Have you ever felt overwhelmed as you think about how to start gardening or kicking off a new garden season?
There are so many questions, options and methods; it can feel like you are lost in a lush jungle of options and questions:
- Do I start seeds or buy them from a store or a greenhouse?
- Should I till up your yard and plant in native soil or build raised beds?
- Should I use Square Foot Gardens, Rain Gutter Grow Systems, Wicking Beds or Root Pouches?
- How should I orient my beds (north-south vs. east-west)?
- Can I put a garden in a shaded spot?
- What soil mix should I use for my raised beds?
- Am I going to have an organic garden by using compost or use fertilizers or both?
- How far do I space my garden beds from each other?
- How close should I put the plants in my garden beds?
- What are these pests (bugs, birds or four-legged animals) and how do I stop them eating my plants?
- How can I reduce weeding and the work involved in gardening?
- Why bother? I never remember to water my plants and kill everything I touch!
If you feel this way, this new How to Start Gardening Series is for you. I am designing this series for people who planning to start gardening from scratch and looking at a clean canvas. My goal is to reduce the confusion and help you successfully grow plants and vegetables.
Of course, seasoned gardeners might also find this interesting, and I encourage you seasoned gardeners to weigh in and share your pictures and stories with us! After all, I have experimented with a lot of different gardening methods, but I am always learning, doing and growing (literally, in this case)!
Hall of Heroes – Gratitude
“It’s hard to have a bad day when you START your day with gratitude.”
These folks have reached the Hall of Heroes for this episode of the Small Scale Life Podcast:
- Michael Bell for collaborating with me on a future post and podcast episode.
- Brian from Happy Hills Homestead that gave me some great SCOBY last year. It is a strong SCOBY and is generating some awesome Dombucha. It is hard to keep up with Happy the SCOBY!
- Craig Caskey for being a great member of my Facebook Small Scale Gardening Groups and MeWe Small Scale Life Group. For his activity and because he is a good guy, I am promoting Craig to Moderator of the MeWe and Facebook Groups.
- The Pine Hill Cottage, Travis Schulert, Mary at Red Dragon Herbs and Teas, Hannah at The Wisconsin Homestead Podcast, Brian at The Garden Voyeur, Jacob at the Wisdom of Odin and Maria the Intuitive Energy Healer for being so active on the Small Scale Life Instagram Feed. It has been a lot of fun there!
- Maria the Energy Healer for having us to her home for a sound healing session last Friday on the night of the New Moon. If you want to learn more about sound healing, energy, meditation and grounding, check out a recent Small Scale Life Podcast episode where Julie and I interviewed Maria about all of these topics.
- Hannah and AJ from The Wisconsin Homestead Podcast for their approach to life and podcasting. Julie and I enjoy their show and are really excited that they picked up a new sponsor (Goodwill of Wisconsin). Pretty cool to see our friends grow!
- Letti Loo for her commentary and shout outs on the Small Scale Life MeWe Group and Small Scale Gardening MeWe Group. She has been very active, and she keeps herself busy on her blog and Lbry videos called the Liberty All Day Blog. Check out, Letti!
- Most importantly, we want to thank you. Thank you for being part of our Small Scale Life. Let’s learn, do, grow and be a little better everyday together!
What are you grateful for? Maybe you should tell that person or that organization (or favorite podcaster). Give it a try!
Do You have a Side Hustle or Business?
Some of you have great projects, side hustles or businesses. Perhaps you I could learn from you, and it would be FREE advertising for your project, side hustle or idea.
Share your story by being on the Small Scale Life Podcast!
Send a message to me using the Contact Us page on smallscalelife.com. This is your chance to teach us as we continue to learn, do, grow and be a little better everyday!
2020 – The Year of the Gardener
If you are new to gardening or started gardening in 2020, welcome to the Garden Party! I know there are a lot of you out there: “more than 20 million novice gardeners picked up a trowel for the first time swelling the ranks of American gardeners to more than 63 million according to Bonnie Plants CEO Mike Sutterer.”
The global pandemic forced people to stay home, and when the shelves at the local grocery stores emptied out of bottled water, toilet paper, canned goods, meat and eventually produce, people suddenly realized how fragile our systems and supply chains really are.
People grabbed shovels or borrowed rototillers and tilled up parts of their yards, purchased pre-made garden beds or constructed raised beds as shelves went empty and people needed something to do during the global pandemic.
With so many people jumping into gardening, the demand for seedlings (young plants) and seeds crested. Shelves at stores and greenhouses were bare, and seed companies put restrictions on who could buy seeds and how much companies could buy. Individual gardeners couldn’t buy certain seeds from companies at all (i.e., Johnny’s Seeds)!
It was alarming that what was plentiful months before suddenly was scarce. I did an interview with Michael Bell and Drew Demler in 2020, and we joked that we were very rich men as seeds where like gold! Sadly, we weren’t wrong!
Global Tipping Point: COVID Pandemic, Lockdowns and Social Unrest
For many, the Global Pandemic, Lockdowns and Social Unrest in 2020 were massive Tipping Points. In case you don’t know what a Tipping Point is, they are major events in someone’s life that is so significant that it demands your immediate attention and forces a person to act. Tipping Points are powerful triggers in a person’s life that changes a person’s mindset, actions, personality, and trajectory of life.
For many people, the Global Pandemic, Lockdowns and Social Unrest of 2020 were massive Tipping Point in their lives. Predictably, people do what humans have done throughout the ages when times got hard: people returned to their roots and returned to the land.
As 2021 dawns, these same folks are going to look at their lives and those new gardens and start to wonder what comes next. New technology developed to help people work remotely coupled with Social Unrest have pushed people into the rural areas. Starting a new garden on a new piece of property can be overwhelming, especially if you are sharing the space with hungry four-legged friends!
Even if you didn’t move to a rural place, you might have had weed issues, bushy plants that didn’t produce vegetables, pests, blight or just plain bad luck in 2020. As you stand and look at that garden, does it bring you joy or dread? Are you excited about growing plants or do you cringe with the work that is required?
Don’t take the sledgehammer to your garden yet! I can help you have healthy and productive plants and gardens!
Returning to My Roots
My great-grandparents, my grandparents and my parents were gardeners. In fact, some of my ancestors were farmers in Poland and shepherds in Czechoslovakia before coming to America. My dad even dabbled in farming after his career in the National Football League came to a close.
As a young man, I hated gardening. I hated weeding. I hated planting. I hated canning. It was hot and tedious, and I always would pick the wrong weed while getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I’d rather be riding my bike in the woods, playing in the creek or fishing on the lake.
The Crash of 2008 was my massive Tipping Point, and I was really stressed out back then. At the time, I was stressed out about my job was hang by a thread. I had a mortgage that was killing us and I was worried that I didn’t have any skills to survive beyond my office walls.
We got interested in and started gardening when a neighbor brought over some extra vegetables from her Square Foot Gardens. Here was my gracious neighbor sharing some vegetables from her garden and telling us that it was EASY to grow them.
Back then, Julie and I were like many of folks today: we didn’t know How to Start Gardening. We were pretty clueless, and clearly there wasn’t the plethora of gardening resources on the web as there are today.
Julie and I started by “touring” our neighbor’s garden, and we borrowed a book from her: Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. Julie and I read the book and started with two basic 4’x4’ Square Foot Gardens. We followed the directions and built the raised beds with cedar planks from a defunct mushroom farm, put down landscape fabric and filled our beds with compost, vermiculite and peat moss. Julie and I bought plants from the local big box store and started.
That is how we started gardening.
Experimentation: Learn, Do, Grow
Through trial and error over the years, I learned a lot about gardening. It didn’t take long for me to expand the garden with two new raised beds. Julie and I moved from Illinois in 2012, and we started renting in St. Louis Park, Minnesota (a suburb just west of downtown Minneapolis).
Even as a renter, I had raised bed gardens in a “Wild Area” in the back of the yard which was littered with broken bottles, branches, litter and out of control landscaping. I started gardening in special Hybrid Rain Gutter Grow System (self watering) raised beds on our driveway and created gardens clinging to fences. Having small spaces, not wanting to tear up all the landscaping and dealing with snow on the driveway forced me to be creative and adaptable.
When I have owned the property, I have experimented with Square Foot Garden Beds, Hybrid Rain Gutter Grow Systems, Mittleider Grow Boxes, Vertical Gardens, Patio Gardens, Container Gardens, Wicking Containers and Wicking Beds made of out metal watering troughs.
By experimenting with these different and various types of methods, I have learned a thing or two about gardening, pests and plants. It has been fun to experiment and talk about it on Small Scale Life, but up until now the story and guidance has been pieces and parts. It is time to pull it all together, especially as I am gearing up to start something new!
A New Adventure Begins in 2021
We are building a new home and community there. This is a old piece of farmland, and it has not been farmed in years. The pocket gophers, deer, weeds and invasive species have reclaimed this parcel. We are making some changes there!
Early on after purchasing the property, I woke up at 3:30 in the morning. My brain was already working on how to start gardening on Eagles Ridge:
- Placement of the garden on the lot
- Orientation of the raised beds
- What I would grow
- How I would grow the plants and herbs
- How would I water the garden
I can see it already in my mind. I have a vision of how it will work, where beds will be placed, where I will plant fruit trees, berries, grapes asparagus and rhubarb. I will have a heated greenhouse, and I will collect rain water.
It is coming….someday soon.
So, the question is: if you have a clean slate, how do you start gardening? How do you design and plan this garden so it is productive, efficient, secure and doesn’t break the bank?
A New Series Begins: How to Start Gardening
Here is what I know: I am starting from scratch.
All of my gardening gear is stored securely in a storage locker in New Richmond, Wisconsin. I have no idea where that gear is; it is buried under a wall of boxes. That means I don’t have my grow lights, heating pads, seed trays, tools, plant labels, potting soil or seeds. I don’t even have a garden yet; the land has grass and the Wicking Beds are stored behind the red pine tree in the field.
Trust me: I truly am starting from scratch! The picture above shows the future gardening at Eagles Ridge, and I will be posting a video soon showing the area and discussing it in more detail.
In this new series, I am going show how to start gardening when you have nothing. I am going to walk you through the process:
• Plan your 2021 garden (things to think about)
• Grow plants from seed in my apartment
• Transplant the seedlings into bigger containers
• How Raised Beds can improve your garden
• Build a mobile self-watering garden
• Plan the garden at Eagles Ridge
• Protect the garden from four-legged fury pests (rabbits, pocket gophers and deer)
• Prepare the garden area
• Plant the first perennial plants (comfry, rhubarb, and berries) and fruit trees
• Collecting Rain Water
• Design a wild flower garden
I am also going to update the 2020 Seed Starting Guide by documenting my seed starting efforts this year (in an apartment with no grow lights). I am planning to use my email lists more in 2021, so please consider signing up. Of course, you will be added to the email list if you download the Seed Starting Guide and Ideas Appendix.
Are you ready?
I am! I have some seeds, a seed tray and some potting soil. It is time to get started!
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