Monday, February 21, 2011

doing it wrong

One of our primary reasons for taking the time to document what we are doing with the garden is to learn from our own mistakes & to share the experience as we go. In looking back at last year, there were lots of things that could have been done better and would have likely given us a more successful garden, but at the same time, one of the most beautiful things about gardening is that it's pretty hard to really mess it up. Sure, you can plant your seeds too deep, you may not have the perfect soil or the perfect light, or you may not recognize a destructive bug in time to save a plant (we have been guilty of all of the above! :)... but in the end, nature finds a way to create something amazing, despite everything you've "done wrong", and you learn how to improve it next time. It becomes less a case of "good vs. bad" ideas and more a case of "better, and even better than that".

2010 Garden space - Dug & fenced in April/May, so we were a bit late for transplanting

Basil & Tomatoes - 2010 Garden

Lessons Learned
(I am a project manager, remember... ;)

  • Research, research, research!
    Last year, we jumped in eagerly without much research or a clear plan of everything we would plant, when we should start them, & where they might grow best. We both had gardens before, but not quite on this scale or with the goal of significantly increasing how much of our overall food consumption comes from our own yard. This year, we are planning out what we're growing in a super-duper spreadsheet that would make any project manager beam with organizational joy. Including ideal & actual seed-starting and transplant dates, companion plants & those to avoid, specific info on each variety, and anything else we wanted to see at a glance. Yes, it's even color-coded. *swoon*
    Ours is probably overkill for most, but there are some great online resources for this:
    Skippy's Vegetable Garden calendar:'s%20planting%20calendar.html
    You Grow Girl's seed chart:
    Johnny's seed calculator:
  • Map it out
    It's hard to believe that little tomato start will be 8ft tall, or that the zucchini (assuming it avoids the plague of squash bugs) can become a jungle of vines that creates too much shade for another plant. But, it happens... and faster than expected. We are using online planning software to map things out a bit this year & hopefully that will help. We are planning to use this one:
  • Give them a good start
    After lots of research, tips from fellow bloggers, and many hours of YouTube videos, we decided to try building our own seed-starting station with a standard 5 tier wire shelf from Lowe's, shop lights, & fluorescent bulbs. We also opted to make our own soil mix and try using soil cubes this year. We're very excited about this project and it's been really fun so far! Photos & details to follow soon!
  • Relax and enjoy the process
    Ok, I will admit this can be a challenge for me, especially in the planning stages! :) I find myself getting anxious about the timeline (again, curse of the project manager) and wanting to jump to the next task before we finish the one we're on. I actively remind myself not to rush and to learn to live with imperfections (wabi-sabi, baby!). At the end of the day, all the planning in the world isn't going to stop a frost or a very determined group of cucumber beetles. Perhaps the biggest lesson I've learned from gardening is that I am definitely not in control. But, as I watch seeds sprout from tiny little pods, or how a certain plant attracts a very specific insect for pollination, I'm grateful for the reminder to let go and simply enjoy being a part of this interconnected process.

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