#4: Learning How to Garden As I Go

I am slowly but surely learning how to garden. I have grown a successful garden plot for the last two years and have kept almost all of my house plants alive. I have seedlings started inside, have borrowed gardening books from the library this year and have mapped out this year’s plot. I think that’s a pretty good start.

I grew up in the Ontario countryside with a landscaper as a father, chickens pecking around and a love for nature, so I’ve learned some things on the way. But I have learned the most from just planting. Because once you start planting you figure out what you need to know. I have asked my dad how to tend for certain plants, my friend’s mother taught me to pinch off tomato side shoots, the internet taught me you can germinate seeds in egg cartons, and a farming friend taught me that garlic is in fact planted in the fall, not in the spring. This is one of those things I learned on the way. I decided to spout and plant a garlic clove in the spring of last year, hoping for the best, just to see what would happen. That’s when my friend taught me garlic isn’t planted in the spring. The spout grew, but of course withered away in the fall. It seems to be a resilient plant though, because this spring it has sprung back to life. Maybe it will flourish!

The first year I grew a plot, my friends and I were in it together, with a minimum amount of knowledge between us. Yet we managed. In fact, everything thrived. Our cucumbers were delicious, our carrots were small but they were there, the kale exploded, and we had enough beans to eat and then pickle the rest. During this time I learned so much about starting a plot, caring for a plot, storing produce, and when certain crops grow. The next year I taught myself about seed saving, fermenting, season extension and some more general gardening information.

That year, however, not all of my crops produced. I still can’t tell you what happened to my cucumbers, but they were not happy. I really wanted to try cooking zucchini flowers, so I removed some of the flowers from my plants. As you might suspect, no zucchinis grew that year. I learned there are male and female flowers and you need to leave these flowers to be pollinated before snipping them off to fry them up for yourself. (Simple biology I know, but I was really eager about trying the flowers). I also learned how to differentiate between the male and female flowers; something I might not have learned if I had let them be.

I have learned that chard and kale are hearty, hearty plants. I have learned that lettuce is an ideal plant to grow near beets, because it can shade the soil to create a cooler climate that beets require. I have learned that you can make some very cheap, very easy season extenders for your plots, although I have yet to make any myself. I have learned to be careful when harvesting kale seeds because they will probably sprout when you accidentally drop them. This is why I now have lots of tiny little kales in my plot. I am consistently learning more and more gardening knowledge as I go, and I truly think that’s the way to do it. I read books, attend workshops, browse articles online, and best of all talk to people who have much more gardening wisdom than I do. There’s no better way to learn. You can learn so much from talking to people with experience. They are a solid source of knowledge and I plan to keep learning from them and to keep learning as I go.

Mackenzie Childs – Programming Coordinator

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