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Getting Started with Gardening

A fun and economical way to eat more veggies, and learn about science and nature as a family

By Karen East, NFPT-CPT, RYT200, Holy Fire Reiki Practitioner

I remember how challenging it was to get my boys to eat veggies when they were little.

My oldest son, now in college, still avoids most vegetables like the plague.

I embarked on my first (successful) adventures in gardening around the time my third son was born. Over the past decade, I’ve learned (and continue to learn) each year and have become quite adventurous - growing a wide variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, and herbs. I’ve noticed that Involving my youngest son in the process is reflected in his diet, and he enjoys eating things he helps pick fresh from the garden all summer long. We’ve done all sorts of fun projects together like painting garden rock markers, starting seeds, and finding fun ways to re-use plastic containers for storing and growing vegetables.

Whether you have acreage, or live in a townhouse, it’s simple and inexpensive to have a garden. Here are some things to think about as you get started.

Plan Ahead

Every year, in late winter, approximately 8 weeks before our last frost date (mid-late March in most of the Northeast) there is a new opportunity to begin again.If you wish to start plants from seeds, now is about the time to start them indoors.Shelves with lights built in can be super expensive, but my husband and I made this simple seed starter shelf for a few years ago, and it even allows us to have some herbs and plants indoors year-round.

The wire shelving runs about $30-50 depending on how many shelves you’d like.We used zip ties to attach fluorescent shop lights to the bottom of each shelf. We use T5 bulbs, also readily available online or in any hardware store.

Will you be doing a container garden, or plowing out a plot?

One thing I’ve learned, is not to go too big too fast!

It can be soooo tempting when you flip or scroll through pages of beautiful pictures in seed catalogs, but trust me, you don’t want to become so overwhelmed that none of your plants get proper attention.

Pick a few things to start that you typically buy and can grow in your region. Many vegetables and berries can also be grown in containers – perfect for small spaces or patios. One of my FAVORITE things to read each year is the annual seed catalog from my favorite source – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Find inspiration and information on their website about growing a variety of delicious, nutritious fruits and vegetables.

For small spaces, a container garden is a great way to grow a few things around a deck or patio. Another nice option is a raised bed. You can buy a pre-made kit and some garden soil to do a small version for under a hundred dollars, or get more creative with a weekend project to make something yourself for under $15!

Here's another great resource for Raised Garden Bed Plans from Happy DIY Home.

If you have space, and a little practice, you might start extending your garden or even digging up lawns to plant more of what you eat. Try to plan for what you know you will use or things you can store for the winter. You'd be surprised how much money a family can save in groceries.

Do you need to provide protection for your plants from pets, pests, or wildlife?

Puppies love to dig and will tear up your hard work in no time - Ask me how I know?!

Deer can decimate a plot of corn or squash with little effort. Groundhogs (or whistle pigs, as my husband calls them) and bunnies love to munch freshly grown crops.

Raised beds or putting up a small fence might be necessary to deter critters. Even plants in pots can be munched up in a heartbeat by hungry squirrels, raccoons, and other wild creatures. Be sure to keep them up on a deck or inside a fenced area where people congregate regularly. Pets can sometimes help deter other animals from the garden, OR they can become the pest, so be sure to keep an eye on them around your precious little seedlings.

Not every garden will turn out to be a major success – but keep trying! I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “brown thumb” – you just have to keep trying :)

Stay tuned for more advice, tips, and to watch alongside our 2019 Garden Journey.

Now go play in the dirt!

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