5 Things I Wish I Knew BEFORE Starting a Garden
I know many of you are thinking about starting a garden this year. That was me last year! I learned a lot during my first year gardening, but there are some things that I wish I knew before I started my first garden. Not that those things would have discouraged me from gardening, but I certainly would have been more prepared.
Since the sun exposure isn't the best in our backyard, we opted to grow many vegetables in containers and built raised beds in my mother's backyard. Of course, we had to fill those raised beds and containers with soil. A LOT of soil!!
I learned that black earth is not nutritious enough for your plants to thrive. You want the soil in your garden to be rich and nutritious in mineral. Therefore, you want to fill your garden beds with soil made for gardening.
Filling your garden beds with good quality soil can be expensive. I suggest checking with your local nurseries to know the prices of soil per yard and then making a budget, at least 3 months before your gardening season begins. Here is a great tool to help you calculate your soil needs in cubic yards.
If your garden beds are already filled, but you don't know the quality of your soil, you can always test it. Some nurseries offer soil testing services or you can buy your own testing kit and do it yourself.
A good way to add nutrients to your soil is by adding compost at the beginning of the season and fertilise your plants every 2-3 weeks. I use an organic shrimp compost in spring and an algea mix diluted in water as a fertiliser.
I thought that, in zone 5B, I could only grow vegetables from June to September. Turns out not only can you grow vegetables in the spring, summer and fall, but some vegetables actually NEED to be grown in cold weather. Who knew?! (Not me 😂)
I was asking myself why I hadn't had success with my radishes and my spinaches and my Brussel sprouts...well...now I know! Those are cold weather crops and they need colder weather to thrive. This year, I'm planning three growing seasons, meaning I'm starting my spring seedlings in about 6 weeks.
I use this calendar to guide my seed starting schedule. It is FREE and although it is french, the calendar is very visual and easy to use even if you don't understand french.
I wish I had known all the good and bad visitors I should have been expecting in my garden. Although I spent many hours in my garden every day, pests were able to do great damage on my brassicas, on my peppers, on my cucumbers and on my rose bush.
Even though I know a little more what to expect this year, I still need to get prepared for eventual unwanted visitors and be ready to react when the time comes. I want to research the different pests that might attack the vegetables I'm planning to grow this year and educate myself on the different methods to limit or eliminate the problems if they occur.
If you want to grow your first garden, I suggest you do the same. It is very disheartening to wake up to a half eaten plant that you have been caring for for the past three months. There WILL be pests. Be ready.
YUP! - you read right!
Until a couple months ago, I had no knowledge at all about the benefits of worm castings. Neither the less that worm farming was an actual thing and that you can use worm casting ''tea'' to fertilise your plants.
This is definitely something I'm looking into right now. I suggest you look Hey it's a good life's YouTube channel if you want more information on worm farming. She has used worm casting tea to rejuvenate a dying lemon tree in her backyard. She even wrote an ebook about worm farming that is worth checking out.
It's impossible to find words to express how deeply meaningful it is to garden and to grow your own food. You need to experience it to understand how you become really connected with your plants and the nature surrounding you.
It all starts with a seed. You plant it and you water it and you take great care of it and then, you see it germinate and grow. And it's fascinating!
As you spend time taking care of your garden, removing wilted leaves and unwanted weeds, you will take the time to observe the bees and other insects just doing their thing. You'll start to understand the ecosystem surrounding you.
The more and more you spend time in your garden, the more and more squirrels and birds will come to visit, accepting your presence and being interested to live in this beautiful space you have created. You'll start to recognise their different chants and to notice their routines and habits. You'll really feel part of the gang!
As you harvest your garden, you will feel deep gratitude. As you wash, prepare and preserve your vegetables, you will feel great pride. As you eat your fresh salad or open a can of jam in the middle of winter, you will remember that little seed you planted at the very beginning of the season. And when the frost comes and your garden goes to sleep, you'll learn how harsh it is to let go of your garden.