a pittance of a first yield from our garden but i grew all these things from seed and that’s more than i’ve ever attempted before so this is going down as a success in my book. hopefully we’ll have more as the weeks roll out. if not, i’m going on the books as saying that was the best damn tasting radish anyone has ever eaten.
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!
one of the things i think darla and i share in common is that we are experiential learners. the best way for me to learn is to try my hand at something and to then take note of all my mistakes and make plans for improvements in future endeavors. i wish i could be a better direction follower and researcher but my most concrete lessons are always the ones i’ve had to teach and learn myself.
i feel this has been the biggest purpose of our larger scale garden this year. we’re learning side-by-side, a bit of unschooling for both of us. i love the fact that the gardening and planting has been something that darla has had a great deal of involvement with this time around. everything from running items to the composter, planting, watering, helping me to make a natural insecticide and even talking to the plants when they were little sproutlets in our house. i’m happy to have the help while i can before she becomes to grown-up to find the tasks fun anymore.
momma daughter field trip!
we took a field trip down to the public garden plots our neighborhood rents out to take a tour of what other folks are doing. we came a couple of times last year to look but this time we were able to talk a little more in-depth about growing techniques because both she and i have more knowledge.
i am reminded by these activities that everything is a learning experience for her right now. i am really looking forward to this summer, to get back to some of these free-wheeling learning expeditions. i’m always amazed by how much she already knows how to do for herself and i’m reminded that this learning happens from life and not from books. i pray the universe helps me remember this when conventional wisdom starts making me think that i should be pushing her into structured school and learning.
we took advantage of that one spring day this weekend to start our spring planting. i’ve never started plants from seeds before so i’m crossing my fingers and darla gave the dirt special blessings and then turned to the window and prayed for hades to let persephone go back to demeter because “we just can’t have any more winter, you know.”
we’ve been boning up on our greek mythology.
i’ve got a nice plan, packets of seeds and garden materials ready to construct once the weather is done doing its thing. i’m sending out some earthy vibes hoping this little garden of ours comes to fruition and helps us on the way to meeting some zero waste goals for the year.
1. yeah child labor! 2. repurposed egg trays 3. finally getting to use my cute herb spoons my SIL gifted me years ago 4. a nice little variety of plants, herbs and flowers on that tray.