Monday, March 25, 2013

3 Steps to Gardening Success

Starting a project is sometimes a scary thing for me.  I am a perennial beginner of projects. I have a laundry list of things I've thought were amazing ideas, things I have spent considerable time, effort and money on, only to walk away from those projects. Sometimes it's because the scope has gone out of whack and the job seems too big. Sometimes it's simply because I've failed at the task. Other times, I decide that it no longer meets the needs of me and my family. I've become almost afraid to begin anything new, already asking myself "are you going to finish it this time or what?"

Planning this new garden has not been exempt from my project fear and self loathing. I had pep-talked myself, encouraging me to keep the scope of the garden simple, to start slowly and to build this up over several years. And then I sat down with the kids to see what kinds of vegetables they wanted to grow.  I took their suggestions for nearly an hour, discussing all manner of fruit and vegetable, which ones would be tasty, what might thrive in our yard. Where I had intended to have maybe 10 different vegetables, some strawberries and a cook's herb garden, I ended up with over 3 dozen fruits and vegetables plus herbs. And a greenhouse.

And then I got scared.

Scared of failing. Scared of falling off. Scared of losing interest. Scared of just about every darn thing.  Stupid, really, to get scared of gardening. Cultivating food has been going on for thousands of years.  Millions of people were successful at it even before Al Gore invented the interwebs and Pinterest for us to share the tribal knowledge. Although there is a manure-ton of arcane knowledge and best practices around gardening, growing food is really pretty basic, only three steps.

Step 1: Plant seed in soil.
Step 2: Add water and sunlight.
Step 3: Collect Profits.

Surely, I can do those three things, right?  I mean, NOT doing those three things GUARANTEES I will fail. But doing those three things gives me about a gazillion percent better chance of success than not doing any of those three things.  So I jumped in.

I wanted to order non-GMO, Organic seeds but was afraid of the expense. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that had 99 cent packs. I quickly assembled an order including some 29 varieties of seed and checked out, waiting for my future garden to arrive by mail.  In the meantime, I pulled out a copy of my survey and drew out a sketch of our yard and began planning what plants would go where.  I also happened to find a hand drawn map left by the previous owners of the house, that details the existing plants and trees.  I was very excited to confirm a large thicket of lilac bushes!

Once the seeds arrived, I waited for the weekend to arrive so I could make a trip to the Home Depot to purchase soil and a seed starting tray.  I also decided to purchase a small greenhouse to move my seedlings to for hardening and maybe to try my hand at some cooler weather fare like spinach and lettuce.

I prepared the seed starting tray by adding water to the fat, squat pellets, marveling as they grew like Shrinky Dinks on my kitchen table. I drew gridlines on a piece of notebook paper, making 72 cells for the 72 cells in the tray, carefully noting which seed was being placed in which cell.  I also made another 72 cell table in which I noted how many days after sowing it took the seeds to sprout.

And then I waited.  But not that long.  It took 24 hours for some of the first seeds to sprout, those of a blue kale that I intend to saut√© with garlic and power up my juices with. Each day, I dutifully noted the spouters and mourned the dormants. The longest to sprout were the asparagus, not surprising.

I don't know if this garden will be a wildly successful victory garden that feeds my whole neighborhood or if I will merely be lucky to harvest a single tomato.  What I do know is that just the very act of beginning will ensure a much higher rate of success than not beginning would yield.