The Garden — Your First Year

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If you’re trying to dip your toe in the gardening pool, there are simple things I recommend for your first year. Buy a couple vegetable plants (something that you would eat) that look healthy at a garden center. I recommend peppers and tomatoes since (if chosen correctly) they will be big (but not too big) and give you something to show as well as something you can incorporate into a salad or recipe. Before we get to the plants, there are some things to consider. For the record, no one has paid me for any endorsement here, I’ve just used these companies because my mother ordered from these companies and now I do and that many years of success speaks volumes.

1. Organic. If you’re growing at home, then in my opinion, you should do it organically. What is the point of going through all the effort of growing at home if you’re going to put the same chemicals on your food that conventional growers use? Besides, there are too many studies coming out about the effects of all those chemicals on your endocrine and reproductive systems that it makes more sense to just leave them alone. I even tend to shy away from the soil that is produced by companies that produce other forms of non-organic products. I just don’t trust it. Call me nuts, whatever. All my fertilizers come from Gardens Alive. They have a fertilizer for everything and have sales all the time.

2. Watering. You know yourself. Are you going to check the water daily or are you likely to forget or get busy with work or something else and feel terrible when your poor plant is wilting in the heat. If you may be a bit forgetful, there are tons of options including water saving crystals that you can mix into the potting soil. My recommendation is to just start with a self watering planter. Gardener’s Supply Company has lots of options, including a kit to retrofit any existing round container. This is particularly helpful if you can find some containers on clearance (like I did) or already have a container that you’re partial to (like the one I “borrowed” from my mom).

3. Containers. Buy big containers. While it’s true that some plants (like dill) don’t play well in the same “sandbox” as other plants, starting off big means your plants have room to grow over the season. Small “cute” containers usually end up with roots circling the edge of the container and eventually choking the poor plants. Some of my smallest containers are only about 12″ wide and 18″ deep. Unless you have somewhere you can store the huge containers inside during the winter, find pots that are all weather. Glazed clay pots are gorgeous, but they’re not cheap and crack if you don’t take care of them. BUT, you don’t have to rule them out forever. You can graduate up to them. You have to start with a higher likelihood of success then increase your degree of difficulty. And they actually have plastic pots that look like clay now. These are your friends. They’re cheaper and lighter. Remember, the first year, the spot where you want to put the plants may not have enough sun. If you put your planter down somewhere and find the plants aren’t getting enough or in late summer too much sun, you can move them without investing in a chiropractor payment.

4. Independent Garden Centers. Find an independent garden center. Besides being trendy, buying locally is just a good idea. Independent garden center owners generally started the business because they like gardening. Once you know what you’re doing you can shop bigger stores, but the independent spots will usually have someone around that can answer your questions. They are more likely to have plants that work in your area and when they don’t work, they can help you understand why. When I moved I just made a list of every garden center in the yellow pages and visited each one. I ended up with my favorite: Primex Garden Center. They are my ideal — one stop shopping. They have information workshops, knowledgeable staff, bulk items, big shrubs, little herbs, seeds, tools, bulbs, garden supports, etc. etc. etc. If you can find a spot like Primex that has everything you need, then that’s the place to go. If not you may end up going to a few different places. Not all garden centers have the same things (which is good) so you can end up finding a good variety if you shop around.

Okay, this post is getting long so I’ll continue next week….

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