It’s been a while since I’ve written about my gardening adventures—and I have plenty to update! The theme of my last two gardening posts was about if gardening is worth it, in terms of effort, time, and money. My conclusion was a resounding yes! Now, a few years and one move later, my knowledge has grown so much, and my conclusion is still the same: yes, it’s a million percent worth it (exaggeration intended). Let’s talk about some of my findings.
First and foremost, the thing that contributed the most to my gardening success was the use of gardening boxes. Wow. I had no idea the difference they would make. We moved into our new home last July, and the previous owners had four gardening boxes already in place. Here are just four of the reasons why my garden has seen such massive success with them:
- Weed control. Because the gardening boxes are small, contained spaces mostly filled with the actual plants themselves, there’s little room left for weeds to grow in. And if they do grow, it’s easy to remove them. What a relief to know that these evil weeds—and yes, I do mean evil—can’t invade my precious plants.
- Organic soil. As I’ve learned from my few years of study with SRP, the soil that we nurture and grow our produce in matters. Here are just a few SRP resources that elucidate the importance of organic soil: Mark Anderson’s Empty Harvest (cowritten with Bernard Jensen), Dr. Royal Lee’s From Soil to Supplement, and Stephanie Selene Anderson’s Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is! Using gardening boxes rather than a full garden area made it much easier to maintain and add in organic soil and compost as needed.
- Maintenance. My garden boxes are U-shaped, giving me a nice path to walk between each of them. This makes maintenance, watering, and harvesting my produce much easier because I no longer need to be so cautious of stepping on any plants.
- Kid friendliness. This may be my favorite part of the garden boxes. My children have learned to love gardening! At the beginning of the season they asked us almost every day when we could plan. They helped pick out the starters and seeds at our local nursery. They check on the garden daily for any new treats that are ready to harvest. We’ll even find two-year old roaming the garden path, squealing at the peppers or crying to eat more fresh strawberries.
If you’d like to look into building your own garden beds, check out some simple DIY raised garden bed ideas. They have quite literally revolutionized my gardening experience, but there’s a few other handy lessons I’ve learned that I’d like to pass on.
First is the value of pruning. For a beginner gardener like myself, the idea of cutting my precious plants hurt my very soul. I was sure that it would harm the plants, but in my ignorance I didn’t realize that pruning only helped them grow stronger. My tomatoes in particular taught me valuable a lesson. I let them grow from about mid-May to mid-July, and in this span of time they consumed most of my gardening space. I’ve since looked up how to properly prune them, and it’s made a world of difference. Now I’m gathering a plethora of fruits almost daily.
Next lesson: get an irrigation system. We have sprinklers and lines that run the entire garden. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but watering a garden by hand, or even with a sprinkler, just doesn’t work for me. I’m far too lazy. I tried it my first year of gardening, and every single plant died because I was just too lame and pathetic to get out there and water it. Taking the time to set up an actual sprinkler system has made all the difference. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some great ideas for creating easy DIY garden watering systems.
Lastly and most importantly, I’ve learned to just keep going. In the few years I’ve been gardening, I’ve learned so many different tips and tricks every year that help us yield a more successful harvest. I’ve learned what foods we like and what we don’t. I’ve discovered which plants grow well in my climate and which ones don’t, no matter what I try. Be patient with yourself, with your garden, and with your skills. And have fun! There’s so much joy that comes with playing in the dirt like a kid again.
Like anything in life, practice makes perfect. Or in this case, practice makes produce!
Images from Danielle LeBaron.