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Ever the Student of Gardening

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A productive healthy garden is a moving target. Every year there are new lessons to learn in the garden. Perhaps there is a new technique, a new variety, a new pest, new amendments to the soil, or something planted in a new location. There is always different weather.  

Gardeners play what I call The Garden Guessing Game. What made this plant or crop fail or succeed? The heat? The water? The cold? The pests? The soil quality? The location?  Why do we get an exceptional harvest one year and very little the next?  Why do my neighbors have an abundance of a certain crop, but I don't? 

I grew up on a big farm with a big family and a big garden. It's in my blood. It is probably in yours too.

Cabbage Leaves

Get Started

8 Steps to Starting a Vegetable Garden

Here is a quick and easy starter for beginning gardener.  

Step 1: It Takes a Team

  • Find Your Tribe: It is helpful to get together with your fellow gardeners once a month to share ideas and support each other’s efforts.

  • Find Your Online Tribe: FaceBook has gardening groups. Find one for your area. 

  • Find Online Instructors: YouTube has gardeners from everywhere sharing their knowledge. Find a channel you like or explore instructional videos on a specific subject.

  • Find a Mentor. Scout nearby gardens.

  • Draft Your Family. Children are a great labor source, as are spouses.

  • Your Extension Service: Your state and/or county has an Extension Service that provides all kinds of expert gardening advice about your specific area.  

  • Ask the Internet: Videos and websites have your answers

Step 2: Choose a Gardening Method

  • Start small.  Experiment to determine what gardening methods work best for you.

  • Till or Do Not Till? Tilling or turning garden soil disrupts the microbiome and kills valuable fungi, microbes, worms and other macroorganisms. Tilling may be useful in breaking up heavy clay, but otherwise, it is destructive.

  • Row by Row or by the Foot? Square foot gardening is a method of gardening that tries to make the most out of every inch of your garden bed. In this strategy, the garden bed is delineated by 1-foot sections with planting planned accordingly. Dense planting keeps down weeds. 

  • In a Container or on the Ground? You can use pots, self-watering containers, grow bags, hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics, or, my favorite the raised bed. Traditional gardening on the ground means you garden on your hands and knees while compressing the soil, disrupting water flow and pushing out oxygen.

Step 3: Location/Orientation

  • Your plants need sun, so locate your garden or containers to receive light from the south.

  • Your garden should be uphill from your septic drain field, away from buried pipes or cables, and within reach of a hose. Call 811 before you dig. 

Step 4: Soil

  • You can buy soil or build your own using compost.

  • You never know what your soil needs until you test it. I use Simply Soil Testing every other year and add needed minerals.

  • Compost helps your soil retain moisture. It helps build up soil and feeds beneficial fungi and your plants.

Step 5: Water

  • Plants can be under-watered or over-watered. Poke your finger into the soil 1 to 2 inches to see if it is still moist.

  • You can use overhead sprinklers that are more like mother nature, but is inefficient. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are efficient.

Step 6: Choosing Plants and When to Plant Them

  • Your local nursery, hardware store and/or grocery store will put out plant starts at the time they should be planted. They will carry plants that grow in your area.

  • Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Map to determine your zone. Use this in your research.

  • The Old Farmer’s Almanac has planting schedules, as will your own extension service.

  • Your tribe and seed packets can advise you what to get as a start and what to plant from seed and what kind of sun exposure they need.

The 5 Easiest Plants to Grow: 

  1. Common Garden Beans 

  2. Zucchini 

  3. Radishes 

  4. Carrots 

  5. Asian Greens 

Step 7: Pull Your Weeds

Don’t share your plant’s valuable resources with weeds.

Step 8: Harvesting

  • Harvest often. 

  • Smaller may be better. Many vegetables are at their best texture and flavor just before peak maturity. 

  • Stay out of the garden when it’s raining. 

  • Use the right tools. 

Check out our Western Washington

Planting Calendar

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