My First Garden & Some Important Things I Learned
Those of you that follow us on social media know we moved back to Maine from GA in 2019. That spring we moved into our home, however the yard wasn’t completed until mid July. Basically the builder came back and finished the back patio and leveling of the yard, along with putting down seed for grass in May/June. Since I had no idea what that was going to give us as a yard & moving is stressful. I worked on landscaping a hill area and gave myself another year to plan the garden I’ve always wanted.
We all know what happened in 2020. That spring was overwhelming because everyone was in gardening mode too. So much was on back order & everyone had basically bought up all of the wood, raised garden kits and things I had planned for my garden. That put me a bit behind. Everyone wanted to do what I had been planning since the spring before. I had no idea I would need to urgently buy the supplies I wanted & needed prior to March or April.
#1 buy your seeds and garden supplies now, before spring!
You will also want to start many seedlings 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Beyond that, people are now going crazy over gardening and many seeds will be sold out if you wait too long. When choosing seeds pick foods that you will enjoy eating or eat often and flowers that are native and good for pollinators. Consider edible flowers (such as marigolds), these are the ones I like to mix in my garden with the vegetables.
The first year is a big learning process and you don’t want to have a ton of plants to tend to and learn about.
#2 Seedlings can be finicky
They want soil that’s very light and airy. A peat moss mix for me has done best. Once they spout and grow a bit, I add them to a soil mix in a bigger space or in their final spot, whether that’s the garden or a larger pot.
When it’s warm enough I direct sow my seeds in the garden. But I do enjoy starting the seedlings in the house/greenhouse so I have some veggies to enjoy a bit sooner in the season. Now this brings me to the soil in your garden or raised garden beds. You need to make sure that the soil isn’t too dense and you can loosen it up & fuel the soil by using things such as compost & peat moss. Soil prep is one of the most important things, I suggest you really focus on this.
I linked some items below that we have found to work great for seedlings. I have found the Jiffy peat moss seedling mixes to be great, along with their mini greenhouses!
#3 Pick the size garden you want and where to put it.
As I waited on things to come back in stock I planned where my garden would be and started prepping the area. I picked a spot near the woods, just on the edge of our yard. I dug out stumps, removed dead/fallen trees and leveled the area. I had a lot of free time considering there wasn’t much marketing work for me during a time when companies were not sure what products would be in stock -plus many places had shut down their factories.
I didn’t want to take up our lawn space, which is why I cleaned up an area on the edge of our woods and lawn. This is a personal choice, you need to make that decision for yourself. I also wanted to make use of vertical space, so I planted some herbs in pots on the back wall of my garden. Mint can spread like crazy, so that’s a great one to put in a pot away from your other plants.
Your garden is going to need sun to grow, so make sure to find a spot that gets partial to full fun. Full sun is best, you can always plant your garden accordingly to help give more shade to the plants that prefer it. We had to clear some branches and dead trees that got in the way of the garden getting enough sun in the way right corner. Which you can’t see that well in the photo below.
#4 Research your plants
Some plants like shade, some want full sun, some love compost while others do not. Also some plants do well being planted next to each other and even help keep certain bugs away. This is called companion planting.
Companion planting basically means you plant different crops in proximity to others for any of a number beneficiaries reasons. Some are planted near each other for pest control (such as basil and tomato plants). Other reasons include pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial insects, or even maximizing use of space.
Marigolds are great for repelling bugs you don’t want in your garden. I also loved my borage last year. It’s a beautiful flower and works wonderfully for protecting your tomato plants and improving their flavor. Not to mention it’s beneficial for your pollinators. Basil will also improve the flavor of your tomatoes and helps to repel nasty garden destroying bugs such as hornworms.
#5 You can regrow some of your food scraps
I have regrown green onions, lettuce, carrots, potatoes & onions. I want to try ginger & garlic this year. You can see my quick video on how to regrow carrot scraps here. One of the easiest things to regrow are green onions. Cut the onion a few inches from the root (use the rest in your cooking). Set the root cuttings in some water for 2-3 days. Once you see some growth, you can move them to a pot with some soil. I have found peat moss mixtures have done well. Keep the soil moist & water daily. I clip my onions as needed right from my kitchen window.
#6 Get a silicone ring
Take off your fancy rings, if you have them and replace them with a silicone ring! I got a few rings from Groove Life & I’ve been loving them! Trust me, you are not going to want to scratch or have to clean your engagement or wedding ring. My husband and I basically only wear these now and have our other gold wedding bands tucked away safe.
I hope you have fun gardening this year. Even if you think gardening isn’t for you, I suggest you try making a spot for a mini raised garden your kids can enjoy. Marigolds and peas were some of Izzy’s favorites. She loved to deadhead the marigolds (it stimulates more growth) and pick out the sweet peas from the pea pods.
I hope my tips are helpful and you enjoy some delicious vegetables & maybe even fruit this year.