September 11, 2014

In Support of Beginning Gardeners - Photo by Jessica Walliser (HobbyFarms.com) #garden #gardening #beginninggardener #raisedbed

It’s been a big year in my local gardening world. The wet weather invited both good and bad into the veggie patch. The constant rain lessened our watering chores but had us running for the organic fungicides at every turn. Early blight, powdery mildew, anthracnose and other diseases struck fear into the hearts of gardeners all over the region. Sure, there were lots of battles, but to me, the biggest gardening news of the year is that a whole slew of my friends started their own gardens for the very first time.

While it might not be earth-shattering information to you, it’s important none-the-less. Were it not for the weather and the fungal issues, I suspect that the success of my friends’ gardens would have been even more momentous than it already was. Heck, just turning over the soil and taking that leap is momentous enough! But then to actually harvest something—now that’s inspiring!

I know that my friends were not alone. Tens of thousands of Americans grew their first green beans this year. A large number of these newbie gardeners, including all my friends, have young families and are concerned about food safety and want to know where their food is coming from. Others are tired of high grocery bills and need to take a bite of something homegrown for a change. And, if my friends are any indication, almost all of them will do it again.

There were plenty of questions this year from all these new gardeners. It was certainly a year of challenges, but for my friends at least, it was also a year of wonder. I got email after email from them with little updates about their tomatoes and peppers. “Just picked my first tomato today! I can’t believe I did it!” declared one. “My lettuce is beautiful but what should I do about the aphids?” asked another.One friend planted a little perennial garden with divisions from my garden. She was thrilled when the coneflowers came into bloom—her daughter even more so. It was thrilling for me, too, to watch it all happen.

I also noticed two beautiful new veggie gardens on roads I frequently drive on. Much bigger than the plots and containers my friends undertook, I loved driving by each of these gardens every few days and watching them grow. One is a raised garden that I had the fortune of watching come to literal fruition from nothing but a patch of grass, a bunch of lumber and a pile of soil. Every week as I drove my son to piano lessons I would look to see what had developed since my last drive-by. I never saw the gardener, but they must be quite proud of their new little plot. It’s neatly maintained with nary a weed in sight.

The other garden is along a stream bank down off the side of the road. As it was installed, I watched from my car window almost daily. First it was tilled, then mulched, then planted. I started to see some mistakes. A single row of corn that would never manage to pollinate itself, tomatoes planted way too close to each other, broccoli planted in mid-June instead of April, and lots and lots of weeds.

I wondered if the mistakes were too many. Would this new gardener fail to try again next year if things didn’t work out just right? If this guy were your friend or neighbor, would you correct his mistakes and tell him to plant more corn? I hope not on both accounts. If a new gardener comes to you with a question, provide an answer (or your best guess!), but let them be. Let them learn in whatever way suits them best. Maybe it’s from a magazine, a book or a relative. Maybe someday it will be from you, but only if they come to you first. Long-time gardeners have a lot to share with all these new gardeners, but let’s let them soak it in a little at a time.

It’s exciting to see a new garden come to life, but it’s even more exciting to see a new gardener grow side-by-side with his single row of corn.

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