Advice for Beginning Gardeners

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Developing Corn

So, you’ve decided to pick up the spade and take part in the steward’s mission of making the most out of the land and resources you’ve been given? Great, welcome to the movement!

Deciding to the take the step has probably already taken some major brain time, huh? Can I afford it? Do I have the time? What if I fail? What if I kill everything? (Don’t worry, these are questions that seasoned gardeners ask themselves every year). These thoughts definitely went through my mind when I first started, and to a certain extent, still do each season. If you think about them too much, you’ll likely talk yourself out of a garden and end up missing out on a fulfilling experience that allows you to play a role in being a steward. In fact, I would argue that those questions have more to do with the post-sin effect, not the pre-sin purpose, as we discussed in the first post.

The real question to ask goes something like this, “Which is better stewardship, mowing that 10′ X 10′ patch of grass in your backyard week in and week out, or turning that same space into a garden that provides food for your family and neighbors?”

If you’ve answered that the garden is a better stewardship choice, then you’ve made the right decision to start a garden! But, those nagging questions have some legitimacy, so let me see if I can offer some advice.

1.) Have a plan – Planning well can save a lot of time, effort, and money. For example, take some time to lay out your garden over the winter months. You can just sketch it out or even use an Excel spreadsheet, like I’m trying this year. Get to know the frost dates for your area (contact your local extension office, if you’re not sure) and the corresponding planting times for the crops you’ve chosen (usually, these are listed on the seed packets). Equally important is to have a plan for harvesting. What will you do if you have an abundant crop of zucchini or tomatoes? Will you freeze them? If so, do you have enough space in your freezer (speaking from experience here)? Will you can them, or give them away? Trust me, it’s disheartening (and I must admit, poor stewardship) to see pints of tomatoes and pounds of perfectly good zucchini go to waste.

2.) Start small – If you’ve caught the stewardship-through-gardening bug, then you probably have images of a sprawling, lush garden of vines and bushes laden with fruit racing through your mind. Trust me, there’s nothing to dampen the spirit of a beginning gardener like starting with an unreasonably large plot. If time and money are major concerns, start small.

3.) Don’t read too many books, articles, and blogs – What? Yep, that’s right. Research is a good thing, but I’ve found that too much research and knowledge becomes overwhelming and discouraging. Gardening is a learning process, and while it’s good to get some basic knowledge, it’s impossible to anticipate everything you may face in a growing season. Experience is the best teacher.

4.) Expect to fail – Sounds weird, right? But it’s OK to fail, as long as you learn from it (otherwise, it’s just insanity). Like I said in #3, gardening is a learning process. Trust me, something you plant will not perform well and may even die (there’s that post-sin thing, again). It just happens, and when it does, take some notes, do some research, ask around, and resolve to try again next year. In the words of the great Winston Churchill, “Never give up! Never give in!”

Well, there you have it. That’s my advice to beginning gardeners (and myself). I hope that these morsels of knowledge give you the confidence you need to start your journey as a steward.

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