When setting out to grow your own food, the ultimate goal is to, well, actually get some food. Gardening is good and all, but if you end up with a lot of dying plants and no fruit season after season, chances are you will not keep it up for long. So, how to maximize your success and reap the fruits of your hard work?
Here are two common problems that lead to failure. Then maybe some ideas on how to start out better:
When I started out, I wanted everything, all at once, now. I had been reading books on sustainability and I was ready. I was going to grow all of my own food, herbs, make my own medicine, you name it. Problem was I started out too large with not enough hands on experience. The size of the garden I started with meant I could not give the attention needed to each individual plant in case it did not thrive. I was spread too thin without the experience to manage a garden that size. Everything died and I got nothing but some basil.
In talking with people over the years I found out this happens a lot. Some walk away thinking this means they have a “brown thumb” and give up all together. Others get discouraged from the sheer amount of work needed to manage a large garden and they give up before they gain the experience that would have made it easier later.
Lesson? Start small. Very small. Get a container or a large flower pot. Put in a few tomato plants or herbs. Then baby them. Water them every day. Feed them. Talk to them. Learn what they like. If they are getting the wrong sunlight, move them around. If they have a pest or problem, do some research, help them out. At the end of the season you will not have a huge harvest, but you will have a healthy plant you can be proud of combined with the knowledge on how to care for it most efficiently and successfully in the future. Then the next season, add something new. Eventually you will get there.
When I first started out I really wanted to grow chamomile and lavender. Every year I planted my little chamomile plant in the middle of summer in full heat and every year it died. Not only was summer the wrong type of year for these guys, Florida is completely the wrong zone. It just wasn’t going to happen no matter how much work I put into it.
Lesson? Plant what is zoned for your area at the right time of year for it. If you can’t find what you want in your zone, look for a similar plant in a similar latitude. (I was able to find an heirloom Spanish lavender that is for a zone similar to ours).
So start small and choose the right plants. One day you will surprise yourself with the size of your harvest.