Saturday, November 5, 2011

4 Easy Steps to Get You Up and Gardening This Winter

So you want to start a winter garden?  Good for you!
Gardening is extremely satisfying and cathartic.  
I highly recommend it in any shape or form.
But where to start?

Check out my 4-Step guide to starting out.  
This is meant to get your wheels going here.  So join in.

The first thing to do is write down a goal for the season.  What do you want to accomplish this growing season?  Be realistic.  When I started gardening I came from a place of "all or nothing."  So vegetable garden = self sufficient food supply.  But if you're like me, you tend to tackle projects in the extreme, so you must practice letting go and pull in the reins when gardening because there is so much out of your control in this department.   

It will behoove you to separate two expectations:  
#1 expectation: Successfully grow something start to finish (seed to harvest) that you can actually eat
 #2 expectation: Completely live off your garden and be successful at growing everything. 
These do not have to be one in the same. 

#2 is way too much!  This is how I started. Bad idea.  If you hold this high expectation you will never feel satisfied with what you do grow and harvest.  You will still have to buy carrots, and broccoli, and sweet potatoes at the store, but you may not have to buy them as often (ah, yes).  If you can accept this, you have defeated expectation #2 and can move on to realistic gardening.
 Okay, that's us letting go of expectation #2.  

I see gardening more as hobby with the added benefit of eating my labor. How many hobbies can offer that?  Plus I love playing in the mud.  I remember last year, I was dead set on growing carrots, parsnips and beets.  I tried 3 or 4 times and nothing.  No carrots. No parsnips. No beets.  I felt defeated.  But then I looked at what I did grow, and with great a success (peas. potatoes, radish and lettuce) - not enough to live off of, of course, but thought now wait a minute, my entire garden doesn't have to work.  It took a while for my type-A personality to get this.  Amber, it's all good!  

It's about the process!!  

It's about being outside with your kids, digging in the dirt, playing in the mud, making a garden bed, adding the dirt, placing those delicate little seeds in the soil, watering, and the waiting...waiting...waiting until that exciting day when you see those first sprouts!  Joy. 
Okay, that's too much mud.  
I'm glad she's wearing goggles.  
Props to mom for preparedness

So Rule #1:
Set a reasonable goal and have reasonable expectations about what you want to grow.  
I made my list very modest this winter season.  

Rule #2: 
Know your soil.  
Get your soil tested before you start gardening.  
Who knows what was here before you.  
This maybe a good place to start
Contact your local agricultural department for more information on soil quality testing, kits. how to, etc.

~~Skip rule #2 if you are planting with bagged soil~~  

Okay so far we have:
#1.  Set your gardening goal
#2.  Know your soil (or not)


Know your climate
I live in Northern California.  We have long HOT summers and mild wet winters (no snow in my region).  So I don't need to make any sort of covers for my plants.  You may or may not need to do this depending on your climate.  I plant what thrives in my region to ensure success.  I urge you to do the same.   

Visit your local nursery and ask what they recommend for your region and climate.  Just start with 1 - 3 varieties.  Don't overwhelm yourself.

Lastly, #4
Find the sun.  
Find a sunny spot in your yard (front or back), balcony, roof, etc.  Just find the sun and watch the pattern of the sun in this spot.  How many hours of sun?  This is important.  Sun is sparse in the winter, so your garden should be where the sun is shinning.  This tip will help your garden immensely.  I once planted a garden in the shade.  Sad.  But don't fret if have little sun, some plants are shade tolerant, so look for these varieties.  

Rule #5:
Wear a wedding dress when you garden.
Or not - I would say not, but that's just me.

To Recap
4 simple steps to get you started this year on your winter garden.

#1:  Set your gardening goal
#2:  Know your soil (or not)
#3:  Know your climate
#4:  Find the sun.

(#5: Optional)

Good Luck 
and stayed tuned for:
*Pictures of my winter garden so far, from bed to sprouts
*The best plant choices for a winter garden
*Fun gardening projects for kids...of any age
*Inside winter plants and herbs
*How to build a simple garden bed
*The whos and whats of bagged soil
*How to put your garden bed together

And remember:  gardening is fun!

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