I’m no green thumb
Houseplants are lucky if they survive in my care. My yard rarely gets pruned and isn’t adequately mulched. But, I wanted to grow our own food, and with no experience, my results were mixed to say the least! Maybe you want to start gardening too and don’t know where to start. Read on about my mistakes, improvements and results, and maybe we can grow together 🙂
My rough start
Two years ago, when we first moved to beautiful WNC, my mission was to start growing our own food. I hadn’t even grown container tomatoes before, so this was a new challenge for me. If you are at all familiar with this area, you know that the soil is dense and compact red clay- not an ideal substrate for growing crops. Additionally, our backyard is a long slope downward toward the house, so water and runoff is also an issue.
Regardless, I marched onward. To start, we put french drains at the bottom of the slope to help with standing water. Then, we put in a retaining wall behind the house and made a modified raised bed by grading the land behind the wall and filling it with soil (about 12 inches deep).
Now, again, I am a complete amateur, so there were a lot of mistakes along the way! For one, I did not invest in good quality soil and I did not add compost. I did add some organic fertilizer before I planted, but that was about it.
As far as what and when to plant, I consulted The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith and few other internet sources. We live in USDA zone 7a and looking back at the information now, I see that our last frost should be April 15th. For some reason, I planted my seeds (this included carrots, beets, broccoli, peas, squash and pepper, tomato, cilantro, thyme, lavender and oregano seedlings) on March 29th. Of course, we had a nasty frost the next week! I was able to cover my tomato and pepper seedlings at night with plastic and they survived unscathed.
The rest of the growing season was equally tenuous. I wasn’t consistent about watering, weeding or harvesting. Some plants thrived despite my negligence. In particular, the carrots, beets, cilantro and parsley. Everything else struggled due to my lack of attention, but we thoroughly enjoy the harvest we had.
After a failed season, I decided to give this year more attention and time. Last fall I bought an Envirocycle composter to start making compost. I bought the smaller size but really wish I had splurged for the larger one- we fill it up the small one pretty quickly. The design is intelligent and it makes compost in about a month or so.
Advice regarding the optimum time to add compost was mixed, so I worked some into the soil a week ago. I also bought my first round of seeds from a local seed store. This year, I want to start some of the seeds indoors and transfer them after the frost. Look out for Part 2 of this series- I’ll talk about how I started my seeds and what else I’m doing to prepare my garden for a successful growing season!