hey all, this has been our first year of keeping a garden of substantial size. the whole effort has been mostly trial and error for me since i’m not as good at reading and researching as i am at jumping in and making mistakes that i learn from in retrospection. i’ve been following Five Little Homesteaders for a while because homesteading is one of the many lifestyles on which i have a crush, which is silly for me since many of you know my ultimate dream is to be roamer, an anywhere-goer. BUT as long as i’m in one spot i’ll be growing things! i’ve asked Colleen to write a guest post on tips for first time gardeners. i have to say that by reading just this post i’ve learned a lot so maybe becoming book smart on something first does have its benefits. i hope this helps give some of you a little direction as well. enjoy!
I was thrilled when Elaine asked me to guest post here on MomJeanz. I’ve been inspired by her zero waste efforts and love reading about the latest happenings with her little cutie Darla. Today I’m going to be talking about gardening.
If you check out my blog, Five Little Homesteaders, you’ll see that gardening is something near and dear to my heart. We’ve expanded on our garden each year and hope to eventually produce all of the vegetables that we need. However, I realize that for many people, gardening isn’t second nature and in fact, some people just don’t know where to start. In this post, I’m going to attempt to reduce the trepidation that some beginners feel when approaching the idea of starting a garden and I’ll reduce everything there is to know about gardening to 5 simple tips: soil, start from seed, harden off, fertilize and protect.
1. Soil – Soil condition is one of the most important things to consider when starting your garden. Will you be able to grow right in the ground? For some lucky people, the soil in their yard is rich and ready to go, but for most of us, we have to either amend the soil (i.e. add compost and other nutrients) or grow in a container. Growing in some type of container is usually the easiest route to take. You can either grow in a raised bed or simply in pots that you buy at your local hardware store. In either of these growing situations, you’ll need to buy compost and soil to fill the bed/pot. This will ensure that your plants get off to a great start.
2. Start from Seed – Sure, it is really tempting to buy plants directly from the store and stick them in the ground. However, I’ve honestly had better luck with plants that I start on my own, from seed. To begin, it is much more economical. The average pack of seeds costs anywhere from $1-$3 and will usually grow more seedlings than you could ever want in one season. The average four or six pack of seedlings will usually cost anywhere from $3-$5. Further, the seedlings that you start on your own will immediately be ready for the unique conditions that you have on your property. I always start my seeds in a small pot or reused food container and then transplant to the ground. This prevents the seed or seedling from being eaten by a passing insect and allows me to control the light and temperature that the tender plants encounter.
3. Harden Off – The process of hardening off means that you are slowly exposing your seedlings to increased light and increased (or decreased, depending on your growing conditions) temperature. You slowly increase the amount of time that you place the seedling in its designated growing location until it is spending 24 hours a day in that spot and then you transplant it. This prevents your seedlings from going through shock and potentially dying after you’ve transplanted them.
4. Fertilize – Using organic fertilizer, like fish emulsion or liquid seaweed, fertilize your plants once or twice a week after you transplant them. I’ve found that if I fertilize my plants shortly after transplanting them to the ground, I don’t have to fertilize them at all later on and that they get off to a very strong start.
5. Protect – When you plant your seedlings, even after hardening them off, be sure to protect them. What you are protecting them from depends on where you live. Some gardens have vicious pests that will go after newly transplanted seedlings. In some regions early morning temperatures still dip down to near freezing. If you live near me in Phoenix, the harsh afternoon sun can fry a newly planted seedling. Be sure to know your environment and protect your new little babies from whatever nature can throw at them. When they are bigger and stronger you can worry less and ease up.
Getting your plants off to a good start is the key to success. Much like child-rearing, if you give your plants a good basis of support and nourishment, you’ll set them up to take-off and produce well in your garden.
~hello, it’s elaine again. well, i don’t know about you but i learned a whole lot in there. stop on over to Colleen’s little bit of the internet often to continue learning from her life experience. happy growing!