I started gardening during Covid lockdown, like many of you did. Fortunately this was just a new hobby to pass the time - as I live in a small community and had consistent access to a well-stocked grocery store. But I’m glad I now have some skills required to grow my own food if ever there’s a point when the produce aisle isn’t accessible.
Why start gardening?
1. To gain knowledge about sustainable food production, making you extremely valuable to your community in a hypothetical world with no access to outside resources (picture the small communities who escaped the QZ in The Last Of Us…).
2. To express your creativity and learn something new. The garden is basically an experimental lab in the great outdoors.
3. To gain an appreciation for the blemish-free veggies you pick up at the grocery store.
4. To see for yourself why industrial sized farms rely on pesticides, and how to grow without them (it requires a bit more work, but it’s definitely possible).
5. To eat better. The first bite of a sweet, ripe tomato straight from the garden will have your mouth watering for more. They’re a lot better than the ones that were picked, packed and shelved months too early.
6. To get exercise. I used to go to the gym - but I became obsessed with reps and calorie counting, etc. Then I hated the place. My substitute? Lifting pounds of soil, wheeling barrows, mowing, chopping, hammering, shoveling, squatting… call it “functional fitness.”
Gardening was never something I wanted to do, until I did it. Now it’s addicting. Coming home to a flowering, thriving gardening is one of the most fulfilling feelings I’ve had.
Not everyone has a green thumb, especially when they start. But don’t let this turn you away from it. Note your failures, and move forward.
A few things I wish someone would have told me before I started gardening:
- Plant more seeds than you’ll need, then thin out your sprouts when they begin to pop out of the earth. Don’t become attached to the baby plants. If two seeds are too close together, neither of them will have the ability to thrive.
- If you do start from seeds (which I highly recommend for educational purposes) keep them wet always. The wetter the better. Don’t be afraid of overwatering.
- Learn what grows well in your climate, but grow anything you want. It’s all an experiment.
- Buy this book and read it as you plant your seeds.
- Invest in soaker hoses and a timer, like this one here. This way you can spend more time pruning and weeding, less time watering.
- Generally, once a plant starts to fruit, you can water it less. Too much water makes for a watery fruit.
- During harvest months, check your garden EVERY day. A Zucchini that was fist-size on Monday morning can be fist-to-elbow sized Tuesday evening. Overgrown produce can get too watery.
- Gather sticks, old hangers, stakes or whatever you have to use for plant supports and trellises. This will save you room and keep your food growing up. Use zip ties or grocery bag ties to tie weak plants to supports.
- Patience. Your garden won’t look pretty at the beginning. Come October, you’ll forget the dullness of Spring-time planting.