Spring has sprung, my beautiful bleeding hearts have began to bloom and the rain has flowed on and off for the past week. This means that it’s time to turn my attention to my garden and the wonderful bounty of food I will attempt to grow this year.
Yes I said attempt. For all my skills in the kitchen, I’m very much a beginner when it comes to gardening and growing my own food. I feel very strongly about using food when it is in season for that can’t-be-beat flavor, but my local farmer’s market has usually been the source for the bounty. Last year’s harvest wasn’t a total bust as I harvested some fine tomatoes and cucumbers, but there were things I could have done better. Today I’m sharing my three big garden lessons I learned and hope to try and improve on this year.
The first lesson I learned is that I should only grow what I will realistically eat or have a good preserving plan for. I found out the hard way that once some plants start producing, they cannot stop! I put in a few cherry tomatoes vines as I thought it would be nice to have fresh, sun warmed little bites of tomatoes as a topper for the salads I would whip up with my fresh grown romaine lettuce. Unfortunately, my lettuce never took off and I ate fewer salads than I thought since I would have to plan for getting lettuce for them. I had piles of cherry tomatoes that sadly ended up as mostly compost because I did not have a plan for them besides in salads. This year I am forgoing the cherry tomatoes as while I do enjoy them on occasion, they are not a food I enjoy often or can really think on how to preserve well.
The next thing I learned is that while it may be nice to start seedings in February and early March while you are cooped up inside wishing for warmer days, the reality is that it is just too early (unless you have a greenhouse and larger pots and spaces to transplant the seedlings in). Every year I get over excited about the prospect of fresh food and flowers and plant, plant, plant only to have my seedlings die, die, die by the time they can be transplanted. This year I waited until about a week ago to begin my plants and only started the ones that the seed package stated worked best being transplanted. Apparently those instructions on the back of the seed packets are not just there for decoration:) My seedings will be ready to go into the ground around Mother’s Day, which is when I have been told is a good time to get most of your planting done.
The last thing I learned is to be realistic about how much you plant and your abilities as a gardener. One of the first years I tried to have a garden, I bought almost every seed I could get my hands on and planted everything. You can imagine my shock when I ended up with nothing but some sad greens. I learned that I am still very much a beginner and while I would love to pull full, lush watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, and all the herbs I could ever want to season my food, I need to understand that before I can get to having a mini-farm, I need to be able to keep some tomatoes and snap peas alive and harvested! So this year my garden will (hopefully!) have tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, green beans, cilantro, parsley and basil. The rest I will seek out my local farmer’s market for:)
So tell me, what, if anything, are you growing this year? Do you want to have a garden but have restrictions (time, space, ability) that prevent you from trying? Shoot me a line and let’s chat. Gardening is not something that I can lay claim to expertise on, but as a food person I am very aware of the huge difference between something that comes to you on a truck from far away and something that comes from your backyard or the next town over. It’s not always easy to eat like this but when you can, I highly encourage it and would love to help you out any way I can to get there! Happy gardening!