A Home Vegetable Garden – The Trials of a Novice Gardener
Looking out over my suburban Kansas yard one early spring day, I saw opportunity… the opportunity to convert some of my lush, green, but otherwise unproductive grass into something much more exciting: FOOD. So I set out to plant my first garden. This was not really my first garden, to be entirely honest. I grew up with fresh vegetables from our family garden in rural northern Michigan. But this was the first garden that I was in charge of, and I was looking forward to getting started.
First, I needed garden beds. Since I was working with a relatively small space, I opted to use the Square Foot Gardening method. This method uses wider, raised garden beds instead of rows and generates larger harvests in smaller spaces. More vegetables are definitely better, I thought to myself, so I started with a single 8 foot by 4 foot bed, added high quality planting soil, and then headed to the garden center to pick up my seeds.
That’s when things got hairy. “Plant in early spring”, the seed packs told me. When is ‘early spring’ in Kansas, I wondered? Not being sure, I went ahead and planted my beans, peas, carrots, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, and zucchini all at the same time – which happened to be mid-May, because that’s when the gardening bug bit me. Determining how much to plant was also a challenge. How many zucchini plants do you need to feed three people? Does zucchini require a trellis? Can you plant beans next to tomatoes? How far apart do you need to plant the seeds when you are planting in raised garden beds instead of rows? It’s amazing how difficult it is to find some of this information. Experienced gardeners might know the answers to these questions, but I sure didn’t. More than once, I felt my confidence slipping… wondering why I ever decided to plant a garden in the first place.
But then as my seeds took root and the garden began to grow, I felt my confidence returning and my excitement begin to take over. There is nothing quite like planting a seed, watching it grow, and producing food that is good for you and tastes amazing. My garden had its challenges – don’t get me wrong. My peas and spinach didn’t make it because I planted them too late. As the Kansas summer heat set in, they didn’t have a chance. The beans struggled because they didn’t have enough space. That was the zucchini’s fault, though. It hogged an entire half of the garden bed! I had no idea how sprawling those plants are.
One important lesson I learned, however, is that gardens are forgiving. You can really mess up and still get a pretty decent harvest. That summer, even though I had no idea what I was doing, I still harvested enough vegetables out of my 8 x 4 garden bed to cover my lunch five days out of the week, leaving enough vegetables for two to three family dinners each week. And talk about convenient! I just walked outside, picked what looked good to me, and that’s what we ate. Yum!