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The Diary of a Novice Gardener

When I was very little, our family would take a drive out west of town to pick the wild blueberries that grew along the fence by the highway. Once we got them home mom busied herself in the kitchen washing the berries and boiling the water to make jars of homemade jam. I have always envisioned a homestead with raised gardens, dotted with fruit trees of every kind. It was no surprise decades later the first thing I wanted to do when Stephen and I bought our first home was plant a garden in the back yard. I wanted to enjoy the satisfaction of growing my own fruits and vegetables.

We had little money as newlyweds just starting out and I savored the thought of having a healthy vegetable and herb garden. I worked for hours hoeing the hard dirt to make it soft enough to mix in the nutrients it lacked. Then finally, with great anticipation, I planted the seedlings. The hard work paid off in the weeks that followed. It was exhilarating to walk out back and pick herbs for our morning omelet. Or to fill my apron with the green beans, tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash. However I was unhappy with my meager supply. Grated the squash and especially the zucchini took off and grew to considerable size. Still the tomatoes green beans and herbs were lacking.

Growing vegetables is like baking bread, every gardener has their own opinion. Some say you can grow green beans next to corn while others insist it is impossible since corn needs nitrogen which in turn will harm the beans. Still in a book I read recently they say green beans need nitrogen too and the author suggested growing green beans next to corn. It is enough to give any novice like myself a headache. I just want to plant, water and wah-la, have great tasting and abundant fresh fruits and vegetables.

My dad grew up on a farm. But never did I think to ask him about the tricks of the trade. It was not until after I started my own family that I began to think about my childhood and the memories that I want to create with my children. So while visiting this summer I sat down with the master farmer to pick his brain and get all the insider tips.

My dad did not say much. Instead he gave me a brochure for an Aero-garden and told me to go experiment with the rest. My mom came in the room and reminded my dad of when he planted a hydroponics garden. Apparently all you do is dig a trench or use a vented planter. Fill the trench or planter with wood shavings or chips. Not bark. Next plant you plant in the wood chips. You can grow tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers to name a few. Finally give the plant a good drink with a mixture of liquid fertilizer and water. Sounded simple enough, yet I was still searching for the secrets behind a Martha Stewart worthy garden.

A few days later I went to visit my Great Aunt and my Grandmother, dad’s mom and aunt. They both grew up on a farm. Grandma Penny is the person who taught my dad. So it figured I would get some help there. They told me the same thing. You have to experiment. They added the most important key to gardening is adequate water and food. Then they suggested I visit the local feed store or garden center and ask someone there who knows the area and is knowledgeable about gardening. It was clear I was going to have to put in my own work and figure it all out by myself.