Reflections from a first time gardener

Photo: Bruce Kirkby

This summer was my first full summer as a first time home owner and consequently my first summer as a first time gardener! I have dipped my not-so-green fingers into house plants and kitchen herbs with really dismal results so my expectations for my first outdoor garden were really low. In late winter/early spring I had attended an introduction to permaculture course, two square foot gardening courses and dug into a plethora of books and internet resources on the subjects. As spring was ticking away I was doing a lot of reading and worrying – and not a lot of digging! I finally had to reprimand myself and say “no more reading! Just stick some seeds into the dirt and see what happens!” So that’s what I did! At my own house I tried a lasagna garden ( , a square foot garden ( and a bunch of container gardens. All of these gardens worked very well, but the most productive was my Grandpa’s standard raised bed rows at his house. I have enjoyed the bounty from my Grandparents garden for years. However, they are getting older and the garden is a lot of work, so I volunteered to take it over and get some well needed lessons from my very experienced Grandpa! The soil at their house is incredible, he throws all his compost in there every year and as I, under Gramps watchful eyes, prepared the garden for seeding this year he had me dig a trench and fill it with 50% compost and 50% peat moss before we stuck the seeds in. The results from his garden are ridiculous! Carrots bigger than my feet! Beets the size of my head! 40 potatoes in one hill! Last week after pulling the 40 potatoes I was having a visit with my Grandparents and reflecting on some of the things I had learned. I told my Grandpa my biggest challenge was when he had me thin the cabbage. I looked at these amazing cabbage plants each one doing so well and growing so big and tall and I was so proud – I couldn’t imagine how I could ever pick one to go – much less the 6+ he wanted me to get rid of! His advice – I needed to be vicious! So with a heavy heart I pulled the cabbage…. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized that I didn’t pull the weakest, smallest ones- I just randomly pulled them out apologizing profusely! Not very Darwinian of me. At my house I did NOT do any culling, and my carrots are all a beautiful display of intertwined carrot families, while my Grandpas are enormous (delicious) monsters. Lesson learned. I am really proud of my bounty this year! I have more kale then I know what to do with and almost every meal this summer has included something that I grew right in my backyard! My biggest accomplishment is my tomato plant which I grew from seed – OUTSIDE! From what I hear from the experienced gardeners that is pretty incredible. I am currently planning for my next years garden which is going to be three times the size of my current garden AND I am introducing two fruit trees in the spring – whew!