So here is a novice gardener's advice in becoming a novice gardener.
I, truthfully, got most of my basic gardening and food growing advice from the Bible... (what did she just say?)... yeah, it may sound crazy but there was a reason that Solomon wrote about gardening and that Jesus' parables referred to gardening things... because everyone knew about it back then and it ws incredibly important. So I "reverse engineered" many passages and came up with my basic outline for gardening.
For veggie specific info I bought The Heirloom Life Gardener book from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. I also buy all my seeds from their website: all NON-GMO and they are committed to a safe and diverse food sources. The book goes through basics and then digs into each of their 50 most popular veggies and fruits to grow. The pictures are gorgeous and the book really is a life-saver. It details history of the plant, when to plant, how to care for, how to save seed, and how to cook with it!
January is the perfect time to start because we are now 8-10 weeks from the last frost (at least in North Texas)
Step by step:
1. Plan where you want your space: needs full sun and an easy to irrigate area if you are someplace hot like me. In January (or whenever you are going to start) lay out black plastic to kill the grass so that you can start fresh. A week or two before you need to put something into the ground take up the plastic and till it under (we bought an electric tiller from Home Depot, you could rent too, or if the space is small, till be hand) Then add compost/manure/store bought compost and till again.
Remember that the terrain of your garden is important. Remember the parable of the sower and the seeds? The seeds that grew were the ones that weren't in too rocky of area, that were able to grow deep roots. Make sure that your ground is level or else the seeds will wash away in heavy rains.
|My garden during a very heavy rain. There were inches of rain. They were planted firm and already sprouted so they were secure (sound familiar?)|
2. Decide what to plant: ask others what has grown well for them. What food do you like to eat (and I mean really like because if you over plant like me you will have said produce coming out of your ears.. haha corn joke...) We chose to plant tomatoes, peppers, corn, watermelon, squash, cucumber, carrots, lettuce, and cilantro last year. This year we are planting okra, carrots, corn, tomatoes, peppers (spicy and sweet) cucumbers, lettuce, peas, marigolds, chard, broccoli, kale, watermelon, and squash.
3. Plant when they need to be planted. Some plants need to start inside anywhere from 8-10 weeks to 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Others can be planted directly outside from 4-6 weeks before last frost to mid summer.
During this phase it is important to control weeds and keep your sprouts safe... the trick is that it can be hard to tell what is weed and what is the plant you are trying to grow. Therefore you have to let the weeds and plants both grow up enough so that you can tell which is which. I also learned this idea from the Bible in Matthew 13:30.
|I tried the "cardboard" method to control weeds but it didn't work for us. They kept blowing away.|
|We ended up using straw as our mulch. Here it is around our cow horn peppers last season.|
|Swiss Chard sprouts. NOT weeds.. don't pull these ;)|
|Carrot sprouts are the "frilly" ones. The flat leaves are weeds|
4. Water, weed, control bugs and control other issues. As you can see in the picture with the straw mulch we used soaker hoses throughout our garden. We also had a rain barrel that I would use to hand-water plants when we had extra rain.
We were blessed to not have any bug issues this year but we did have blossom end rot. We added calcium and watered extra.
|Blossom end rot on our tomatoes|
We also had a problem with one of our peach trees breaking a limb. I tried to "fix" it with duct tape... it didn't work...
|Cassidy the arbolist's hard work...|
5. Watch it grow, grow, grow!
|Early days of our garden... June|
|Growing, growing... July|
|Towards the end of the growing season. August or September.|
Here are close ups of the different plants growing.
|Beautiful Heirloom Cherokee Corn|
|Pink/purple silks on the corn|
|Yellow/green silks on the corn|
|Our corn "field" some stalks grow up to 9ft tall!|
|Beautiful lettuce mixtures with the swiss chard to the right. (Note all the grass growing in between... those should have been pulled)|
|Red chard and yellow chard|
|Apples growing on our tree with the roses behind them|
|Cucumbers growing. See the beautiful yellow flowers?|
|Watermelon vines! All of those vines are from 6 plants!|
6. Eat your goodies!
|We grew the tomatoes and grilled peach. The tamales, avocado, and cabbage are from the Farmer's Market|
|Adelaide loved the carrots!|
A few last tips:
|Enlist help, here Adelaide was helping me water.|
|Sun protection is important :)|
|Finally, get out there, get dirty, and have a blast growing!|
Proverbs 20:3- Don't love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare!
Psalm 104:14- He make's plans for people to cultivate, bringing forth food for the earth.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12- And you should study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that you may walk honestly toward them that are outside the faith, and that you may lack nothing.
Proverbs 16:31- She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hand she plants a vineyard.
Proverbs 6:6-11- Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, providing her meat in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you sleep, o sluggard? When will you arise out of your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber and a little folding of hands to sleep: so shall your poverty come on you as a their and scarcity as an armed man.
Any questions? Did I miss anything?
Bonus Cherokee lesson: Dog- gi-li (geey-li) because Theo the dog also liked the carrots :)