I’m probably pretty low on the spectrum of gardener skill level overall, but I’ve come to learn over the past few years that being (and probably staying) at a more novice level of gardening is still super enjoyable and totally worth the effort … here’s why:
It only takes up as much time/effort as I want it to: As a working mom, there’s only so many hours in the day and such a small portion of that is for anything in the hobby/recreation category, so I wanted a gardening level that was enjoyable, but not another part-time job.
If you’re doing the whole raised-garden-bed-thing like I did, it will take a little more effort the first year to get your garden bed set up (here’s how I built mine), but other than that, it’s not really a big time suck. I spend an hour or two weeding the bed at the beginning of the season, another hour planting plants, and then I just water as needed depending on if it’s been raining and pick any tiny weeds when I water so they don’t have a chance to grow bigger.
It gives me something special to teach Lola: I love taking Lola out to the garden to check on plants, have her help water them, or let her pick them as things grow.
Now, it’s certainly not always fun to garden with a toddler (they want to pick everything including the whole baby plant you just planted together and try and throw all the dirt into your yard), but I know overall it’s helping to teach her patience, where food comes from, and to love healthy fresh flavors—and that’s all pretty important to us.
It’s amazing how excited she gets to pick tiny strawberries that would not impress anyone size-wise, but she thinks they are fun to pick and delicious to eat and just that makes me feel like a successful gardener.
Failed crops are a bummer (but not the end of the world): As someone with a Type A personality who’s always looking for the A++ outcome, it can be hard to deal with failed crops or an insect infestation you can’t overcome. But it’s a good lesson for me in letting go and just allowing the garden to be what it is … if it grows, great; if it doesn’t, it was fun to try. And my other little tip in this area is my next point …
I only plant “easy” things: I was excited to grow some broccoli and cauliflower my first year, but I had such trouble keeping the pests off of them, and you only get one crop of one head for the season, so I decided it just wasn’t worth it for me.
The next year, I only did things that grew really well the year before and things like snap peas, green beans, and cucumber were great since we could go out every day or so and pick new ones that had ripened.
Basically, I planted a bunch of stuff and kicked the “troublemakers” out the next year and just kept what was easy to grow and did well. Maybe that’s cheating but it makes it all more enjoyable and I don’t have to deal with much pest control!
I don’t have to be an expert (I just call one!): I realized early on that while I could spend hours online trying to troubleshoot different garden problems, it was way easier to get in touch with a local gardening place and just simply ask them what the problem is.
A few times a season I call the place I get my gardening supplies from and sometimes email them photos of what’s happening or weird bugs and they are super helpful at giving me advice/solutions for the issue, and it saves a lot of time and effort.
Now this is why it’s good to connect with a local gardening store/club rather than just asking a random cashier at a big home improvement store that also sells plants why your tomatoes are looking wilted—you’ll get a much more knowledgeable opinion if you’re asking a seasoned gardener that’s also growing stuff in your same climate.
No matter how black my thumb is, something WILL grow if I plan it right: I feel like there are some main rules that if you follow, something is sure to grow!
Plant your summer producing plants after the last frost warning for the spring season (google when that is for your area and then wait a week or two to be sure), stick your finger into the dirt next to the plant to check if you need to water every day or two (if the dirt is dry, give it some water, if it feels super wet, leave it alone and check back another day).
And if you really want to set yourself up for success, buy some of those potted patio plants that are just about full grown and only a few weeks away from producing something yummy like cherry tomatoes …
Basically, my method is to just enjoy the process, don’t stress too much about it, and add on new things if they sound enjoyable/fun. Last year, I added in growing some plants from seeds rather than all baby plants from the nursery and it was fun to try something new and get a new crop that they didn’t sell in baby plant form—I liked it so much I did it again this year!
As far as tools go, I really liked this book for easy gardening methods when I first got started, I made this raised bed to garden in, and we use this composter to make compost with our food scraps throughout the year for the garden (this one sits on our countertop and then we take it outside when full).
If you are new to gardening or have always wanted to give it a shot, now is a great time to get started! Just give it your best shot, don’t sweat the small stuff, and have fun! xo. Laura