Get Your Garden On: Lessons Learned From My First Year

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My love affair with gardening didn’t begin outdoors in the dirt but in a basement in a small rental house.  My husband and I, newly married and a bit starry eyed, took the advice of all our garden books and magazine articles we had been reading about organic vegetable gardening.  We had just moved from the city to the country and had a tiny plot of land in our backyard – big enough to accomodate the garden of our young dreams.

Anixous to get going, we decided to start our seeds indoors.  We were organized, we were getting a leg up on the growing season, and we wanted to prepared when spring rolled around.  We invested in seed starter trays, special misters that would not damamge the baby leaves of our new offspring, and grow lights that made our basement look from the outside like an alien spaceship.

This was January.  Snow on the ground, blustery temperatures outside, our baby plants warm and dry inside.  I kept a detailed gardening journal that year.  Here is a quote from my first entry:

“We couldn’t wait to get started today.  Planted 30 different types of seeds, 6 each…Hope we didn’t plant too soon.  I love it. It’s very meditative.”

And then a quote from April:

“Learned a major lesson.  One, we planted indoors way too early.  Our 300 plus plants are out of control right now.  Corn stalks are 2 feet tall and we feel too bad to get rid of them.  Luckily we are having an early spring. Next year we will plant much later and not plant things indoors that don’t need to be.” (authors note: it snowed three days later – most of those plants died from all the rain and snow. Go figure.)

I obviously learned a lot from that first year of gardening. Never grow 300 plants in your basement at one time and don’t start too early, even if you are anxious to see some green – you will have a jungle in your house in no time.  That first year, though, never deterred me or my love of gardening, which only grew bigger year after year.  It is how we learn and grow ourselves.  Mistakes made, pick yourself up, learn from the past, start over, move on.

Seventeen years of gardening later I can consider myself somewhat of an expert at organic vegetable gardening, but there are still miscalculations.  Like the year I planted 30 heads of beautiful kale that was going to be sold at the farmers market down the street.  In a weekend the whole crop was decimated by cabbage beetles having their very own kale chow down.  First rule of thumb about organic gardening: don’t plant too many of one type of plant together.  Dispersing them around your garden confuses pests. Together, they are sitting ducks.

Lesson learned.

My advice to new gardeners? Don’t ever let perfection get in your way.  I consider gardening more of an art than a science, a chance to grow and be creative.  And with a little luck you will grow that perfect head of kale or that first juicy ripe tomato.  The rewards will be worth all your mistakes and hard work. (Want to know even more about my story? Click here.)

I would love to hear from you and your gardening experiences.  Do you have any stories about your first years of gardening? Let me know in the space below.

COMING SOON! Chicken.Bee.Tomato, an Interactive Workshop May 17, 2013.  Click here for more information and how to sign up.

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3 comments to " Get Your Garden On: Lessons Learned From My First Year "

  • This is a great story, and my favorite part is your advice to not let perfection get in our way.

    • Heather Carey

      Thanks Miki! It is very true, there is no perfect when it comes to gardening. The lesson is to make mistakes and keep at, the benefits are worth it.

  • The day we planted those 300 or so plants it was sunny, warm and springlike. We thought old man winter was gone for good. The morning we awoke to see snow covering our hard work was disheartening, but a great lesson was learned. We are now more patient and wait until April 15 for last frost in our climate zone.

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