Lessons From a Gardening Noob

First Herb Garden

One of the reasons I moved to the country is to have some outdoor space where I can grow my own vegetables. I moved here last July, too late for the 2009 growing season, so I decided to use the months that followed to prepare myself for gardening in 2010.

Well, 2010 is here and already I’m running late, largely due to my total lack of experience in the gardening department. My previous attempts to grow potted peppers all ended in pots full of dead and shrivelled vegetable matter. But this time, I’m determined. Really.

Last week, Tim and I were musing over the possibilities when the door rang – it was the postman with a long-awaited package from my parents in the States. Inside was a little surprise: a little growing kit and a few packets of seeds. The timing was uncanny.

In fact, it seems that timing is a pretty important thing when it comes to gardening. Knowing when to sow, plant and harvest all depends on various factors such as frost, temperature, the condition of the plant’s shoots and flower buds, and I’m sure a hundred other things I haven’t thought of.

There is much to learn.

So I’m starting simple.

(Sort of.)

My 2010 garden will consist of

  • Peppers: Jalapeno and sweet red
  • Tomatoes: Moneymaker, sungold and cherry
  • Herbs: Parsley, cilantro, basil and rocket/arugula
  • Lettuce: Dynamite and romaine
  • Potatoes

Tim will fill in the fruit front with strawberries and raspberries, and hopefully lend a hand with the potatoes and everything else. If things go well this month, I may also add purple sprouting broccoli and pumpkin to the list, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.

My entire veggie garden will be planted in containers since (a) we rent our place and (b) we want to make sure we like gardening before we dig up a bunch of soil.

I’m in desperate need of a good gardening book (any suggestions?) but for now, the Sustainable Living Initiative’s Rough Guide to Growing Vegetables is doing a pretty good job of filling in the knowledge gaps, specifically these handy PDF charts:

So the jobs for this month are to

  • Acquire containers, seeds and plants (done)
  • Prepare containers for planting (done)
  • Prepare sprouters for sprounting (done)
  • Sow directly into containers: lettuce, rocket and cilantro
  • Sow in pots: Moneymaker tomato, jalapeno pepper, sweet red peppers, parsley (done)
  • Plant in large pots: sungold and cherry tomatoes (half-way done – I bought these as plants rather than seeds and planted the cherry tomatoes in a large pot, but still need to find a container for the sungold)

So far, the main lesson of this activity is clear:

Start planning the veggie garden in January.

Lots of plants such as peas and onions were to be sewn in February. Early planning may also have given me time to prepare raised beds if I were feeling really ambitious. I also wish I had the time to do more seed searching, particularly for good heirloom tomatoes and funky potatoes. Instead I settled for what was available at the nearby gardening shop.

But hey, I’m growing my food. Or at least trying to. Now I wait impatiently for the first buds to sprout from my seeds. Tick tock…

5 thoughts on “Lessons From a Gardening Noob

  1. Jes

    I’m still waiting for all my seeds to get here, but I’m raring to go. We’re planting part of a huge field (a collective effort between five or six friends) and we might be breaking ground this weekend (finally no snow!). So exciting! Can’t wait to see/hear how your garden turns out!

  2. Beatrice

    I love fresh herbs, and wish I had a green thumb. Fresh tomatoes will be wonderful, too…
    A former co-worker of mine grew rainbow chard, which was beautiful to look at, and much fresher than anything you can find at the grocery store.

  3. Monica Shaw

    Jes – I look forward to following your own veggie adventure. What kind of seeds are on order?

    Beatrice – I wish I had a green thumb, too. So far it’s been closer to brown than green. I’m hoping that this year turns the tide.

    Leah – Thanks for introducing me to iPlot. I’m totally describing, and it will give my partner in crime a bit of nostalgia for his homeland (he’s from NZ).

  4. mangocheeks

    Like yourself, I’ll be growing a lot more in my tiny garden plot, as well as pots and containers. Unfortunately, the Scottish weather will not allow me to grow tomatoes and peppers – so I will just have to come by your blog and enjoy looking at the progress of yours.


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