I would say, even after seven years of my first garden, which started while seven months pregnant on a community garden plot, I’m still a beginner level gardener. When we moved into a house I made my own raised bed, then last summer a second raised bed. I now have some big harvests and some big garden fails. Home gardening is a constant learning curve.
So, if you are new to gardening or have been doing it for a few years, maybe there’s something here for you to learn from my home garden triumphs and failures.
This year I’ve used several deterrents for my chipmunk, birds and bunnies problem after a feast of my garden within four days of planting last summer. I kind of threw everything possible at the problem. I planted magnolias, sprinkled hot pepper flakes, left some moth balls around the garden bed, used raised beds, “planted” several pinwheels, and if you haven’t filled the garden bed yet, I lined the bottom with chicken wire.
Mulch is a must in the garden! I learned about using hay from my summer with a community garden plot. This is an eco friendly way of retaining water in the plants and suppressing weeds. Hay is easier than the black plasticky cloth. No measuring and cutting needed, just laying it down. Because hay decomposes it also will provide some compost to the garden, bonus.
The bane of my gardening existence! Beware of the borers! There’s a few great YouTube videos about how to get rid of them. You have to be vigilant with these pests. I’ve lost several crops to borers when I didn’t know know what was happening. You’ll know you’ve been hit if there’s a gross yellow sawdust coming out of your stems. Bleh.
One trick I have to help heal the plant after an attack is to simply covering the root with dirt. BT is great at combating borers but you need to inject them into the stem not just apply topically.
The biggest hurdle is remembering to keep an eye out for these little garden demons. This year I’m setting calendar reminders to check my squash stems. Getting ahead of borers is your best hope of salvaging the plant from a sad fate.
Some years this is more successful than others, but I always buy lady bugs. Can’t hurt, but they can, for sure, help. Lady bugs are vicious little bugs that can eat 50-60 bugs a day. Aphids are one of their favorite snacks, among several other garden pests. You can try to attract lady bugs with various flowers and herbs but I try to get the season started with a bag from Amazon. You can also check your local garden centers, I haven’t been lucky finding one local to me.
When you’re starting out those seedlings look soooo little. Why not fill that bed with as much as possible? This is a misstep. These little tiny baby plants are going to grow into big plants and then they’ll be fighting for light and for a beginner gardener it will be hard to balance soil nutrients. I typically only plant one plant per square foot. Carrots and radishes can be more forgiving with upwards of 9 plants per square foot.
I make a grid in order to visualize the garden. There are online apps and websites, but the old fashioned way isn’t hard to do and I don’t have to sign up for anything. This plan is done before I even buy my seeds.
Once my seeds get going and are ready to plant I place them per the grid, take a look at spacing. Sometimes some seeds germinate more successfully than others so maybe more cucumbers and less peas which means my plan and what’s available might need a shuffle. I move things around a couple times before committing.
The Most Important Part! Community!
Gardening at home can seem like a solo venture. Especially now under quarantine. A large part of gardening is the gardening community. Ask for help locally (right now with physical distancing) by seed sharing, or asking for advice from neighbors or on garden community pages. If you aren’t living at home, recruit family members! Kat and Reece LOVE to help. They. might slow down the process but the pride they take in helping is worth it. Plus you’re teaching the next generation of gardens which is a big win.
A Few Gardeners I Follow
I know blogs might be more informative than YouTube, but with two small kiddos I don’t have time to go through a ton of blog posts until the end of the day and by then I’m fried and can only do a little research. Instead, I watch/listen while making meals, cleaning the kitchen, or doing laundry. Getting things done while learning more about gardening, it’s a mom win.
The MIGardener is great because he is also in a shorter season location like Boston.
Kevin from Epic Gardening has a ton of ideas. If you are in an urban area he’s a must follow with tons of advice for container gardening.
Midwest Gardener, I don’t know why but this guy makes me smile. His calm voice is relaxing and he has so much experience.
Please, please share your gardening wins, fails, tips, and tricks!