I wouldn’t say I have a green thumb, but I am well on my way. My whole life I have had trouble keeping plants. I killed just about every plant that was given to me up until a few years ago. Our first summer in this house (before it was a farm) we tried to put in a garden… Nothing came out of it… Not one vegetable! I had no idea what I was doing and this was before the time of Pinterest. We did nothing to improve our soil, we didn’t add fertilizer or plant food, we didn’t research what plants should go together or when they should be planted, we just picked a weekend where we had some free time, went to the local nursery, purchased some plants and put everything in at once. Everything died off pretty quickly. Go ahead, get a good laugh. It was bad. It’s not like me to go into a situation without researching it, but for some reason I just thought that everything would work out as long as I just got some plants in the ground.
The following two years I was dealing with being pregnant and then being a new mom, so no gardening took place, but I spent a great deal of time researching what I had done wrong. In 2012 we put in 5 raised beds. Our soil is hard red clay and with my lack of experience I wanted to start with the best soil possible. With all of my research and the help of Pinterest our garden was amazing that year. We were swimming in cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, watermelons, broccoli, and herbs. We had a little trouble with squash bugs so our zucchini didn’t turn out great, but we still got a few to eat. I was so pleased and ready to expand! My vision of becoming self-sustaining seemed like it might eventually be possible.
In 2014, we expanded the garden to 11 beds and the garden all of the sudden became extremely overwhelming. I was running our two businesses, while taking care of the farm and our two children, and Kevin was working (more than) full time out of the house. The garden didn’t get the attention that it needed. I was spending 30 minutes to an hour in the garden daily, but it was just me and it was all I could do just to make sure everything was watered and to “kinda” keep up with the weeds. Even with the lack of time and manpower we still ended up with a decent amount of fruit and veggies. I was expecting so much more so it was a bit of a blow to the momentum that I had built in 2012, but I got more than the year before so I had to celebrate that success. I was still moving forward.
That brings us to this year and yet another expansion. In addition to our 11 raised beds we are gardening on new land that we purchased. We had dedicated a quarter acre of the 3 acres that we purchased last year to a garden. We decided not to garden the whole quarter acre this year. It would just be too much. It was already going to be an uphill battle since we were going to be gardening into the existing soil and we knew we were starting with soil that needed work. The plan was to continue working on the unused garden’s soil by dumping compost and manure, and putting chickens out there throughout 2015 so it can be used next year. I went into this year with the expectation of making the 11 raised beds amazing and learning to garden our new space. With Kevin now working on the businesses full-time with me it takes a lot off my plate and gives me help in the garden, so that made the goal feel doable. I also spent an enormous amount of time helping a friend, who is a horticulturist, in her greenhouse and with her garden, soaking up every bit of knowledge that I could. It was incredibly helpful.
Weeds have been a huge battle this year as well as fungus, but I am learning to avoid and combat those things. Each year I grow. Each year I make mistakes and learn from them. Each year I bring more food into the house. Each year I take one step closer to my goal of become self-sustaining.
My advice for gaining a green thumb
- Research, research, research. Give yourself a head start by knowing what you are getting yourself into. Know the best time to put in plants, know what grows well in your area, know what plants should go near each other and which should be kept separate, know what each plants need to thrive.
- Have your soil tested. Good soil is the base to a good garden. Know what corrections need to be made to make your soil great.
- Start with easy plants and try new things each year. Plant things like cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. They are likely the veggies you would eat the most of anyways.
- Be happy with little successes and learn from mistakes. If something doesn’t turn out the way you wanted research what went wrong. Don’t wallow in the mistakes and remind yourself of the things you did well.
- Surround yourself with people who know what they are doing and listen to everything they have to say.
- If you have a friend or family member who gardens offer to help them. You will learn more than you know by just helping them.
- Take notes on what you did each year and make sure you do this as you go along. It will help you replicate things that go well and correct things that go wrong. You may think you will remember, but I promise that you wont.
Good luck and remember it takes years of practice!