Planning Your First Garden? Do These 6 Things to Fall In LOVE With Gardening
My first year gardening yielded a whopping 1 tomato harvest.
And you know what?
It didn't even taste very good (more on why down below)!
Needless to say, it was a far cry from the harvests I had seen at Farmer's Markets or dreamt of.
But also a far cry from the amount my garden has yielded over the past two season. Right now on the eve of the 2022 gardening season my pantry and freezer are still mostly full with garden goodies that I've preserved from the past season.
So, how did I go from harvesting 1 tomato to now having beautiful bounties?
Well fortunately, I fell in love with the process of gardening and how it is such a Mindful activity. It brought me calmness, peacefulness, and restoration well before the bounties.
And because of that, I wanted to spend more and more time in the garden. Through those years of spending time in the garden, I've picked up a bunch of learnings that I could have applied in my first year to have a more successful first season, and I want to share 6 of them with you today to help you have an incredible first garden!
Tip #1: Grow What You Love
As gardening season emerges, it's VERY easy to walk into a Nursery, see all the beautiful packs of seeds on the shelves, and have dreams and aspirations of starting all sorts of fun vegetables.
Only to then realize in the middle of summer, I'm growing Celery but the only time I've ever purchased celery at the grocery store is for Thanksgiving Dinner!
I've fallen victim to this excitement far too many times, and the issue is two fold:
- Level of Care: As you get into the season and are watering, pruning, weeding and more, you're going to want to keep your energy focused on plants that you really love and are most excited to be eating. Therefore, those vegetables and herbs that you don't love quite as much will end up becoming the neglected parts of the garden and not thriving.
- Space: In nearly all instances, garden space and real estate is one of the most precious commodities we have to work with. As such, we want to ensure that precious square foot garden space is given to the plants we love to eat.
So, before rushing off to the nursery, spend a couple of minutes answering these two questions:
- What vegetables, herbs, and fruits do I love to eat most?
- What vegetables, herbs and fruits am I intrigued or fascinated to try growing?
This will keep your time, energy, and focus on the vegetables that you love and as a result increase the likelihood of having success and thriving plants.
Tip #2: Start with a Small Vegetable Garden
I know that I've dreamt about having a big and expansive homestead with endless growing space - but early on, more space can cause more headaches than benefits.
A larger space means: more weeding, more pruning, more trellising, more watering, and more!
The last thing we want in your first years of gardening is for it to feel like a chore. We want the garden to be a mindful activity - a place where we find peacefulness, calmness, and restoration.
By starting small, there is less to worry about and as such a lower likelihood of feeling overwhelmed. And with each passing season, what was new last season will be familiar in the next - which then frees up your time and energy to expand the garden without feeling overwhelmed.
If you’re a beginner gardener, start small. It’s better to be thrilled by what you produce in a small garden than be frustrated by the time commitment a big one requires. It's also best to learn a few gardening basics before investing tons of time and money in this new hobby. - Better Homes & Gardens
Tip #3: Space your Garden Properly
This one is a little bit tough to fully appreciate until being in the midst of the season and realizing just how BIG some of these plants end up growing in the garden!
When we place them into the garden they look small and that there is so much space between each, but in just a few short weeks under the strong summer sun, many vegetables will quickly take up multiple square feet and can potentially end up overcrowding one another.
If you end up overcrowding your garden, it certainly isn't the end of the world and sometimes the best way to learn is through experience.
What you will end up finding is that rather than thriving, the plants begin to compete with one another for airflow, sunlight, water, and nutrients that have been fed into the soil in the form of Worm Castings and Organic Fertilizer, such as our 4-4-4 Superfood.
If you are able to exercise restraint on overcrowding your garden, your plants will thank you and as you get into the peak of summer it will be just as lush and full of foliage and plants as you dreamt of while planning. And to help you with this, we have put together a full downloadable guide on How to Plan the PERFECT Vegetable Garden.
Tip #4: Feed the Soil
Remember that terrible tasting tomato I had?
Well, one of the big mistakes I made in that first season was that I did not amend the soil in any manner.
Think of the soil as your plant babies food source. It needs to pull nutrients from that soil to grow big and strong while taking in sunlight and water.
If there's no nutrients in there, how is it going to grow?
This was the problem I ran into - resulting in it tasting very chalky and mealy.
To ensure that you have delicious tasting vegetables, make sure that the soil is packed with nutrients and microbes for your plants to absorb and put to use. The combination of using Worm Castings, Compost, and our 4-4-4 Superfood will provide your plant babies with a well-balanced organic feed and balance of microbes and ensure that all your vegetables not only grow well but also taste delicious.
Tip #5: Use Grow Bags to learn about Sun
As you move through your first gardening season, you'll see how big of a role the sun plays in the growth and development of your plants. As a result, we really want to find the sunniest parts of the backyard or patio in order to maximize that square footage.
But how could you know where this is before the first season?
It's incredibly challenging as the changing angle and location of the sun in the sky from the beginning of the season to the peak of the season results in much larger and smaller shadows being cast.
As an example, my garden gets 0 direct sun during the shortest day of the year, but during the longest day of the year the garden gets +8hrs of direct sun.
What I've found is the best way to learn about how the sun moves through your garden is to utilize grow bags and containers in the first year or two of gardening.
Because as the sun moves through the sky you will be able to move your plants into the sunniest areas. At the beginning you might be adjusting the location of the plants every day or two, but soon you will find the sunniest part of your yard and are able to let your plants grow there all season.
Furthermore, this then gives great insight as to where to build out more permanent structures like raised beds and trellises. So, be patient in that first season and you'll make the most of your investments!
Tip #6: Let go of Expectations!
Lastly, if I was expecting a huge bounty and harvest in my first season of gardening and ended up with only 1 tomato, I probably would have been really disappointed in my gardening experience.
Furthermore, I could have done everything perfectly but Mother Nature could have thrown a late-frost or Heat Dome my way which could have ruined a crop or two for me just as it did with my broccoli last year.
But fortunately, I immediately connected deeply with how much I enjoyed the process of gardening, doing little experiments, and learning as a gardener.
Falling in love with gardening in this way has drawn me back to the garden each season and that compounding of years of experience has allowed me to now have some really incredible harvests.
So I encourage you in your first few gardening seasons to let go of your expectations on bounty, harvest, and yield, and focusing as much of your energy on simply enjoying getting your hands dirty and feeling how calming and restorative Mindful Gardening can be.