So, you’ve decided to start a garden. Whether that’s in a small pot on your windowsill, a makeshift box on the balcony, a tiny plot in the side yard, or a full-sized gardening-dedicated backyard, here are a few ideas from a gardener who was in your novice little galoshes not too long ago on how to set yourself up for success.
1. Get Advice
Why reinvent the wheel? People have been gardening since the Garden of Eden—why start from scratch? Look around for some good advice—people in your area who are good at gardening, the bestselling books at your local bookstore, or even an internet search on gardening in your area. One of those pros in your ward might even be willing to come take a look at your gardening space and give you some helpful suggestions and tips. Anyone who loves gardening would love to help you get started!
For myself, my mom and sister recommended the Square Foot Gardening method by Mel Bartholomew. Having a handy guide that was geared for beginners was extremely helpful to me in getting started. Plus, I originally borrowed the book from my mom for the first year until I decided I wanted my own copy. You could probably do the same and borrow a book from someone you know loves to garden as well.
2. Start Small
You don’t need to plan on eliminating your produce grocery budget in your first year of gardening. Make sure that you feel like baby steps are okay. When my husband and I decided to build a garden box outside of our apartment, at first I thought we should use three times the space that we finally settled on. I changed my mind when I realized that it would be okay to add a second box later on. It was really helpful to start small and learn how to maintain a small area before adding more space.
3. Start Easy
Some of the advice you’ll want to ask for from the gardeners you know is what is easy to grow in your area. Gardening books will tell you a list of crops that are easy to grow almost anywhere, such as zucchini or tomatoes. Although we all laugh about providing zucchini for the whole neighborhood from one plant, easy-to-grow crops will give you a lot of encouragement and sense of success. Why not set yourself up for that?
4. Get a Head Start
I decided to plant my first garden late in the year and didn’t get it all planted until the very end of June. Because of this, one of my mentors suggested that I use plant starts instead of seeds. That was incredibly wonderful advice.
By that time of year, all the plant starts were on clearance, and I bought whatever was left for really cheap. I don’t think waiting that long to get started is worth it unless you have to, but it was really nice to have an “instant garden.” If this is your first time gardening, consider buying mostly started plants instead of seeds to help set yourself up for success and give your garden a little head start. You can take on the challenge of seedlings when you have a little more experience under your belt.
5. Learn and Grow
Some of those starts I bought for my first garden were cabbage, which I learned my family didn’t like to eat and I should never grow it again. I also planted onion seeds late enough in the season that the onions did not have time to develop all the way before the fall frost. Despite these setbacks, my zucchini, tomatoes, and carrots were sterling successes.
Be willing to learn and grow with your garden. Don’t expect everything to turn out perfectly, but be all the more grateful for your successes. Live and learn and grow.
The Church teaches that “planting a garden, even a small one, allows for a greater degree of self-reliance” (“Growing a Garden,” http://providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,6637-1-3427-1,00.html). Make the decision to feel the blessings of earth, soil, and sunshine by setting yourself up for success.