This year was my first attempt at gardening. It was pure joy, pure excitement and pretty much pure failure. But I LOVED it. I’ve never been one to have a green thumb but I know, as with most things, you don’t learn until you try. This was the first year that I’ve lived in a place that actually had a garden plot. Well, really the first place in a very long time that I even had a yard. So even though we moved in on the 1st of June, which is a little late for planting a garden, I went to my local greenhouse and bought some seedlings. But first I had to tackle the overgrown garden plot.
I worked all through the afternoon with the teeniest tiniest garden tools you could possibly find (seriously they were verging on kids toys) and I dug up those weeds and attempted to till my garden by hand. I was quite proud of the results.
After covering up my sunburned back (I was so excited about my garden, I threw all precaution to the wind and got the first sunburn I’ve had in years and probably the worst one of my life. Fourteen year old me would never believe gardening could be so much fun. And that hard work could feel so good. There’s just something about doing work with your hands and enjoying the fruits of your labour. Ha!) I planted my precious seedlings and called it a day.
After all this hard work, I waited and waited and nothing grew. Nothing died and nothing grew. I began to wonder when not even any weeds were sprouting up, if I had somehow done something terribly wrong. It was raining constantly but nothing was growing. My cucumbers were lost (but I’m pretty sure I bought some half dead seedlings), my tomatoes looked like they were dying and I thought I had royally screwed up. But then, the sun decided to shine every day and it got HOT. It rained almost every evening and when it didn’t I watered my babies a couple times a day. And then, everything began to grow. My tomatoes even sprung back to life. I was ecstatic! It had been worth all the labour after all. And tasting those first few ripe tomatoes was heaven.
Of course, as I mentioned in a previous post, frost struck at the end of August, killing the tomatoes and bell peppers that were in the garden, that were just beginning to ripen. Thankfully I had boughten a few to pot and keep close to the house and babied them by bringing them in during the night, but even they were never the same after that. But it was all a wonderful adventure and I learned so much! I’m looking forward to hopefully having many more gardens and many more successes in years to come.
So, throughout this process I learned a few things. And I thought I’d share to help out any newbies like me along the way. We all have to start somewhere and shared knowledge is a good thing.
Some things I learned:
- When your broccoli looks like it might be ready to pick but you’re not sure, pick it. Better to enjoy eating broccoli from your garden then have it turn to flowers.
- Enjoy the bite marks that scar over on your tomatoes. They’re proof that your toddler loves to eat tomatoes.
- Plant your bell peppers in a pot and keep them close to your house. That way you can protect them from any intense weather and keep them warm.
- Same goes for tomatoes. They need lot’s of warmth and love’n. But also, don’t give up on the ones that looked like they died in the garden. Continue nurturing them and they may come back to life!
- Plant your lettuce at different times so it’s not all ready at the same time. Stagger them a week or two apart, if possible. Mine were all ready at the same time and there’s no way we could eat that much lettuce. Also, once you trim it, it will grow back, so that way it has time to grow while you’re enjoying others.
- Pot your herbs close to the house. I planted mine along with my flowers along the back deck. This keeps them warmer and more sheltered from the elements. But, basil is best planted in a pot that can be brought inside if you live in a cold climate like mine, they are very sensitive to the cold. My first plants died almost immediately in my flower bed but after buying one in a pot and bringing it in at night, or during crazy storms, it did much better.
- Broccoli is one hearty plant. It grew the best in my garden no matter what was thrown at it, it refused to die. We got plenty of hail and wind and it still grew in abundance.
- Plant your garden as early as possible so it can grow to maturity before the frost hits. The growing season isn’t very long here so you have to be more mindful of planting late enough that frost doesn’t kill all your hard work but also early enough that it has time to grow. Obviously Alberta is not the prime place to live for gardening but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it!
- And lastly, don’t be afraid to try. Some things will go wrong but it’s the only way to learn. Someday my kids will come to me for gardening advice thinking that I know it all (I hope!). Everybody’s gotta start somewhere.