When you’re just getting started in gardening, the most important seed you want to see grow healthy and strong is the seed of your enthusiasm. Start small – don’t get over-ambitious and bring Vegi-Gnomestress into your project. Plant the  plants you love to eat, or the ones you’ll most enjoy planting.

Make each plant a learning experience and an adventure. Keep things simple. If you succeed at small projects, tackle bigger ones. If you start small and get confident, you’ll get joy from the journey and enjoy many seasons of good gardening.

Getting ready

You’ll need to have proper tools for the job. A spade, a garden fork and a soaking hose are key tools. A hoe is also very useful. A wheelbarrow or bucket will come very handy in mulching. You’ll also need to decide in advance how big an area you have available, and this will play heavily in your choices of which plants to grow.

Watering

Beginner gardeners tend to over-water their plants. Over-watering can cause the root systems to remain immature and shallow, and will create more work for you – you will have to water more often. By forcing the plants to develop healthy, long roots, you’ll get stronger plants.

You should water when you have new seeds, and then maybe once per week. The only time you might water more often is in periods of intensive drought or hot spells.

Fertilizing

Start by fertilizing the soil before planting. Then fertilize again when the plants are about two inches tall, and once again when they begin showing flowers or fruits.

Sunshine

Make sure your plants are getting good sunlight exposure. They should be getting at least six to eight hours of direct exposure to sunlight.

Some plants are a bit more tolerant to shade: lettuce, spinach, cauliflower tend to be less needy of the sun. Eggplant, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers are very sun-dependent. Keep this in mind not only in selecting which plants to grow, but where to plant them.

Weeding

You can keep weeds to a minimum by planting your plants close together. This is especially true of carrots, radishes, peas and beans. As they grow, they will create their own natural canopy. This will lessen the chances for weeds to find a spot. You can also reduce weeds by mulching. Add a layer of dead leaves or dead grass, which will make it harder for weed seeds to take root. Spend about fifteen minutes a couple of times a week to pull out weeds while they’re still small.

Waiting

Gardening teaches patience. Over time, you’ll learn the patterns and rhythms of your plants. In the meantime, keep a notebook with notes on planting times, expected maturity, and other observations. In today’s breakneck-paced world, gardening reminds us of the slow pace of the earth, or celebrating each sunrise and sunset, of soaking up the sun. Allow gardening to transform your thoughts, and you’ll grow as much as your plants.

About John Keisling

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