Friday, February 15, 2008

What I didn't know about gardening....

Since there are so many gardening books which neglect to tell you the basics (I mean the really basic basics, for someone who has never seen a vegetable growing) I thought I would take point here and lay down What I Didn't Know about Gardening (until 3 years ago):

  1. Some vegetables are easy to grow, some are not. Which are which depends on your climate, your garden, and your gardening practices. For example, here in Oklahoma dill, basil, okra, and sweet potatoes can take over your garden if you are too nice to them.

  2. Some vegetables like cold weather. You can start growing your cool-weather garden in February or March here in OKC. (!!)

  3. A few herbs and vegetables come back year after year - these are called perennials.

  4. Vegetables need lots of sun, lots of water, good drainage, good soil, and fertilizer.

  5. Vegetables need to be protected from competition from other plants (which we call 'weeds'). Weeds will steal all of the resources listed in #4 from your plant.

  6. Vegetables need to be protected from critters who will eat the seeds right out of the ground and the fruit straight off the plant. (Birds, squirrels, rabbits, mice)

  7. Some vegetables like to be direct seeded straight into the ground; others need to be grown indoors and then transplanted when it gets warm enough. Transplanting means you can get tomatoes in July instead of September here in OKC.

  8. Many different varieties of vegetables exist. Different varieties are suited for different areas of the country and for different attributes (i.e. drought tolerant, disease resistant, bigger fruits, etc.). This is where garden catalogs come in. :)

  9. Some vegetables you can eat all season long (Swiss Chard) and others you need to harvest all at once.
  10. Vegetables can get diseases. The best way to prevent this is to plant each type (or family) of vegetable in a different place every year (except the perennials).

The easiest way to get started is to plant a small (maybe 8 x 4) double-dug raised bed garden made with compost and organic fertilizers in full sun, near a faucet, with easy to grow vegetables that you like to eat. Then mulch it and water it! In this space my MIL grows 2 tomato plants, jalapeno plants, and onions - a salsa garden.

Don't make the mistake I made - starting with 3 beds so giant that I didn't even plant 2 of them the first year. Trust me, if you are a new gardener - plan big but start small. If you start small you can do justice to the business of double digging. Starting small also gives you time to make mistakes on a small scale. And this way you will not have to look at the Titanic sized weeds that will grow if are too ambitious.

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