Plan Your Way to a Green Thumb

Plan Your Way to a Green Thumb

One of the top responses we hear when discussing gardening with those just starting out is that they just don't have a green thumb.  Everything they try to grow dies or they are unsuccessful in ever reaching the harvesting stage of their garden.  We are here with a few words of encouragement and to say that gardening is not some gift or oddly colored appendage that only some of us possess, it is only through years of learning and loads of planning that we've become green thumbs ourselves...  Growing a successful garden is a lot like synchronized swimming.  Backwards planning is the best way to ensure a beautiful performance every time. The steps to beautiful, plentiful produce take the same patience, planning, and belief in yourself.  The most successful swimmers and gardeners dream about their results, believe in their end goal, and execute a plan based on carefully choreographed and planned production.  As you plan your next adventure into the art of gardening, here are a few tips to consider..

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    1. Plan in Advance:  Each fruit and vegetable has their own growing time, sun requirements, water requirements, and nutrient requirements.  As your plan – start early and educate yourself.  Start with grow times and germination periods.  With this information, you can plan backwards and starting building a schedule of when to harvest and when to plant.  By understanding all of the other requirements, you will start to visualize your garden.  Using graph paper and laying out your garden by zones can assist in the planning process.  This step is essential before your first plant or seed purchase.
    2. Start Small and Manage Expectations:  While gardening is an art, there are basic principles that each gardener learns and incorporates into their tricks of the trade.  Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged or downtrodden – gardening is a marathon and not a sprint.  Celebrate in your success and learn from your challenges.  Each season brings new opportunities and new adventures.  At the end of the day – savor your results and share with those closest to you.  They too can become converts…
    3. Pick A Place: Part of picking your place includes choosing the type of garden.  Options range from in-ground to raised beds to container gardens.  Many successful gardeners leverage containers of all shapes and sizes allowing for portability of their garden. Don’t feel like you have to run out and purchase a dozen brand new pots.  Scrounge around and use the items you already have around your home.  We often use old water jugs and random packaging to start our new plants.  Egg crates are great for starting seeds.   For your first garden, portability allows you the freedom to learn and alter your plans as you see success or explore other options.  As your capacity to add new products increase, the ability to dynamically alter your garden and increase capacity is only limited by your time and space.  If your up for a larger adventure, raised beds allow you to maximize your space utilization while making access easier for those that have physical handicaps.  Our knees sure appreciate the relief that a few feet provide.  Raised beds can be easier to prepare and allow you to import high quality soil.
    4. Pick Your Plants:  Based on the area available, the sunlight each day, and the time of year you want to grow – plant selection can make or break you.  Take into consideration what you and your family would enjoy.  Additionally, start with products that are easier to grow and maintain.  Based on your growing season and personal tastes, pick products that meet your initial expectations.  In our family, strawberry’s are king.  The plants produce for many weeks and our kids are forced to wait in utter delight as they see the fruit maturing on the plant.
    5. Companion Plant for Success:  When planning out your garden design you will want to invest some time researching which plants do well together.  There are many types of plants that can provide protection for your garden, whether through adding nutrients to the soil, shade or support for surrounding plants or attracting/repelling insects.  We personally saw huge success after introducing companion planting to our garden planning, specifically an almost complete reduction of needing to ward off pests.
    6. Prepare the Place:  Soil preparation is key.  Ensuring that you have the proper drainage as well as nutrients is vital to long term success.  Planning for water and sunlight are key.  Ensuring that plants have access to water – even while you are on vacation ensures a positive outcome.  In areas with poor soil quality, taking the time to introduce natural fertilizer will help overcome these issues.  We use very simple products that contain high amounts of compost as well as chicken manure.  When we select plants that require high amounts of acidity, we have our kids collect pine needles and other naturally available bi-products to augment the soil.
    7. Plan for Pollinators:  Create a pollinator friendly garden by planting species native to your area, avoiding pesticides, providing additional foods such as a hummingbird feeder or salt lick and avoiding hybrid flowers as they often are missing elements such as pollen, nectar and fragrance.
    8. Plant Your Product:  Laying out the garden is key. Remember that someday your plants won’t just be two inches tall and may block the sun when they are full grown.  Plants such as tomatoes require additional support and space as they grow and begin to mature.  Corn can take up a large amount of space and consume a high degree of available nutrients.  Visualize your garden by utilizing flour to draw out your garden design before ever breaking ground.  Plan from the beginning to protect your space from curious (and hungry) critters such as birds, bunnies, and your own pets.

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What are your black thumb questions or pitfalls when gardening?  We'd love to hear and help where we can!  Let's be in this together!  We are passionate about learning how to provide sustainable, healthy food for our families and habitats for pollinators!


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