Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Waste Not Wednesday: Tips on How to NOT FAIL at Gardening


Remember when I was readying my land last year for my very first garden?

And remember when I broke my New Year's Resolution and stopped blogging so I could do more real-life garden?


Turns out I'm a terrible gardener.

That's not to say we didn't get anything from the garden.  We had a lovely "crop" of rhubarb, some spinach, beans, a surprising "I-didn't-know-I-planted-these" bunch of baby carrots, a selection of herbs, some plump tomatoes, and tiny-not-so-yummy radishes that refused to grow.

It doesn't sound too bad, right?

No really.  It was.

But that's not to say I didn't learn anything, and it's not to say I won't try-try-again.  I will, and I intend to do much better next year armed with what I know.

Here -- for your benefit as well as mine -- are a few tips on how to NOT FAIL at gardening (in order to garden better):

Tip 1:  Start Small
What I mean by this is don't plant every single vegetable you love (oh broccoli rabe??  Sure!  Argula?  Sure!  Every-other-type-of-vegetable-known-to-mankind?  SURE!!).  This did not work out for me.  I honestly forgot what I planted and had no idea what the seedlings were supposed to look like (and thus, did not know what exactly to "weed" out of my garden).

Instead, start in pots.  Next year, I plan on forgoing the plot of land in favor of pots.  This way, I will know what I'm growing and won't have very much trouble with weeds. 

I also plan to choose only a few vegetables to grow.  For me, this means starting with simple things like squash, tomatoes, and beans (NOT broccoli rabe).  And don't take advice on "easy things to grow" from seasoned gardeners.  Actually do some research and find out what grows without much help (tomatoes are awesome for this, although my tomato plant morphed into some sort of scarecrow that wanted to eat the rest of my garden, so I'd imagine it takes some pruning).

Tip 2: Choose Your Plot WISELY 
In other words, don't share your plot with the ivy. 

There were so many places in my yard that I thought were opportune spots to have a garden. But it was more of a "wouldn't that be nice," kinda thing, instead of a practical decision.

The first intended plot was full of deep roots (small trees) that were impossible to get out because they are sharing land with my neighbor (and thus, getting the roots up would be uprooting the fence as well).  My husband also pointed out the area didn't get sunlight for half of the day (that boy is so smart).

Together, we decided on a patch of land at the end of our driveway.  It would get plenty of sunlight and there was ample space -- as long as I cleared it out.  In my gardening naivety, I completely overlooked the brutal reality that ivy grows over and on anything (can we eat ivy??  Because that would make gardening so much simpler).  Since it was a newly cleared spot, I was also battling to keep the space free from weeds.  It was the opposite of fun and enjoyable.  It was strenuous and bothersome.

Tip 3: Know Thyself
In my heart, I want to be a gardener and feed my family mainly from the veggies grown on our property.  In reality, I didn't know what that would require.  I should have really sat down and asked myself: How much time am I willing to commit to this garden?  What things do I LOVE doing, and what things do I HATE doing?  How much will we be traveling?

If I had answered those questions, then I probably would have started smaller (oh hey!  That's tip #1!).

Instead, I found out:
  • I hate weeding.
  • We have terrible mosquitoes and so gardening/weeding requires bug spray and a shower.
  • I hate bug spray and taking an extra shower a day.
  • The only time available was when Gwen went to sleep at 6pm, and that's when the bugs are the worst.
  • That's also when I'm really tired and need to stop doing chores.
  • Gardening became a chore.
  • We were gone a lot of the summer so it was difficult to tend to my plants.
I seriously wish I would have considered these things before plunging into a major gardening endeavor.

Tip 4: Herb Gardens Were Meant for Windowsills
In the front of the house?  Not so much.

Dudes, I can't believe how silly I am.  I thought an herb garden would be lovely and convenient in front of our home.  Totally should have gone with mums.

If you plant an herb garden in the wrong place, it can easily be mistaken for part of your lawn.  It just looks messy and unkempt.  It also becomes increasingly difficult to find herbs, figure out what the herbs are, and weed.  It's virtually impossible to weed an herb garden without uprooting the herbs.

Next year: I'm going with a boxed herb garden!

On the plus side, I somehow ended up with carrots in the herb garden.  

How did that happen?

Tip 5: Don't Give Up
I was very tempted to throw in the towel and say that I'm just not cut out for gardening, but then I realized that was the wrong attitude.  I learned something this summer, and that will help me do better next summer.  It wasn't completely a bust -- we even got to eat a couple of things!

So if at first you don't succeed, figure out where exactly the success faltered and just modify it.  

Or if you really hate gardening, find a great CSA in your area.

In the meantime...

RIP Simko Garden #1
  • Do you have any amusing gardening stories?  I'd love to hear them!
  • What are your tips for the novice gardener?
  • What was your best success with gardening? 
This post was submitted as a part of Your Green Resource.  Check it out!

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