When somebody first starts a garden, its easy to get overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done to maintain one. Whether you have a small, raised bed garden – or several hundred square feet starting a garden your first time can be a daunting task.
Too often, people decide they want to garden, thinking of all the yummy fruits and vegetables they will gain without spending money at the grocery store. And while yes, it is a great positive – many times the budding gardener spends more taking care of their lil garden plot than they gain back in savings.
I’m going to do my best to provide plenty of advice for you if you are just starting out. So without further ado lets jump into it!
Planning Your Garden
Planning should alway be the first step. Where is your garden bed going to be? What do you plan on planting? How much time will you have available to work it (pulling weeds, watering, and harvesting)?
You should consider each of these questions while planning. Doing so will lessen the strain of maintenance later. You’d hate to place your garden in a place you cant maneuver a wheelbarrow or a lawn tractor to. That’d just add undue work. If you need to water your plants, are you going to be able to get a water hose over to the bed?
Plants need food and water, just like you!
One place that can quickly eat into your projected food savings – is water. While plants only need a cup or so of water when just sprouting from seed every few days – when they’ve become the full grown vegetable laden crops you want – they will require lots of water.
Unless you have a well, spring, or a natural body of clean water to use as a water source, keeping your crops watered can quickly hit you in the pocket book.
If you are in a location where collecting rain water isnt banned – try saving rain water.
Saving Rain Water
The same goes for food. Plants pick up nutrients from the soil while growing. Unless you have a large enough volume of compost available for free (such as from your own compost bins) you’ll need to add nutrients to the soil periodically.
Most people will opt to buy premixed garden soil from a retailer their for their first garden. And this is totally fine, we all have to start somewhere! But it should be noted that doing so will also affect your total savings.
No Pain No Gain
Gardening can be tiring work! After being in the garden for a couple hours, you’ll learn all new muscles and joints! I don’t say this to discourage you, because the end result can be a satisfying meal on your table later down the road. There will be ant bites, poison ivy rashes, scrapes, cuts and bruises that come from gardening. Take it in stride, but always be vigilant while gardening to look out for snakes and other dangers that come hand in hand with a garden.
“Thou shall not covet thy neighbors garden”
Every one has heard the old saying “The grass is greener on the other side.” This is especially true if you have a neighbor that has been gardening for years nearby. While you inevitably encounter pests and sick plants, your neighbor is bringing in what look like the plumpest tomatoes you’ve ever seen.
I suppose this could be included under the No Pain No Gain heading, because there will be psychological pain as you navigate into the world of gardening. You’ll learn how to deal with pests, how much water is too much water etc. Your neighbor already learned these lessons, buts thats not to say they will have a perfect harvest every year either! With time, you’ll navigate these speed bumps and have a garden you can be proud of too!
With that said……
Humility is a good thing
If your neighbor or friend offer you advice – LISTEN! There is a reason the grass is greener on the other side. They have the knowledge that can save you loads of headaches down the road. If you are looking for varieties of crops that do well in your area, ASK! Because somebody in the area has ultimately failed with more varieties than you can count til they found the perfect one. And they are going to be more than happy to give you that advice so you don’t go down the same paths!
Every problem and failure is a chance to learn!
When you’ve run into a problem with a crop, whether its pests, disease, or inclement weather that destroys some of your crop – thats no reason to give up! Learn from the experience and practice that humility to find the answer to the problem. You have white flies swarming your tomatoes? Scatter them with a water hose late in the day then spray the bottom of the leaves with a mixture of dish washing detergent and water (soap water). Keep it up til they stop returning to feed on your gorgeous crop!
Its not hard to get discouraged as you first start gardening, especially if you aren’t naturally a green thumb. But with time and patience like all good things you’ll learn to grow a bountiful garden and the pure enjoyment will flow!