Dear Bre…

Dearest Bre,

While I’m so excited that you are excited about starting your first garden this year, I’m sorry it’s starting out so angst ridden!  In theory, gardening should be a simple joy–put a seed in the ground and watch it grow.  Pick delicious fruit, eat it, repeat.   It sounds so simple in theory, doesn’t it?

And then we start reading and you have to till the soil, and fortify the soil, and aerate the soil. Then do you go for an organic garden, partially organic, or bombs away with chemicals?  Then do you head to the big box store, the local nursery, or the the heirloom seed hoarder somewhere in the Seed Hoarder Capitol of America?

Gardening is much more complicated after we marinate on it for a few days.

Bre, sadly you are not talking to an expert here.  If you wanted to know how to clip coupons, use an eye primer, or write a kick ass college entrance essay, I’m your girl; but gardening, friend, I’m not much farther up the ladder than you are in terms of knowledge and know how.  But I think you can work this to your advantage, because three years ago JGL and I were just as overwhelmed as you are, and last year we were at our wits end with a failing garden–a whole lot of work, and not a whole lot to show for it.

At it’s simplest, you have to start by asking yourself a very simple question:  What do I want to get out of my garden this year?  If that answer is fresh tomatoes, salad, some herbs, squash and peas, then you have a start.  For JGL and I we want those things, but we want enough of them so we can can/freeze/dry a good portion of our produce to help us eat locally and more healthfully during the winter months. It’s for that reason, and that reason only, our garden plan looks like it’s on steroids, considering that we’re only two people.

Once you have a purpose, because let’s be honest with each other–if you don’t have a purpose, it’s going to be real hard to follow through with it (part of why I love ya, Bre–we’re so similar when it comes to this and I love that you get me on this one!)–then you can start crafting a plan.   If you just want two tomato plants, some basil and thyme, salad, and squash you have two ways you could go–you could dig in your backyard to your heart’s contend, or you could start a container garden. Both will help you achieve your purpose, one is more labor intensive than the other one.

Where you get your plants/seeds is totally up to you and where your convictions are.  For JGL and I do not go the 100% organic route.  I’d love to, but for us at this stage of our lives the cost effectiveness of it is not there yet. If you want to go that route, or even take it a step further and go to a local nursery, more power to you, friend!  We’ll start our tomatoes and peppers inside from seed (another cost saver), and once in the ground we will not use chemical pesticides and such–in that sense we do try to be as organic as possible.   Last year we got the majority of our seeds and plants from Lowes.  This year is looking like it will be the same, although I might splurge and get a few things from the Burpee Catalog.  The back of your seed packet will be a wealth of information for you too and is essentially your guide for success–when to plant, what to expect, how to take care of it.

And if you want some research that’s not too overwhelming, funny, topic specific, and I think pretty on point, check out the for beginners section on the blog A Way To Garden.

Bre, the biggest thing in my mind is just to do it. So what if you get knee high in dirt and realize that you have to shift plan a little?  Who cares if you go a little over board and get seven varieties of ‘maters?  At the end of the day, whether it’s a great success or an epic failure, as long as you’re having fun a learning a little something along the way, that’s what’s important.  AND you have my phone number–if you get stuck and don’t mind the blind leading the blind, I’m happy to try to help you navigate your garden this first summer.

That’s what friends are for, right?  Right!

Miss ya!

GAL

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2 thoughts on “Dear Bre…

  1. Bre says:

    Love you! I’m still researching! Container gardening is looking a bit easier and a bit more cost effective, as it doesn’t require as many “tools” and we are also on a very tight budget this summer. I’ve decided the five veggies that I want, but I’d like to plant enough, particularly the tomatoes, for preserving. I want to make SALSA! Actually, a group of my stepmother’s friends get together every summer and make HUGE batches of salsa and then can them together! We should totally do that! Currently, I’m struggling with the cost idea. Is it more cost effective to grow my veggies or buy them? I’m pricing everything so the rain has taken a little pressure off, but I’m worried that I’m too late in the season for spinach, but I did read in a container gardening book today that you can grow spinach inside at later points in the summer. But, you’re right, at some point, I’m just going to have to dig in and do it! Then, I rely on Alan to keep me on it, as I know that I’ll kill them all as I get wrapped up in work! But, its another new adventure and another new way of living my life.

    P.S. I have some great “recipes” for pesticides in a book I’m reading called, “Gorgeously Green”. She has great ideas for organic gardens. Its not specific enough for me to go and start a garden, but she does include natural pesticides and things you can do to keep the bugs way, like planting a small row of garlic between your tomato plants, etc. Let me know if you want it!

    • Gracie Lou says:

      I would love to learn your salsa recipe! Have I ever shared our strawberry salsa one? When strawberry season hits, I’ll be sure to give it to you! If you go poking around the Burpee online catalog, they acutally have a pre-set bundle of salsa indgredient plants you can get (or oogle at!). And our schedules (in theory) should get significantly less crazy once May 1 hits, but I think a salsa party would be a fun idea 🙂

      While yes, you will have to start digging soon, if you know you REALLY want spinach and herbs, go to Lowes and the get the long rectangular window boxes (maybe $7 a peice) two bags of the cheapest potting soil you can find, and then find the seeds (or if you are feeling super cheap, I found my spinach seeds at Walmart for 20 cents a packet. But don’t tell anyone!(:). The whole thing will cost you maybe 20-30 dollars, but it will provide you with Gorgeous spinach until the plants go by–and then you can plant some more 🙂 And while there are “specific times you should grow stuff,” there’s not. If it will sprout and live, you can grow it. Even if you decide to go the Co-op route for your veggies this summer, I’d encourage you to at least grow something–I’m convinced it’s not only good for your pallate, it’s good for you soul (when I lived in House One, I grew stuff in containers all the time and let them hang out on the porch).

      What’s a Co-Op you say?! Since you live in the wonderful land of C-ville, I’m convinced that you must have a Co-Op nearby, or at least people who would be willing to form one with you. Each one is a little different, but in its essence (from what I can determine) it’s getting enough people to order from a local farm/butcher/etc that you all can share in a discount. Some places allow you to place an order, some places you get what you get. Either way, it’s fun!

      Or I’d encourage you to go to your local farmer’s market–that’s what JGL and I ended up doing when we realized that our tomatoes were in so late that our harvest would be in September (I’m embarrassed even to type it now!). For $20 (if I splurged on a bouquet of local flowers) we had fresh veggies and goodie to last us a week. When it came time to canning, we found the vendor who would give us the best deal on 20 pounds of tomatoes. Then the next week we found out that JGL’s mom had a connection in BV with a delightful man who sold them $20 for one bushell. Forty dollars total sounds like a lot for a butt ton of ‘maters, but we’re still enjoying them now.

      As for your green recipes, PLEASE SHARE! I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear them! 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback and support, Bre–and we’ll definitley have to have a garden party!

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