My friend and neighbor, Sara Sterley, shared this helpful guide to gardening basics last year and I want to revisit it this summer as we prepare to move to a new home with a flourishing vegetable garden! Her green thumb can help my muddled one maintain the beautiful garden I will be responsible for. I am sure the plants are very nervous! Her knowledge and expertise of seasonal eating, preserving, and sustainable living is beyond valuable! Visit her website, www.sarabytheseason.com for amazing tips and recipes and be sure to take the time to enjoy some "real food" this summer! You can find additional resources on this amazing blog...http://gracegarden.wordpress.com
by Sara Sterley
I’ve been one of those tree-hugger hippy types for as long as I can remember. I made my parents compost our kitchen scraps growing up, I go around collecting recyclables from trash cans, and I cringe at the sight of plastic water bottles. I’m a woman of many causes. My friends know better than to get me started, and my poor husband will definitely be rewarded with a very special gold star upon entering Heaven for putting up with me.
But, really, the one thing that I think every single person should do is to plant a garden. It doesn’t take much, but growing even one tomato plant’s worth of your own food is a truly revolutionary act if you care about preserving and conserving this Earth for your children. You don’t want to miss out on a chance to be a rebel, right?
So, because I love lists, here my top five tips for beginner gardeners:
- Just plant something. Even if all you have the time, space, or energy for is one small pot in the windowsill, just do it. Plant a bush bean from seed (so easy) or a compact tomato plant or a jalapeno pepper. Here is a helpful guide to help you decide when and how you should plant various plants in Indiana. Check your local extension office if you’re outside of Indiana. Just plant something!
- Start small. Gardening is so simple: put a seed/plant in some dirt in a sunny spot and water it every once in a while. But it can also get quite complicated, especially when you start reading what all of the “experts” say. So keep it simple. Plant just one thing this year and see how that goes. Add to it next year, and the next.
- Get your kids involved. Our three-year-old helps us plant, water, and weed. The kale seeds he planted came up all in one giant mound all together, and yesterday he pulled a bean plant that he thought was a weed. So I want promise that the kiddos will do the gardening thing well, but that’s one of my favorite things about gardening: you can’t really screw it up completely. Our little guy will try anything that comes out of the garden, so there’s that too.
- Plant stuff that you like to eat. Now that we’re a little more experienced at the gardening thing, we venture out and plant some crazy varieties of stuff, but in the beginning, you need some confidence, so plant what you know that your family will eat. Here are some easy varieties to start off with. For beginners, I’d recommend buying tomato and pepper plants, especially at this point in the season.
- Ask questions (or Google). Gardener types love to talk gardening, so make friends with one and ask for their advice. Or if you’d rather not, just Google your questions. There is so much (free and decent) information out on the interwebs (stick with the more well-known sources if you’re nervous, like Organic Gardening, Vegetable Gardener, or BHG).
I hope you’re motivated to just plant one thing this year – it’s not too late. My favorite writer is Wendell Berry (read everything he has ever written), and I’ll leave you with his far more eloquent words:
"A person who undertakes to grow a garden at home, by practices that will preserve rather than exploit the economy of the soil, has set his mind decisively against what is wrong with us. He is helping himself in a way that dignifies him and is rich in meaning and pleasure. But he is doing something else that is more important; He is making vital the contact with the soil and the weather on which his life depends. He will no longer look upon rain as a traffic impediment, or upon the sun as a holiday decoration."
Guest Blog by Sara Sterley