Lessons from a New Gardener

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on July 8, 2011

My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view. 
~ H. Fred Ale

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Since I started my garden the third week of May, I was sure that everything would die. Every flower or plant that I’ve tried to grow in the past has always bit the dust early on. I heard all kinds of advice imaginable and I started to think if I didn’t follow everything, my garden would be a sure failure.

But what I’ve learned over the past 6 weeks is that the process is unique for every gardener and the best tips and tricks are those learned from personal trial and error. There is no better teacher than experience and the lessons that I’ve learned will stay with me always!

Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the past 6 weeks…

1. Plants aren’t always better than seeds.

Case in point- my pea plants! The pea plants that I started from seed have grown three times the size as compared to the plants I bought in the store. Next season, I will plant more seeds now that I have more gardening confidence.

Pea plant planted from seed…huge!

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2. Greens are great for beginners!

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Next season, I will likely plant more varieties of greens as I’ve seen how easy they are to grow. Very low maintenance! Umm, except for that spinach failure…

3. Keep your garden within arm’s reach.

This year, I decided to put my potted tomato plants on the opposite side of the house because that’s where the most sunlight is, but honestly it’s a huge pain in the butt to water them so far away. I might move them to the other side of the house and just make sure they are in direct sunlight! When your garden is in arm’s reach, you are much more likely to water them on a regular basis. Try to keep everything as close as you can.

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4. Raised garden beds are amazing!

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We used this raised bed tutorial and I’m so glad we spent the extra time, money, and effort to build raised beds. Raised bed gardening is beneficial for several reasons, including better drainage, more aeration in the soil, less bending over, more control over the soil, closer plant spacing, and an earlier start to the season and later end (due to the raised bed being warmer than the ground).

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5. Don’t be afraid to crowd a few plants

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I followed plant spacing guidelines to a tee when I planted everything (I even measured with a ruler!!), but now that I see the growth, I know I could have spaced things closer together and still had success. Next season, I won’t be so afraid of a little crowding here and there! Also, with a raised bed, you can plant closer.

6. Chicken wire is great for keeping small animals out, but annoying when gardening.

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We haven’t had any major issues with small animals eating our plants thanks to the chicken wire. However, occasionally I will see a bunny eating my KALE through the chicken wire! The bunnies are too cute to get mad at…and can you blame him? That’s good kale! I laugh when I see a leaf nibbled on next to the wire, but again, it has only happened a couple times.

With that being said, the chicken wire is really annoying when it comes to gardening because it’s always in the way. Unhooking it eats up time, so I usually just bend it down when I’m weeding and picking.

7. Before picking herbs, give them a rinse with the hose.

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This way, you won’t have to fuss with washing them once you bring them inside!

8. There are no mistakes in gardening, only learning experiences!

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The best part about gardening is that you are in the trenches learning every single day. There is no better teacher than experience! I’ve learned much more by actually doing it, than from reading a book. I will never forget about my bolted spinach and if I plant it again, I will try another variety more resistant to bolting and I will plant it earlier in the season!

9. When picking kale and lettuce leaves, pick the outer leaves and leave the inner ones

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Seems logical, but I had to Google this before I did it!

10. Plant only the produce that you LOVE to eat.

Only plant produce that you get excited about. Kale is one of my favourite vegetables, so I planted the most of it- 20 plants. I’m not worried about having too much because I can always freeze it and enjoy it all winter long!

11. Nothing is better than tasting fresh peas.

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Sweetest peas ever.

12. Seeing a bell pepper sprout is like Christmas morning :)

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Happiest moment of gardening to date!

More progress pictures…

The tomatoes have surfaced :)

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The tomato plants didn’t want to wrap around the pole and one of the plants actually fell over!! I don’t know if it was from another animal or from the wind, but I loosely wrapped a twist tie around the upper stem to support them. Seems fine now. :)

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Peppers are growing!

This is our banana pepper plant. Long and slender. :)

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Cucumbers! Which have little pricklies on them…..cuteness.

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Our two cucumber plants have grown the most out of any of the plants in the garden.

Here they are May 28, 2011:

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July 7, 2011:

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BEETS! Grown from seeds (which I’m especially proud of)

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Carrots sprouting ever so slowly, also grown from seeds. :) And a few weeds to pull out!

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The peas love to hook onto things for support.

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Another pea plant which was planted from seed is doing well. It managed to hook around a stick for support.

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I laughed when I saw that the plant has grabbed onto this long piece of grass (below) and strangled it!

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I also read that I should put string across the pea plants horizontally so they can spread out more…I’m hoping to do that this weekend.

And the best lesson of all?

13. Mother Nature knows best!

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The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that nature is pretty darn good at working things out for itself! While it’s important to take care of a garden, it’s equally important not to smother the plants. Like a mother sending her child off to their first day of school, sometimes you just have to let them go grow. :)

Initially, I was watering too much and the plants began to yellow and die. Once I backed off a bit and let it do its thing, the plants just took off with growth!

 

Weather means more when you have a garden.  There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.  ~Marcelene Cox

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

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Lauren @heylo July 8, 2011 at 3:26 pm

With all your talk about gardening I was inspired to get a small balcony garden going. I planted spinach, strawberries, chives, green onion, lemon thyme, oregano, and a few other herbs. The spinach took off and we were super excited about it, until ours too went to seed :( I would like to hear about the other varieties out there or how to prevent this sad tragedy! Your garden looks amazing and congrats on all the success. I can’t wait to have a backyard and a real garden :)

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Carissa July 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Your garden looks great! :-) And I love the comment about how weather means more when you have a garden. So true!

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Jessica July 8, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Fantastic Lessons! I agree, experience towers over all advice! I am loling over how the plants seem to have a mind of their own, grabbing/hooking onto things! Also, I literally went awwww when I saw that lil green pepper! Too cute! :)

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Jamie July 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm

So jealous! My cukes are the only thing thriving right now. Some sort of tiny black bug attacked and ate all of my kale. Hoping for better luck next year… and grateful for cucumbers this year. :)

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Jen July 8, 2011 at 4:54 pm

GORGEOUS garden, Angela! Congrats! My MIL has been giving us tons of green onions from her garden and they taste so amazing compared to store bought! Almost makes me wish we owned a home so I could have a garden of my own (who am I kidding, I’d still be pinching produce from the MIL, lol)

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Molly @ RDexposed July 8, 2011 at 5:02 pm

That’s stuff is called bolting that is coming up from my spinach?? It’s over?!

Darn!

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Ashley July 8, 2011 at 5:32 pm

You are giving me so much hope! I just got 3 potted herb plants for my bday and am hoping to keep them alive. Next year, garden FOR sure. It was too crazy with all of the new house action this year. Glad to see your garden is doing so well!!

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Rasha @ PBAddiction July 8, 2011 at 5:45 pm

After reading the spinach entry back when you posted it, I realized half of my spinach plants are basically gone too, haha. I’m really glad you’ve taken up gardening now since it’s my first year doing it too and can kinda compare :) These tips are great! I’ve had bunnies over too and you’re right, it’s hard getting mad at the cuteness!

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Amy July 8, 2011 at 5:53 pm

This is our 2 nd year with a garden and I am loving it. I love this post and i want to remember all the suggestions you give. I am attempting to go raw, at least mostly for the summer, and look forward to learning from your blog.
Amy

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Ritika July 8, 2011 at 6:51 pm

What an inspiring story! I love the quotes you chose. Do you get a lot of bees and wasps? If so, do they ever sting you? I’m always scared about starting a garden because of that. :(

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[email protected] July 8, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Angela this is an awesome post~ I seriously learned soo much just through those few pointers! I think Kale would be one of the best to plant! And of course, the peppers and all :)

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Sophia July 8, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Looks wonderful! Oh, and I’m not sure where I got this from, but I heard that if you plant a couple of herbs with your other produce, it’ll keep those pesky critters away. I don’t have a backyard of my own to start a garden (I live in an apartment in the city), but I really want to one day! For now I have to live vicariously through you & your blog! :D

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Kelsey @ Snacking Squirrel July 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm

a green thumb in training :) i think ur off to a wonderful start!! <3

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Nikita July 8, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Your garden looks beautiful! I can remember my mom having an amazing garden when I was growing up. And I helped, so of course I thought I had a green thumb, too… Not so! I kill things. Maybe there is hope yet! I need to learn more about gardening and not assume that things will grow from love :)

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Shannon ~ My Place In The Race July 8, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Your garden is looking great! Aren’t the bell peppers and cucumbers the cutest! :D

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Julie @ Wearing Mascara July 8, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Such a great post!! Congrats on your baby plants!! :-)

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Jackie @ That Deep Breath July 9, 2011 at 12:36 am

I am so jealous of your garden. It’s gorgeous

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Emma July 9, 2011 at 1:35 am

I swear your blog is such a darling! Congratulations on the garden! Always wanted to have one myself…except, we have no space in the city. Wondering if I could do potted herbs haha.

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Brittnie July 9, 2011 at 6:24 am

My husband and I recently built a planter box with all types of veggies. Our one big mistake… we did not put up chicken wire or any other type of barrier to keep the squirrels (or other creatures) away. Major. Fail. Your garden looks amazing!! Gives me some inspiration to get back out there and try again :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011 at 8:13 am

aww sorry that happened to you! Im sure we would have had the same issue…our gardens would have been a buffet for the bunnies I think. Glad you are going to saddle back up and give it a shot!!

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Sylvia @ LifeIsGoodWithFood July 9, 2011 at 7:39 am

I have my own garden, but I think I’m positively jealous of yours right now! When did you start planting the seeds? I started mine near the end of May and they’re all still short, stubby, and no fruit except for the herbs and lettuce! :(

On the other hand, have a wonderful Saturday :-D

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Mark Wisecarver July 9, 2011 at 8:21 am

Awesome post! Such a Glow ;-)

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Kristin (Cook, Bake, Nibble) July 9, 2011 at 8:42 am

I love this. I can’t WAIT until I have my own little garden! Thinking of getting some potted herbs soon, I will be a gardener gosh darn it! :)

xo

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Barb July 9, 2011 at 10:08 am

Peas and greens are cool weather crops. You can extend their growing time by providing shade for a large part of the day once the weather heats up. You can do that by putting something on the fence like plastic or fabric. Keep a sharp look on your greens. When you see the smallest part of a bolt, cut it down as far as you can. You can put a new crop of greens in the garden in late summer. You will get another crop that way before it gets cold. We’ve had a garden for over 30 years and it’s nice to pull out vegetables from the freezer year round. You should replace that twist tie on the tomato plants with a strip of soft cloth that has a bit of stretch. A piece of old t-shirt or strip from pantyhose works best. That stem will get bigger around and the twist tie will strangle it. Good luck this season!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm

thanks so much Barb! Do you know what the signs of bolting are on kale and romaine by chance?

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Tanya July 9, 2011 at 10:50 am

I’m so jealous. Your garden looks amazing! I only have a small patio and I was away the first part of the summer, so I couldn’t plant anything yet. Now it’s a billion degrees outside….I planted some lettuce and tomatoes in my indoor gardens but I still want to plant some things outside. Hmmm…..maybe some tomatoes.

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Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) July 11, 2011 at 1:55 am

Wow Angela!!! You don’t look like a beginner!

I love fresh garden peas so much – they remind me of my childhood. I would shell a whole giant bowl full and then dive in!!

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Emily Wilson July 13, 2011 at 10:03 am

Hi Angela!
I love that you have really gotten into gardening! I am interning on an organic veggie and medicinal herb farm on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada right now (I’m from California). And I am learning soooo much about how to grow food and about herbs! I just thought you might be interested in checking out my blog. You might learn something that could help you with your garden. (Although it appears to be going quite successfully so far! :)) Oh, and I made your no bake vegan date squares yesterday- love those things!!! Hope you have a chance to look at my blog. The post about tomato suckering may be helpful to you ( http://emilyatinnisfree.blogspot.com/2011/06/suckering.html ).
Peace,
Emily

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Meredith July 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Oh I’m a wee bit jealous of your garden…we’ve had so much rain here in NB, and even hail last week. Most of my plants were destroyed, and what are left have been eaten up by slugs and earwigs! So glad to see you’re having a lush crop!

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Amber Schaefer July 20, 2011 at 3:49 am

You’ve inspired me to make my own garden! I’m 16 years old and my father is going to help me start my garden. I think it will be a great bonding experience! :)

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Rachel Broadway October 28, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I love your garden, it’s so beautiful! Great advise, too. I am planning on starting my own above ground garden next season and this has really helped take some of the nervousness out of the adventure. I’m constantly looking for advise since I have no idea what I’m doing. I am also new to the vegan lifestyle and can’t wait to try more of these delicious looking recipies in the future (PS, the choc chip cookies were amazing! I don’t think my husband even knew they were vegan!)

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Bees December 30, 2012 at 10:23 am

If you want to try gardening or just love to garden, please try the “Square Foot Gardenening” method – Google on line or buy the book. Only a small space required, almost no weeding, and soooo much can be grown in a tiny space!

PS

Just found your website – it’s time for me to reduce animal products in my diet. AND so excited that you live in Southwestern Ontario like me – sourcing ingredients for your creations isn’t a problem! You have similar food preferences/tastes too…adding vegan is so easy!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 31, 2012 at 9:52 am

It’s a pleasure to meet you! Thanks for reading. :) Sadly I no longer have a garden in our new rental, but hopefully again one day!

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