Gardening for Idiots: 4 Easy Steps

It's not that I'm a good gardener or a bad gardener. I am just Not a Gardener.

I do have a small, beloved herb garden that I struggle mightily (in my mind) to plant and tend each year, and that was already more than I could handle.

However, given today's bizarre political and cultural climate, I figured it's time to learn how to grow food for myself and my family... just in case. I have distilled my experiences into 4 easy steps for starting your grownup garden.

1. Visit the children's section of the public library and get a simple book on gardening. I chose My Backyard Garden by Carol Lerner, which is organized by monthly activities and has nice illustrations. The logic of getting a kid's book is that you will not get bogged down with details and possibly never move on to steps 2-4.

2. Plan your garden. Where will you put it? How big will it be? What will you plant? Carol Lerner says 20 square feet is a good size to start with.

Here's my plan. I got a little excited and planned an 80 square foot garden. I decided on lettuce, chard & kale, bush beans, beets & carrots, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes.

3. Prepare the garden space. I chose a rectangle of space at the southern end of our lawn. Part of it was occupied by the remains of a 5x5' sandbox, which we shoveled out and replaced with bags of topsoil (Moo Dirt to be specific). The rest of the space was grass, which I forked over, hoed apart, augmented with Moo Doo, and raked.

4. Plant! If possible, visit a garden center and get already started plants, then pop them in the ground after danger of last frost (aka Memorial Day). Water. 

Our actual selections at the garden center were pretty much in line with my plan. We did add a six-pack of bell peppers. We also planted some peas that had come home as part of a first-grade project. And I got seed packets of carrots, chard, spinach, and lettuce which I sowed in rows at the far end of the rectangle shown above.

Things are too close together and I'm sure the zucchini is going to riot in about 8 weeks. A bean plant has already completely disappeared. But otherwise it's all very satisfying.

I also put the annual round of herbs into the herb garden on the other side of our property—basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, plus a new Rosemary & a new Lavender to replace the ones killed by the savage winter cold. The sage, chives, rue, mint, lemon balm, and oregano all over-wintered successfully.

What have you been planting? Are you a Good Gardener?

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