When I started gardening, I was fascinated with the idea of growing food to feed my family. Unfortunately, I made so many mistakes that I did not end up with the abundance of food that I had anticipated. However, I did not give up. I kept pushing, making mistakes, learning from them. Thomas would tell me that I have a black thumb and I should just accept that I could not grow food. Of course, I did not listen to that nonsense. When we moved to the United States from Germany, we moved every two years. Every apartment or house provided me with new opportunities and challenges to learn. I am still learning, but I now have food to eat and the taste is so much better than store-bought. Once you taste food grown by yourself, growing food becomes an addiction. If you are interested in gardening but don’t know where to start, read below the five mistakes I made in my attempt to grow food.
If you direct sow seeds in the soil, you must water every day. Twice a day if it is too hot. The soil must be moist until the seeds sprout and grow their second set of leaves. If you do not water every day, your seeds will not sprout. Once you see those second set of leaves, you need to ease up on the watering.
I was so eager for my plants to grow that I would water my plants every single day. My plants would grow but they stayed small. I did not know it at the time, but plant roots need to stretch by searching for water. That is when growth happens. It is best to water every two to three days but if it is really hot, every day. This past week it rained and I didn’t water my plants. When I came back from training for work, the plants had skyrocketed in growth.
Not enough sun
I lived in two apartments where we only had a patio and could not control the sun. Without the sun, it is hard to get anything good to grow. You have to pick plants that do not need much sun, such as Lettuce or Spinach. At our current home, I planted winter plants in a place that got more sun in the summer. I did not realize that same area would not be as sunny in the winter because of the shorter days, plant growth suffered a little. Plants need light to make their own food or photosynthesis. This allows the food to grow and provide food/energy for humans or other living beings.
This is still part of gardening that I have not mastered. I make a ton of compost because I know that is the best food for plants. The best time to apply food is before planting. I mix compost and slow release fertilizer into the soil. I water soil a few days in a row before planting seeds or transplants. I apply compost once a month until the plant is harvested. My mistakes include waiting until after I planted to apply food. I found the plants did not grow as well when I did that. It is because the nutrients were not getting to the roots. One can also feed the plants through the leaves; it’s called a foliar spray. I have not had the chance to use this method to feed my plants. If you do use the foliar method with compost tea, one can deter many pests from his or her plants. I’m intimidated by the method of making compost tea, but I really need to use this method in the summer as my plants are inundated with certain pests and it’s discouraging losing plants after so much work.
Soil is the most important component to gardening. This is something I struggle with to this day. I cannot grow well in the ground; I’ve had too many bad experiences. The most memorable was at an apartment where we had very little sun and the ground was mostly clay soil. Clay soil is thick and it is hard to get water to drain. If you have this type of soil, you can change the texture but it will take time. In that situation, I had to use a garden box for growing. It had legs because I needed the box tall enough to get sun for plant growth.
Our current soil is perfect as far as texture but it is full of weed seed and we have a gopher problem. It is frustrating growing in the ground when you are not sure if your plants roots will be eaten by what is underground. I tried growing for several years with some success but not a satisfactory outcome. This past summer Thomas decided we would build garden boxes and take the frustration out of gardening. The soil we used was bought from home depot and we mixed in compost.
The first season I grew food from direct seed that I started in our house. I had great success growing watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. This is my second growing season and the plants are flourishing. I have pinto and green beans, squash, cucumber, cilantro, lettuce, carrots and basil.
It has been six years since I made growing food a part of my life. I’ve made many mistakes that got me to where I am today and I am still making them. I have not had success growing in the ground but I am not giving up. There is a piece of ground that I have worked and nurtured and I think I’ll have success growing in that spot very soon.
If you take anything from what I have written here, it should be to not give up on what you are passionate about even if you continually fail. If you learn something new every time you fail, you are doing something right. I hope wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you are evolving.
If you are interested in gardening, I hope my experiences made it a little easier for you to get started. Please comment if you have questions about gardening.
Until next time, have a great day and do not give up!