Gardens: Fresh and Cheap Food

I started an organic garden last summer, and I have been dreaming of pruning my plants all winter. Gardening has been a great experience, and I love the feeling of growing my own food and living (somewhat) off the land. The taste of a freshly grown tomato doesn't compare to one bought in a supermarket, plus it's rewarding to know that your hard work has deliciously payed off. But now that it's summer time, I am ready to get my garden pants on. Being my second year of hoeing around, I have learned from my past gardening mistakes.

Mistake #1: This wouldn't be a mistake persay, but rather poor planning due to weather conditions. Believe it or not, it was really hot at the end of last spring (hot? no monsoon? weird). Not taking this into consideration, I grew my pea, spinach, and pepper plants from seeds. Usually this is a wonderful way to start a garden; but I, being a first time gardener and not yet having acquired my green thumb, failed miserably. After replanting the seedlings I grew inside all winter, they burnt to a crisp after a week of sun exposure. All I got was one sad little pea (I was proud of that pea, though). After this depressing realization, I decided to go to the plant store and buy 6-packs of pre-grown plants. They were more mature and welcoming to the sun. Success. But, plant selection lead to my next mistake.

Mistake #2: I wanted to grow everything. When I got to the plant store, I went plant crazy insane. I started grabbing every plant I saw---I grabbed hot peppers (Not the brightest idea when I tear up after one medium chicken wing). I ignored all plant criteria including sun exposure and time of the season to plant. My failure selections: broccoli (they grew minimally, and the heat influenced this), acorn squash (this is more of a fall plant; and the mere nugget of a squash that I finally grew, my dad ran over with the lawn mower), and mixed lettuce (it was so hot that it grew upward and not lush and full). I did, in order to redeem myself, have huge success with: eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and little onions. I recommend these to any first time gardeners. They flourished.

Mistake #3: My last mistake: plant cluttering. I mentioned above that I bought a lot of my plants in 6-packs. Well my garden bed wasn't huge, and to squeeze all those seedings together would be difficult and stuffy for harvesting. Well I, avoiding my boyfriend's advice and me not wanting to listen, decided to plant every single plant in my itty-bitty bed. How can you plant 4 of the 6 plants and say no to the last 2 plants? I wasn't going to abandon my children, so I made it work. In the end, it didn't hurt the plants but my garden was chaotic (especially the tomatoes, who monopolized the garden bed). To avoid cluttering this summer, my boyfriend built me a second garden box (aw) to add on to my first. It was like an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for my veggies. Below is the new garden mansion. Ignore the state of my garden beds--I majorly need to weed and the new bed still needs dirt, but soon it will be a work of art.

After learning from past mishaps, I am ready to start fresh. I recommend gardening to anyone. It is a cheap and fun way to grow food, and you don't realize the difference in freshness and taste until you experience a home-grown vegetable. Can't have a garden but want fresh food: Buy locally. Visit your closet farmer's market for fresh produce. It's a great way to support your health and community!

I will post pictures of my garden's progress as it grows!



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