Lessons Learned from a First Time Gardener

DSCN3493I have learned so much since moving here almost 2 years ago. My biggest learning curve has happened this year, particularly since May. That is when I broke ground and started using the land we have and planting food in it.

Looking back to 1/1/13, I had no idea what was in store for me this year (and I am not done yet!)  I look at the goals and intentions that hubby and I set and they were not off base, but they were just scratching the surface of what would really occur.  But you don’t know what you don’t know.  So when we said we wanted to garden a bit and work in the yard the intention was certainly there, but the scope and breadth of what would occur developed on its own while we learned and got more and more excited about the possibilities.

Going from a subdivision where vegetable gardening was not exactly encouraged to 5 + acres is a huge change.  Going from 1 basil plant, a rosemary bush and a tomato plant in a pot to digging into real dirt, prepping soil and growing food at the level that it not only feeds you but you also have a bit left for storing for winter is a huge paradigm shift!

I have learned MUCH.  These are a few thoughts and learnings:

  • You never know it all.  There is so much to learn-species of plants, soil biology, the insect and pest world, seasonal impacts, etc.  So much to learn, but that makes it exciting.  I will never sit back and say “I’m done, I now know it all about gardening.”
  • You can’t control some stuff.  Rain, temperature, amount of sunshine… this stuff is God stuff or nature stuff or higher power stuff.  We may disagree on what controls this stuff, but we all can agree that one human being does not.
  • The taste of stuff that you grow, pick and eat does not even compare with grocery stuff.  I don’t care where you buy it, it was still picked and had to be transported to the store.  I can pretty much guarantee that my commute with my veggies is shorter than any that commute to the grocery.
  • My maternal instincts really kick in every time I walk back to the gardens.  “How are my babies doing?” is what is frequently going through my head on that walk.
  • The excitement felt when things start popping through the soil is cause for celebration
  • AND the sadness felt by something lost is real as well
  • I love learning about soil biology.  Who would have guessed I would EVER say that.  What a fascinating subculture in the soil that I have to partner with to get this food. And it knows more than I do.  I learn from it, it definitely is not taking lessons from me!
  • I appreciate the cycle of days so much more now.  I cherish the early morning hours I had during the spring and summer to work outside at 6:30 a.m.  I don’t have light any more at that hour so I have had to adjust.  Again, something I cannot control, but I do have to work with it.
  • I notice more about daily changes in everything.  Even outside of my garden, when I am driving I notice others fields in a new way. Or notice our grass growth and changes more. Or the trees that need trimming or leaves that are changing. It has just made me so much more aware of the things that truly do change on a daily basis.
  • There is no sleep as good as the sleep you get after 8 hours working outside
  • There is no shower that feels better after 8 hours working outside
  • I love, love, love tomatoes.  I just liked them before.  Now I adore them.
  • Change of seasons is bittersweet.  I am so excited about fall and the new opportunities in the garden that will be all new to be also.  But saying goodbye to my summer gardens and eating the last freshly picked tomato or cucumber has  a sadness to it, but also has a way to cause me to really savor every last bite.

AND the NUMBER ONE thing I learned is that I have a PASSION! I am inspired me to learn more and more and do this more and more.  I have been reading and attending webinars. I made a decision this month to go back to school and learn more.

With that decision did come action.  I am registered to begin classes in January with Washington State University’s Organic Agriculture online program.  Talk about a curve ball.  I did not see that one coming but am waiting with anxious and nervous anticipation.  Will I learn it all?  Not a chance!  Will I love it?  I think so, but only time will answer that?  Will it lead me to do something different with my life?  Most certainly, but I just don’t know what yet.

It is all a journey.  It is all learnings.  I don’t know how it ends, nor do I want to, but I am loving the unfolding.

Happy Unleashing and learning!



More Gardening- Just Do It!

Me in the TruckOne gardening season is coming to a close and I really just wanted to keep it going.  Then after tapping into books by Elliot Coleman and others, I see that it doesn’t have to end. But being a novice, I am not even sure what all this means– seems I can extend the season or over winter garden or use cold frames or frost blankets or plant stuff now for spring.

Well, I don’t really know about all these things, but then again I knew nothing in the spring either when we started gardening either, so once again I am just going to for it!  And that means, I am reading as much as I can, calling people with questions but bottom line is I am JUST DOING IT and we will see what happens.

Two of the summer beds are almost completely cleaned up now.  But the peppers…oh the peppers.  Most are pulled up but there are 6 that are still producing.  Some of these will hit the dehydrator.

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The basil is beautiful.  One plant is pulled and dehydrator.  The others will continue to dress our meals until I pull them right before frost and make a bunch of pesto to freeze.DSCN3490

We picked our last tomatoes this weekend and ate the last yesterday (except for the canned ones). It was bittersweet eating the last of them.  They were still so so yummy.  I do not believe I will be able to do grocery store tomatoes during the winter.  I will just wait until I can pick them again next summer.  There was nothing like it!

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The little yellow pear tomatoes just kept on going even after pulled for compost!  So I sat on the ground for a bit and picked out the flawless little guys.  They are still so yummy.  Who knew they would just keep on going even after pulled and tossed aside.



Bed 3 still has some carrots in it.  They are yellow and red and orange and so, so pretty.  I fixed them for my mom and dad this weekend and they were amazed at the colors.  They tasted incredible too!  Bed 3 also has some late summer things in it that I planted in August.  Lettuce, spinach, kale, collards.  Those are looking good right now and we have started to eat from this bed again.

The other bed (#2) still has pumpkins which are about ready to come off.  These two beds will get cover crop.  It is a mix of seeds that will help condition our soil which we are in need of since we are the first to work this land. I love that I did not even know what the term cover crop was 6 months ago and now I am buying it and planting it!

SO, we need more!  More garden beds!

We prepped 5 new beds for fall, winter, next spring… for whatever.  They are now prepped and ready to go. Beds 4 & 5 were planted about a month ago.  Spinach, Corn Salad and Kale  are in there.  They are smaller than the others as they are 7×12 but perfect for these greens. The little plants here are about 2 -3 inches now. They are looking happy growing in these brand new beds.

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We really want to expand our tomatoes next year and try corn and give the squash some more room.  So with that in mind we prepped 3 more beds.  One bed which is 25 x 33 is done and is planted with cover crop.  This will help prepped the soil for the tomatoes in the spring.  The bed is also in mostly sunshine and I think that will be good for the tomatoes as well.  I am also trying to rotate stuff since I understand that is good for the soil. The others are fairly large also and have arugula, onions, spinach,  and fava beans.

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I planted some garlic also, following MJF great instructions. We use so much garlic, I am excited to have our own next year.  I planted 40 cloves.  It is now covered with straw like a little hiding present.  I can’t wait to uncover it next year to see what I have in there!

I love, love, love Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Their catalog is more than a means to purchase seeds.  There is so much info about the seeds, varieties and planting info.  There staff is great too and has spent some time with me in helping me decipher much of what I don’t understand! So I ordered my stuff based on things that were supposed to be cold tolerant. I was so thrilled when my box came!


I also got frost blankets.  The maternal side of me is going to love tucking my babies in at night when frost is in the forecast. 🙂

So how long will I be able to eat from my gardens?  What will come up?  What will fail?  What will be a major success?  The answer is simply “I don’t know”.  It is the same answer I had in the spring.  But there really are not failures, only learnings. I am learning a lot from the successes and challenges.

I am really thrilled to have gone for it and continued planting.  I love it so much.  It is not all about the outcome but the journey.  And that is already a success!

Happy unleashing today!


Work That Feels Like PLAY!

I have become so aware lately of the perception of work and play.  Although the perception is not my understanding.  I will be in the garden and a conversation with a neighbor that has dropped by will go like this:

“You out here working again?”

“Nope, enjoying my garden and me time.”

“Yeah, but it is still work.”

“No really it’s not, I am having fun.”

“Sure, but you need to not be working all the time.”

“I’m not, this is my time off.”

Or I will be talking to my mom on the phone telling her what I have been up to with the summer and fall garden with canning and freezing, and she almost feels bad for me. She says “wow you poor kids are working so hard.”  And I think “I guess, but it didn’t feel that way….”

I think sometimes that the lines blur (at least for me) between work and play.  There are so many interests that I have and when I get to dabble in one of those or spend some time in one of those areas, it really does not feel like work.  If I am sewing gifts, someone might say “oh that’s so much work” and I think “oh my gosh, I am in my craft room, are you kidding me?”

My perception of play has never been to do nothing or to sit and just watch TV or something.  When I get to choose at the moment what I am doing, that is play, that is me time, that is enjoyment time.  This weekend I spent 2 days in the garden. Sure there was “work” to be done, but when my hubby asked me last week “what do you want to do this weekend?” I said, “I want to be selfish with my time and just spend the entire weekend in my garden playing in the dirt.”

And I did.  And each day, he came out at sunset to a smiling, relaxed, very dirty wife that felt like she was on vacation. She felt a little guilty even about all the fun she was having, so to ease her guilt she admitted she “had been working so hard” but inside she felt she had had the best vacation weekend ever! And when she watered her newly planted seeds and seedlings at sunset, with the cool, cool breeze, she smiled as she felt she had been coy—making play seem like work, now that is a win/win. 😉

What do you do for play that others think is work?

Happy Unleashing!