It’s almost spring and I’m so excited. I don’t know about you, but I’m itching to get back out into my yard and garden. I love winter, but gardening gives me a source of stress relief and joy that can’t be measured. Something about being out in dirt causes me to breathe slower and be just a bit more present than normal.
I have been gardening since I was a little girl; it was the only time my mom and I got to spend together. When I was younger, I used to get excited to go out into the yard with my mom, planning where vegetables would go, digging, and planting. I don’t know how she kept all those details in her head, but it was amazing to watch her, as if all the stress and concerns of the week melted away.
When I got my own house, I couldn’t wait to start a garden, but quickly discovered it wasn’t as easy as my mom had made it look. For years, I struggled with getting anything to grow, or heck, remembering to go out to water and care for my plants. I thought that instead of a green thumb, I got a red one, because I couldn’t duplicate what my mom had done.
I quickly realized that was my problem: instead of discovering what worked for me, I was trying to duplicate what worked for her. So it always felt hard and impossible.
So whether you’re new to gardening or a pro, I’m going to share some of my fave tips and things to grow in hopes that it will inspire you to do the same. I also hope that I will help you find your own rhythm in gardening. Whether you’re digging up your yard, or you just have a few containers growing, gardening is all about doing you.
Step 1: Start Early
I start planning what I’m going to grow in January. I take a look at what happened the prior year, what worked, and what didn’t. In a journal, I keep note of what I planted, when I planted it, and the conditions. Did I start this plant inside, or did I get it from the nursery? What does this plant need? Things like that will help me to adjust or keep going. If this is your first year, just start where you are.
- What do you want to grow?
- Are you growing from seeds, or are you purchasing a plant?
- Do you have the space you need for the plant to thrive?
- What supplies do you need to help the plant thrive?
Don’t focus on being perfect. I guarantee you that you’ll always need something mid-season; no one rarely has all the supplies they need, even the most seasoned gardeners.
Step 2: Buy Supplies Off-Season
Once you know what you want, you need to get as much as you can off-season. Once Eastern Market Flower Day and those Memorial Day sales hit, you ARE NOT getting a bargain, I don’t care how low they say the price is. Also, garage sales, thrift stores, and your local library can be your friend.
Some of the basics you’ll need:
- Pruning shears
- Garden fork
- Garden hose with adjustable nozzle
- Watering can
And as a bonus, a wheelbarrow.
Check your local library for seeds, and/or ask in a community Facebook group. I can’t tell you the plants and seeds I have been able to get just by asking in my local Facebook group. Gardeners love to share!
Step 3: Do Less
Look, we are all busy, and so the more you can set your garden up to be self-sufficient, the better. Here are some things to help make the job easier:
- Gardening tarp or weed barrier fabric: If you aren’t doing a raised garden bed, and you’re using the ground, this will help to reduce the amount of time you are weeding. You can use weed barrier fabric in a raised bed as well (it can help prevent soil erosion).
- Self-watering system: You can purchase a drip irrigation kit or build your own. Google is filled with ideas to create a self-sustaining garden. I have also used old water bottles, filled them with water, turned them upside down, and let them work. This year I will be trying a drip irrigation kit because I’m expanding, and we don’t drink that much bottled water.
- Varieties that don’t require a lot of work and go with your environment: I too was the over-ambitious beginner, going for the cute varieties that seem to require a horticulture degree just to make them grow. I discovered that choosing varieties that didn’t require all the bells and whistles, as well as matched the Michigan environment and landscape, were a lot less trouble and effort. Just because the seed site sells it, doesn’t mean you should grow it. Make sure to choose plants that fit your space, environment, and the energy you have to give to it.
Step 4: Follow Other Gardeners for Inspiration + Support
Thank goodness Instagram and YouTube are filled with people who have done it before you. If you have a question, Google it. The web has become my friend in helping me diagnose plant problems and supporting my plant’s growth.
Step : Have Fun!
Don’t worry about getting it right with gardening, even if you think you got it wrong. Go out there with no expectations and be open to allowing the Earth to support you.
I love growing herbs; they are simple and have so many uses. I love growing sage, rosemary, and lavender, because they make awesome smudge bundles and they keep many bugs in my yard at bay. And, my favorite veggies to grow are tomatoes and peppers. My salsas and sauces are popping all season long and my family loves it.
Here are some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from gardening:
- Life has order, even when it looks out of order.
- Don’t focus on results; stay present.
- Even if I do everything right, it can go wrong.
- It’s rarely as serious as my anxiety makes me believe.
- Worry is unnecessary and unhelpful.
- Life is designed to support me, even when it’s hard.
- I can do hard things.
I’d love to hear from you: what is your fave part of gardening, or is this your first year trying? What tips and tricks do you have to help your garden grow? I am sending you an abundant gardening season!