I said above, led to an overabundance of plants all crowded together in our garden. This year I decided to try starting seeds inside again, but I put more thought into this time. I only planted what I knew we would enjoy and would like a large amount of, if all of the seeds happened to grow well. So right now we already have herbs, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin, pepper and tomato seedlings growing like crazy. We will probably have enough to give some away too, since they won’t all fit in our garden (as I now know!).
I bought a lot of our plants as seedlings last year and it got a bit pricey. To get the variety we wanted, we had to buy most of the seedlings in packs of six, even though we didn’t need that many of some of the plants. This meant that we spent more money than we wanted to and had more plants than we needed. I wasn’t too thrilled about making that mistake again, so this year I knew that we would try our hand at starting the plants inside.
I knew that it would be cheaper to do it this way (if it worked!) and if it didn’t work we could always go back to the nursery and buy our plants there again. But I am hopefully that our little seedlings will continue to grow into plants that we can transplant into our well planned out garden! If anything it will be a good learning experience for me and a fun homeschool science activity for my kids!
There is always something new to learn…
I know that when it comes to gardening I still have a lot to learn. I also know that there is no way for me to learn everything I want to, all in one gardening season. So, I have been learning about a few different aspects here and there and trying different things to see what works and what doesn’t. Eventually I will have a better grasp of this whole gardening thing, but I know it will take time…and patience (that’s the tricky part!).
Besides learning more about the different aspects of planning, planting and maintaining a garden, I really hope to be brave enough this year to learn how to do canning. I know it may sound silly, but I am super nervous about trying it! I don’t want to mess anything up and make people sick when it comes time to eat what I have canned. I usually freeze whatever I want to preserve, but not everything lends itself to freezing. So, I think it’s time to face my fears and try preserving things by canning; wish me luck!
I know that I have a lot to learn, but I am excited to see how our garden this year compares to last years garden with the changes I plan to make. I have made some mistakes in the past, but they were a good learning experience and helped me to realize what I need to do differently this year. Now it’s time to get the garden ready for all of the wonderful fruits and vegetables that will (hopefully!) be growing soon! Do you have any good gardening advice for a beginner like me?!