Starting a Garden? Get out the books first.—June 27, 2014
Gardening. Sounds like something boring that you only do when you’re retired with too much time on your hands. Wrong! Throw those misconceptions out the window, because low and behold…gardening is kind of fun.
Wait, what? I know you’re thinking I’m crazy…which maybe I am a little, but I promise gardening is worth checking out. Last year, I was somebody who never thought about gardening. It’s so much easier just to go to the store when you’re cooking something. Sure, there are always fresh tomatoes and cucumbers galore from peoples gardens at the end of summer…but that never interested me. Then I got talked into watering the Hastings Middle School community garden once a week during the summer. After a few weeks of watching things grow…that you could actually pick off of a vine or plant and eat…I was hooked. I was bringing everybody I knew out to that garden to show it off, I was just amazed at what a little bit of water and dirt could produce. Not to mention how delicious the veggies were (and yes, they really do taste better fresh.)
This year, I decided to try it out for myself. With some help from my amazing parents, we created a nice little spot in my backyard for a garden. I didn’t want anything crazy big or overwhelming, just a nice little patch to see what I could do and grow only things that I liked. Small problem though, while I had watered the garden last year…I had no idea how to start one. Also, my cozy little garden didn’t look like it would hold much. I started making a list of things I had to have in my garden; Basil, Cauliflower, Asparagus, orange tomatoes, summer squash, and broccoli. I will tell you, after some research, that did not all make it into my garden.
First thing I did was research how to keep snakes out of the garden. There are few things I hate worse than snakes. Gross. Several internet sites informed me that there are many things that are smelly that snakes don’t like, so I settled on Marigolds and Peppermint. So far it’s worked pretty well. Also, it turns out we have a lot of gardening books here at the library. There are books for just about every kind of gardening. I started with a few basic level books to help me identify what I should plant. I learned that you can’t just plant seeds and water them. First off, plants grow differently based on the season…and not everything grows well in the summer. Also, some plants you have to plant inside first and get them sprouting before transplanting them into the garden once the weather is right. Finally, there’s a whole bunch of fertilizer techniques that you need to figure out to prepare the soil. Unfortunately, I also learned that Asparagus is a three year investment to grow them to the point where you can eat them and they taste good…so it was out right away.
Then, I found the book that I planned my whole garden around. It’s an older book called Square Foot Gardening. It is a step by step book designed just for people with limited garden space. Basically, you split your garden into 2ftX2ft squares, then depending on what you’re growing you split the squares up into smaller squares and one plant goes in each square. This worked great for my garden. In my tiny 8x8 garden I am growing 4 cauliflower plants, 4 pepper plants, 2 tomato, 6 marigold, 1 mint, 8 spinach, and a ton of carrots (only three of which are sprouting though.)
It has been so much fun watching it grow, even if the weeding isn’t so much fun. I already harvested my spinach (which was delicious, but I found out not a summer friendly plant.) I can’t wait to see how everything else turns out. I highly recommend you try your hand at gardening, and start with some help from our books to get you on the right path.