Although this is only my second year of gardening, I feel as though I have learned so much. I’ve made a fair number of mistakes and have learned great lessons. There are a few key practices to keep when gardening, things I didn’t realize were so very critical to having a successful and flourishing garden! Today, I’m going to share with you my top 5 things I’ve learned as a beginner gardener.
1). Consistency is KEY. That means watering at the same time every day is critical. If plants go through the heat of the day with no water in their soil, it can drastically affect their harvest size later on. Stay consistent with fertilizer- find a good one at your local nursery that doesn't have all the bad junk in it that some commercial fertilizers do. Make sure it's safe for your plants and ultimately safe for you (and your pets). Use natural methods, like diatomaceous earth, crushed egg shells, compost or even compost tea to keep pests away.
2). Get seeds started early and research when it's best to transplant them. Plant indoors in early March, when frost is still present. We planted our tomatoes in indoors in March and transplanted them outside in early May. There are some vegetables, like carrots, that don't do well when transplanted, so if you have questions, look on the back of the seed packet to find out when it's best to plant outside. Note- if starting seeds indoors, be sure to label your seedlings.. I made that mistake this year and had to wait months to find out which tomato plants were which!
3). Garden calendars are your FRIEND. It's helps you stay organize, helps you prepare and stay on top of seed sowing and important dates. Sowing and gardening should never be stressful so if you get behind, take a breath, write our your to-do list and get to work. Make sure you include sowing dates, number of seeds sown, transplant dates, ALL OF THE THINGS! If you think it could be important, write it down!
4). Don't be afraid to challenge yourself. The worst that happens is something doesn't grow. There are many factors that influence seed growth. Water, wind, sun exposure, pests and critters.. there are so many things that can affect a summer harvest. We experienced some very uncommon weather this summer and overall, our harvest took quite a hit. It's August and I am still waiting on green tomatoes to ripen. Our strawberry harvest was quite small as well. All things considered, I feel successful! We were able to expand the garden with more raised beds, which I learned how to construct by myself, we expanded the variety of produce by adding radishes, beans and corn. I also challenged myself and successfully grew tomatoes from seed! No more tomato starts for us!
5). Companion planting is a THING. Companion planting is the practice of growing certain plants alongside each other in order to boost growth, repel pests, and ultimately improve flavor/harvest. Aside from the benefits to your plants, companion planting helps to use garden space more efficiently, increasing harvest potential. Common companion plants include tomatoes and marigolds, or basil and garlic. A common trio of companion plants is corn, climbing beans and winter squash (or pumpkins). The corn grows tall, supporting the climbing beans; the squash stays low, shading the area with is big broad leaves to discourage weeds and pests; and the fast-growing beans provide a supply of nitrogen.
As the end of summer nears, I have already begun my wish list of vegetables, fruits and flowers for next year. We will be expanding our gardens once again, moving into the fields on our property and taking advantage of as much space as possible on our little farm! I'll be getting most of my seeds from Johnny's Select Seeds.
For now, we will enjoy the last few hints of summer like these fresh picked blueberries and bush beans.
-The Happy Egg