When reading about where to begin on your quest to gardening, the advice ranges vastly. There are about a million things that gardening blogs, books and websites tell you to check. Lighting in the area, building materials, ph of the soil, soil composition, talk to your extension office etc … this list can go on and on and on. And by the time you read it all, you think to yourself, I’ll just start this gardening thing another day. And another day becomes another season and you drag your heels more and more. You know who I’m talking to. It’s you over there with the dead plant in their kitchen window. Oh no, wait, that is MY dead basil plant in the window there. See? You aren’t alone. Ain’t she a beauty? But hey, I got a few lovely caprese salads from this baby before I promptly massacred it.
So I offer you my two cents on where to begin your quest … be inspired to get inspired. I don’t mean you sitting there saying “Yes, I am ready to grow my own produce”. I want you to tantalize all your senses. I want you to take yourself on an erotic, food-gasmic journey of taste and smell and touch. We ARE talking about vegetables and fruit here people. Don’t get too excited, it is still gardening after all. But take a moment and enjoy a walk through a farmers market. See all the colors and smells and textures? Maybe it’s something you’ve missed in all the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Or maybe you saw it and were excited but too scared to try it. Do it! It’s time to try that new crazy produce you always wondered about. A lot of markets will mark yesterday’s produce down to incredibly cheap prices. So this doesn’t have to break the bank (ex. I just got 7 lbs of summer squash for $1.49 total at the market near us … yes you read that right). Maybe you step out of your comfort zone and try a new food cuisine. Start peeking through seed catalogs online (put that credit card away!). What catches your eye?
No, no it’s still not time to start your garden yet. Put your money away and don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Now it’s time to gently become practical about what you want and will actually use. Are you a master in the kitchen or are you the type to grab take out on your way home? No shame in that. Just embrace it and factor it in to your gardening process. If you are a take out regular, think about what might help you stretch those leftovers. I turn all leftover asian food into a giant batch of healthy “fried” rice with the addition of a few veggies. Think about what dish people rave about when you bring it to a party. Boursin potato gratin anyone? What cocktail or mocktail do you wish you could easily make at home more frequently? Mojitos with coconut rum for me please! Inspiration is out there waiting for you to see it. We’ll worry about what exactly you can handle in a future post.
Okay, wondering why I’m telling you this? Sports teams don’t quietly and calmly get ready for a big game. They have pep talks and cheering and are getting themselves ramped up for the big event. I personally think, that for the inexperienced gardener, you’ve got to get pumped about gardening. This way, if there is failure (please see the dead basil above) then you’ll still have momentum and excitement and energy to get back out there and grow and grow again. You might not be able to grow it all … but you won’t grow any if you don’t get excited about trying.
For me, with 2 kids … my inspiration was color. I mean of course I want it to taste good because really, who doesn’t? But the reality is, with little ones (and some grown up ones too), the biggest hurdle is getting them to put the new food in their mouths. Restaurants make food look lovely because we eat with our eyes first. And kids are no exception to that reality. If I can get even one more healthy food into my kids because it straight up looks awesome, then I’ve succeeded. I mean, my 3 year old asked for a salad the other night with dinner strictly because one of our watermelon radishes was cut up in there. Victory! Here are some pics of a few plants that I’ve seeded in my garden.
The bottom right photo is actually some watermelon radishes I pulled and sliced from my own garden, the rest are stock photos. Kaleidoscope carrots, neon lights swiss chard, pineapple tomato, purple bell pepper, chioggia beets and watermelon radish. Stunning right? So with all this excitement in mind, here is a list of what I’m growing this year:
Bed 1: kaleidoscope carrots, sun king broccoli, watermelon radishes, red beets, chioggia beets, golden beets, sugar snap peas, neon lights swiss chard, haricot verts (green beans), zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, leeks, (I intend on planting baby pumpkins when my sugar snap peas are done.)
Bed 2: parsnips, red/orange/yellow/green/purple bell peppers, clemson spineless okra, bush sugar baby watermelon, butter bush butternut squash, pineapple heirloom tomato, granny cantrell heirloom tomato
Planters: lettuces, strawberries, corn, Amelia tomato, roma tomato, 3 yr old dwarf lime tree and 3 blueberry bushes
Not all of these are crazy colors … but once the inspiration started, we grabbed the bull by the horns and gave it a go. See how the excitement paid off even despite a sad basil plant? Sounds like a lot, I realize. But where there is will, there is a way. I’ll talk about other things I factored in as I selected my seeds another day. For now, go out, try something new. Get excited about growing. Healthy, beautiful and delicious produce is just waiting for you to crave it. Get inspired!