Gardeners, no matter what their level of expertise, love to swap stories. The funny thing is that these tales almost always produce a lesson for everybody. Here are a few of my favorites!
Pat was determined to feed her family of six from the garden. She had just read the book Five Acres and Independence (Dover Publications 1973) and was feeling inspired, so she had the whole backyard plowed up for her first garden.
Unfortunately, it was roughly the size of a football field! To cope with the vastness of this project, she said that she could never look at the whole thing at once. It was too overwhelming!
The lesson? Start small.
Chris planted a huge amount of turnips. However, as it turned out, nobody in the family liked turnips, so she had to hide them in stews and casseroles so they wouldn't go to waste.
The lesson? Plant things that you and your family like to eat.
Eva said that since her garden was 200 feet long, she planted long, single-crop rows. Two hundred feet of beans is an awful lot of beans! They picked as much as they could, invited the neighbors over to pick, and still had beans left on the plants. To this day, her kids hate beans!
The lesson? Stagger your planting instead of sowing all at once.
Cathy had a row of trees bordering the edge of her garden. She didn't realize until they cut the trees down how much their roots were competing with the vegetables for nutrients.
The lesson? Pick a proper gardening site.
Sharon planted a garden at her new house. She didn't realize until a towering oak tree leafed out that its crown shaded one end of the bed.
The lesson? Locate your garden where it will get full sun all day.
Beth had a well that could barely support the needs of her household, let alone supply enough water for the garden. No one should have to choose between taking a shower or watering the tomatoes! She constructed all sorts of water-collecting contraptions but found that lugging buckets of water in hot weather wasn’t any fun.
The lesson? Have a reliable source of water close to the garden.
The final story is my own. It has to do with growing a garden behind the house over a gravelly leach field.
I planted there only because I thought that vegetable gardens belonged in the backyard! My side yard had beautiful, deep, sandy loam that was perfect for growing, so the next year I planted the garden there and had great success.
The lesson? Know your soil.
My gardening friends shared other words of advice as well:
- Start simple.
- Plant what grows in your climate.
- Enjoy a few successful seasons before you try anything too exotic.
- Don't use seedy hay for mulch.
- Start a compost pile.
- Pay attention to recommended planting times for your area unless you are prepared to cover plants at night and during cold spells—or lose them.
The most important lesson we all have learned is to not to let our mistakes stop us. Gardening is something that you can truly learn by doing!
Do you have any tips for beginners? Share in the comments below!