I decided to re-start the garden in my backyard this year, despite the fact that I haven’t got a clue how to actually do it. After much research and trial and error, I created my own unique course for the first time gardener, which, dear readers, I am going to share with you right here:
Gardening 101: A (Not Terribly Useful) Introductory Course for the Beginning Gardener
Step 1: Learn how to garden.
Step 1.a. Research gardening techniques and design
I took April’s advice and hit up the library for books on gardening. Of all the introductory gardening books I have read so Barbara Pleasant’s Starter Vegetable Gardens has been the most helpful. Although I haven’t been able to use any of her layouts the step by step directions and planning lists have been really useful. I would totally recommend it to a first time gardener. I’ve also gotten a lot of wisdom and advice from a number of my friends and neighbors, some of whom have had their own gardens at my house. Conveniently this leads me to my next step.
Step 1.b. Take inventory of existing resources
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of love has been put into this garden, but it’s been neglected for the past few years. I needed to take stock of what I had to work with before I could start. I started by weed whacking the hell out of the backyard to excavate the existing garden beds. Several extraordinary things happened during this stage. First, I learned how to use a weed whacker. Second, I discovered some kind of ancient drip irrigation/soaker system that had been lying in a tangled heap hidden by weeds for the past two years.
In that moment I felt a bit like Howard Carter uncovering the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Step 1.c. Begin planning
I had uncovered a bunch of garden beds, but I didn’t yet know which areas of my garden got full sun, partial sun, or shade. I got out a sketch book and colored pencils and made a little map of my backyard and sat on the porch to draw in the sunny areas at different parts of the day.
Let me tell you friends, I felt so organized and clever as I did this. Little did I know what was in store for me. I started to make my list of plants and planing where I would put them, based on their needs for space, sun, and water.
I also knew from talking to the other gardeners in my community that installing some kind of drip irrigation system to water efficiently was going to be key to gardening during a drought. I had a bunch of soaker hoses, but I had no idea how to set them up. What’s more, I could see that there were sections of the hose that were damaged, joints where the hose had broken off, and there was this weird valve thing that had rusted shut. I looked all over our shed for spare parts, directions or even a brand name that I could google. Nothing. This led me to step 1.d.
Step 1.d. Get completely and hopelessly overwhelmed
After over two hours messing with the %$@&-ing hoses I still had no idea how they worked or how to fix them. I also couldn’t decide what should go where in the garden. I had two choices at this point, either give up or….
Step 2. Screw it. Buy a bunch of stuff, stick it in the ground, and hope for the best.
Step 3. Make mistakes
After planting the majority of my plants in the blazing heat I looked at the weather forecast and was horrified to discover that it was predicting snow. Fortunately, it later changed to rain, but the low temperatures have hovered low enough for me to worry about a late season frost. I later found out that most people around here wait until after next weekend to put their plants in the ground.
Step 3.a. Hopefully learn from mistakes
So, apparently you should look at information about your area’s last frost date before putting plants in the ground?
Step 4. ???????
I don’t know, I haven’t gotten there yet.
Step 5. Success!