I have met many people who would love to get started in the vast world of gardening, but they fear the unknown or the commitment. And I get it. Somedays, it is hard enough to keep enough water and food in our own bodies, much less, monitor the water, soil and sunlight of varying plants surrounding us. However, I fully believe that EVERYONE can handle and for the sake of their physical, mental and emotional health, should handle a certain amount of greenery in their lives.
So, today I want to encourage those who are rearing to jump into the gardening world, and inspire those who are still a little hesitant.
Here are my quick and easy tips as you start to grow yourself a green thumb. 🙂
Put your plants or garden in zone one, with easy access to sunlight.
In Permaculture design, which I explain in greater detail here, we refer to our various landscapes and living areas as zones. If you are not in the habit of taking care of a garden, I always recommend starting in zone one. Zone one is the place you live in the most. It is where you eat, sleep, use the bathroom, etc. Some people can include outside space as part of zone 1, but only if you walk by or to that place on a daily basis. If you can avoid seeing your plants for an entire day, they are not in zone one.
Therefore, I recommend putting your plants or garden in a place that you cannot miss. You should see your plants everyday, and it should be almost impossible to forget about them, because they are always in your vicinity.
Some examples of good places would be your kitchen counter, your kitchen window, your bedroom window, by your front door, by your mailbox, by the side of the house, or on your way to feed animals (if you do that everyday :)), etc. Any place you plan to see or walk by everyday, is a good place to start your gardening experience.
Time of Year:
In addition to placement, you will want to consider your living conditions. If you live in a very dry region, you should consider starting with plants that thrive on less water, like melons, tomatillos, or sweet potatoes. Some moreokant ideas explained in this list by Jesse Vernon Trail. If you live in the Midwest, you will need to start your garden indoors or purchase mature plants when starting your garden. Arizona’s growing season will be much different than Wisconsin. So, reach out to local nurseries or farmer’s markets and seek guidance about your area of the country. Often, local libraries have classes or great resources in this area!
Whether you are starting with just a few plants in your windowsill or a full 8X12 garden bed, you should consider the herbs and vegetables you already cook with. Don’t plant crazy varieties of squash that you have no experience using. Save the experimental plants for when you are feeling more adjusted and savvy in the plant care-taking world. Start with the basics. Look at the foods you eat and make a list of what you use. Maybe plant some cilantro, some rosemary, basil, tomatoes, kale, cucumbers, beans, and snap peas. Try to avoid too much variety and get good at growing the foods you already use.
Serve the Soil:
Compost & Mulch (Potting soil is not enough!!)
Living soil is filled with decaying organic material in a symbiotic relationship of bacteria and fungi. You need to cultivate this. As my husband would say, you need to have a ‘passion for the soil, you are either destroying it or nurturing it.’ Of course, you could get your soil tested and seek out a perfect PH balance, but for those of us who are just dabbling in the gardening world, we won’t worry about that!!
For beginners, I recommend getting organic potting soil and starting a compost bin or seeking out manure. The 3 types of manure that would be great fertilizer are rabbit, goat/sheep, or worm. I know that putting “poop” in our garden doesn’t seem super appetizing, but our soil needs this active nutrition! God made a perfect design!
In many cases, you will probably need to purchase fertilizer, however, if you are interested in creating your own with composting methods, you can check out my blog on doing a super easy worm compost, called vermiculture. Or look at this blog, by the Eden Project, which lays out some easy to follow composting guidelines. 🙂
In addition to composting within the soil, you also need to protect the soil with mulch. You can use a variety of options for mulching, and get more specific help with that area in this blog all about mulch! The best part about mulch, is you will rarely need to weed your garden. Weeding can be a turn off for new gardeners, so don’t fear, mulch is here!
When you are getting started in the growing world, it is important to approach it like a classroom. You are getting an education from the soil and the plants. So, take notes.
How do the plants look as they grow? When did you water them and how much? Did you use compost or not?
Create a plant calendar. Mark the days you planted, the days you mulched, the days you watered and composted, and the day(s) you started to harvest your goods!
Hopefully, some of these tips will simplify the gardening world to those who are interested. Overall, don’t be intimidated! You can literally NOT GO WRONG. Let’s just say you spend time and energy planting and your harvest is unsuccessful, you still spent time working with nature and most likely, learning from the experience. Anytime you are working with the earth and learning new skills, your time is well spent. I have had many moments of learning in my gardening career, and I have SO FAR to go! So, take a deep breath, put on your sun hat, grab some seeds, and get your hands dirty!
And MOST IMPORTANTLY, remember that God created all seeds and plants. So, when you plant, pray over your garden/potter and let the miracles happen!