Gardening For Amateurs

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Gardening For AmateursA few years ago, I decided to try a garden with my kids. I had zero gardening experience and had wanted to do it but kept putting it off because it felt too daunting.

Here are a few things that I have learned along the way:

1. Choose your gardening spot.

Walk around your yard and decide where the best spot is to plant your garden. A garden is similar to real estate — it’s all about location. You want a spot that gets a lot of sun and not too much shade. We chose the back corner of our yard. 

2. Choose your container.

We decided to build simple rectangular gardening boxes. If your outdoor space is limited, there are many wonderful options of tiered gardening containers or pots you could use on your deck or patio. The options are truly limitless.

3. Choose your plants.

Choose food that you know your family will eat. We like to plant vegetables and flowers. We also allow the kids to choose a few things of their own. I make a list of what we would like to plant and do a quick Google search on basic needs of that plant and decide if it’s attainable for us. 

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

I love to go to a nursery rather than a big box store because in my experience they are much more knowledgeable. I generally have a few questions and hopefully can find an employee to chat with and they can direct me to a particular soil, etc. my plants might need. 

5. Start small.

The first year, we planted about three things in our garden and have added to it each year. Don’t be afraid to fail; just learn from what may have gone wrong and try to correct it for next year. For example, I really wanted to grow strawberries and tried and failed for three years. This year, I gave them up and realized they require more attention than I can give in this season of my life.

6. Call a friend/relative with gardening experience.

I reach out to my grandma each spring because she has a wealth of information when it comes to plants. Her #1 tip is to plant a purple flower near your food. She says that all purple plants are great for pollinating fruits and vegetables. I always choose Salvia because they attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Another fun thing she has taught me is to let a few store bought potatoes go bad and watch for them to grow sprouts or “eyes.” Once a few potatoes have grown sprouts, cut them off with about an inch diameter all around it. Plant them with the sprouts facing up, in a hole about four inches deep, and cover with soil. When the tops of the vines or the flowers have died, the potatoes are ready to be dug up. This usually takes 2-3 months. We have done this the last few years and have successfully harvested potatoes each year!

7. Include your kids in the process.

If kids feel invested in the decision making, they will be much more likely to join in with caring for the garden. My kids love to check on the garden and have come inside on more than one occasion chomping on lettuce or cucumbers. There is something so gratifying about getting fresh food for dinner from your garden. Kids are a great motivator for trying new things and can honestly say it’s been so rewarding to learn together alongside them.

This year we chose lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkin, Dahlia, Salvia, and blueberry bushes! Research taught me that blueberry bushes need to be planted in pairs or even sets of three because they need to cross pollinate one another. I am so excited to hopefully produce blueberries in the years to come.

Just for fun, here is my favorite recipe to make with fresh tomatoes from the garden. Who doesn’t love a good bruschetta with yummy bread? Plus, your friends and family will think it’s a fancy addition to your dinner when in reality, it is so easy to make.

Bruschetta:

2-3 large tomatoes, diced

1/2 chopped onion

2 tablespoons fresh or dried basil

Sea salt (add this to your liking, I usually do approx 1 tbsp)

Add all ingredients together, stir, and refrigerate. This is best served one hour after making to allow all the flavors to combine. Serve on your favorite Italian or garlic bread with oil or Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

I hope you can find the confidence to jump into gardening with both feet and learn as you go — I promise you won’t regret it! 

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