So you want to be a gardener? Awesome! Growing your own fresh vegetables in your backyard can be very rewarding. There is nothing like walking through your garden and viewing how things have changed, and feeling the anticipation of how a certain food might turn out. There is also something so satisfying about the way a food tastes when you know it comes from your land made by your hands. There is a huge difference between ‘fresh’ at the store, and fresh from your backyard.
I have been around the growing of vegetables and other foods since I was 3 years old. It is one of my many passions and I consider myself to be quite good at it, now. Even with my parents and my neighbors gardens to get a good knowledge base of what I was doing, my first couple of attempts of gardening were marginal at best. I was growing things sure, but I was wasteful, impatient and clumsy. These tips are for the very greenest newbs to gardening. They were somehow left out of the internet when I started. Good luck.
⦁ Grow what you like
This is numero uno for all people that ask me for advice when they first start a garden. I started my garden growing zucchini and pumpkins because my mother had always grown them and I loved how they looked as they sprawled across the garden. It wasn’t until I harvested them and they sat in my fridge and rotted that I realized, “I hate zucchini!” I’ve always hated zucchini, but I grew it because I liked the idea of growing it. I wasted so much space and time and sweat and effort growing the dang things and they went in the trash. Avoid this by making a list of vegetables that you LOVE to eat and start there. Whether it be brussel sprouts or table grapes or sweet corn. Plan to grow what you love to eat, what you know you will eat. This avoids waste. It sounds like a simple no brainer, but you would be surprised how many people grow stuff that’s destined for the dumpster.
⦁ Grow what you know / Know what you grow
Starting a garden with no help but the internet and the advice of the teenager that works in the garden center at Home Depot can be daunting to say the least. Getting your feet muddy and completely changing how your yard looks can be even more daunting. Starting a plant indoors in a pot gets you acquainted with the plant itself. You can grow almost anything in a pot inside. Or outside for that matter. I know a guy who lives in an apartment building on the tenth floor that grows tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets. You can do beets to onions to pickling cucumbers. Even potatoes in larger pots. Getting something started on a small scale will get you acquainted with the amount of work it will be if or when you scale it up, and you don’t have to rent or buy a rototiller. I actually still follow this tip myself if I’m doing something like starting a new vegetable or I just want to grow something I can walk by and snag and munch on. I do this with garden green beans. So delicious.
There are mountains of books and information on the internet nowadays that will explain the different growing techniques and strategies for growing certain vegetables. If you want to grow tomatoes don’t grow them in sand. If you want to grow potatoes do use sand! Every different type of vegetable has its own style and way it will grow the best. Like, when I first started I put my tomato plants 6 inches from each other because that looked completely OK when they were just sproutlings. When they took off it was a nightmare to manage. Your veggies might need stakes, trellis, pits, mounds, rows, sand, certain fertilizers, shade, constant sun, soil high in phosphorous, well drained soil, rocky soil There are a lot of different strategies to grow any veggie. These aren’t ironclad rules, but they really help. Take the time to learn your plant and form a plan. It makes everything else so much easier.
⦁ Love your plants
I’m not a very mushy person and I don’t mean sleep by your plants and tell them your secrets. I just mean go the extra mile and commit to your investment. Vegetables that we eat today have been cultivated from other different plants and bred and bred and bred. So, like a pug that cant breathe, your vegetables are prone to fungus and insect predators, but luckily it only takes a little attention to ‘nip things in the bud’ before things get out of hand. I think you’ll also find that taking a look at your plants every other day is therapeutic and fun to do.
⦁ Organic / Heirloom / non GMO
Hang on folks I’m going to get a little snarky. In every gardening circle there’s that guy. You know the one. The guy who cant shut up about what heirloom seeds he uses. Or the lady that swears by her imported Ethiopian all organic bat dropping fertilizer. If you want to be one of these people by all means, knock yourself out. And I really mean the best to you, but if you’re a newb and you’re starting a garden just to have a little fun with the interest of eating healthy as a benefit, save yourself the migraine and don’t listen to these people. Does heirloom okra taste better than regular giant eagle okra? I don’t know, but I’ve got a better question for you: Who cares? If its grown by your hands its almost guaranteed to taste better than store bought. And you’re doing this for fun and the reward of having fresh veggies at your fingertips. Don’t add confusing topics to something that is really not very confusing at all. Seed goes in dirt, add water and sunlight, patience, eat.
Last, but certainly not least is patience. I can not tell you how many plants I have ruined by over-pruning or over aerating the ground or over-watering, harvesting too early. All mistakes that are brought on by my tremendous lack of patience. Now you might not be that person. You might be saying “Daryl, I get the cheapest most slowest delivery option on all my internet shopping. I don’t ever pass anyone on the highway. When watching youtube I never ever skip an ad!” Well, good for you. You don’t need this tip then. Most of the time plants do just fine all by themselves. Save for the occasional pruning in some cases, they really don’t need you to be out there with a stopwatch and clipboard making sure that they pass milestones. Your first couple attempts might be rocky. Don’t try to grow the worlds largest pumpkin right out of the gate. Just take it easy. Let nature take its course. In time you’ll learn when they need you and when they don’t.
Above all else have fun. And good luck!