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Gardening: Basic Tips For Getting Started

Even though we are in the beginning of autumn, now is a good time to plan your spring garden. With only 2 successful gardens under my belt, I know that I'm not as experienced as others, but I have already learned so much and wanted to share with you some tips that helped me get started.

Start small. Once I decided that I wanted to garden, I imagined tilling up about an acre of land and growing rows and rows of all of my family's favorite fruits and vegetables. But let's get real-- how would I know that it would work for me? What if I killed all of it? What if it was too much work with my lack of knowledge and availability? What if *gasp* I didn't like doing it? The answer was to start on a small scale. So, my Caveman used a talent that we didn't know he had, and he built me a raised bed. We filled the bed with dirt from my father-in-law's cow field, and with some mushroom compost that we purchased from a local nursery; then we planted! Believe it or not, we grew a lot of food in this 4x8 bed. That brings me to my next tip...


Grow what you and your family like to eat. There are heirloom varieties that I would like to try to grow in the 2014 gardening season that I've never eaten before, but last season was our first "learning" year and we didn't want to waste any of our bed space on foods that we weren't familiar with, so we planted foods that we loved: bell peppers, yellow summer crookneck squash, okra, onions, jalapenos, and 4 different kinds of tomatoes. From 2 squash plants, we had more than enough squash for my family of 4 to eat. I learned how to can so I could preserve the abundance of tomatoes that came from the 4 plants that we had. We still have a gallon sized freezer bag full of jalapenos from that garden in our freezer! Don't feel like by starting small, you won't grow enough to enjoy. I promise, that is not the case.


Onion sprout
Seek the advice of experienced gardeners in your area.  I've read a lot of blogs, articles, and books regarding gardening basics, but the most helpful advice that I have gotten have come from people that I know personally. These people have experience gardening in my type of soil, battling the same pests, and growing the same veggies. It seemed that a lot of by-the-book type gardening writers wanted me to test this, buy that, fertilize with this, and till with that. I just wanted to grow veggies, for crying in the mud. After talking to my friends and family, I realized that some of these resources were just overwhelming me and making me feel like it might not be worth the hassle-- I'm glad they let me know that wasn't the case. I enjoy gardening, and have come to rely on it as a major food source for my family and I.

Journal what you learn. Be sure to record what works and what doesn't work for you. Keep up with what kinds of fruits and veggies you have grown. Do you want to grow more or less of them next year? Do you want to try an entirely different variety? What pests did you see and how did you take care of them? Here are some things that I journaled: For ants, they don't really hurt anything, but sprinkle cornmeal around the bed. For squash bugs and eggs, squish them with your fingers--wear gloves. For ladybugs, leave them be; they eat the aphids. For aphids, spray them off with a water hose and spray the plants down in an oil/water/dish liquid solution. Don't plant jalapenos and bell peppers close together. I also made note of when I started to see sprouts and produce so I would know when to expect them for the next season. Okra really sneaks up on ya! One day it's just a nub, two days later it's huge and too tough to eat. Trust me, that's a gold nugget of info...

Squash bug eggs- 2012
  
Enjoy yourself and take it one learning experience at a time. I realized quickly that there is a lot to learn about gardening, but you don't have to know it all at once. You know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. My first year, I just wanted to see if I could grow it. I could and I did! This year, I wanted to grow on a larger scale, expand my variety of produce, and concentrate on organic pest control. I did! Right now, I'm learning about companion planting, composting, and the ins and outs of encouraging a good soil environment; I also plan to add more heirloom varieties to the garden. My hope is that with each new gardening season, I can grow more as a gardener, not just what's in the garden. Know what I mean?

As I was preparing to have my first garden, I was nervous about doing it just right. I was asking anyone I knew that had gardened every question that came to mind. Finally, a friend of ours made this statement that helped me more than anything. He said, "Tangi, if it was anymore complicated than just sticking the seed in the dirt and letting it do it's thing, I don't think I could do it." Now, Mr. Lance Moore is a talented man and is no simpleton, but that statement was an eyeopener and a nerve-calmer for me. I hope that in my chatty way, I have conveyed the same to you. Just give it a try. You might surprise yourself.

Here are a few more pictures of my first garden.
Raised Bed- 2012
Squash- 2012

Okra-2012


Our first squash!
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below, and I will do my best to answer or find out for you-- and please feel free to share your own tips!
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