at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Gardening 101: Ten Lessons Learned

This week marks three years since we’ve been in our house.  That means I’ve now had three years of gardens, and with those three years of experience has come a lot of learning!  I didn’t really know anything about gardening, and still feel like I don’t…but I do know that I’ve learned some things along the way.  Here’s a collection of 10 things I’ve learned as a beginner just starting out with a flower and vegetable garden:

1. Tomato Worms are Scary (they have horns!! Or, something…): I didn’t even know what a tomato worm was before I started my first garden.  I sure learned that quickly when they began ravaging my tomato plants.  Fortunately, we had a friend staying with us at the end of that summer who was awesome at spotting the little suckers (who camouflage eerily well with the plants) and would often peel them off the plants for me.

2. Squash Bugs Suck: These things are nasty. They killed my zucchini plants the first two years and attacked my pumpkin volunteers this year.  They need to die. I murdered all that I found this year (including eggs), but it still wasn’t enough.

 3. My Soil Needs Help:  I have almost pure sand for soil in my yard.  Great for drainage.  Not so great for nutrients.  I’m working on building up my soil each year by adding compost, manure, etc…but it’s going to take time.

4. Read the Directions on Seed Starting Soil: I found out the hard way that the expensive, organic seed starting soil is stripped of all nutrients.  That means you have to add fertilizer to the soil after the seeds sprout. Or else they won’t grow. At all.

5. You’re Never “Done” with a Garden: What I mean by that is, you can’t create a garden and just let it be, even with perennials.  As plants grow (and as you realize that you poorly positioned something…), you will likely want to rearrange. Again, and again.  Maybe someday I’ll get things “right”, but I sense some more transplanting this fall…

6. Marigolds are Self-Sustaining: Marigolds are easy to grow, and I discovered that it’s super easy to collect the seeds from old, dead flowers and use the following year.  Most of my seed collecting/replanting didn’t go so well, but the marigolds did great!  That means, one seed packet of marigolds could have me going indefinitely…

7. Asparagus Grows into Ferns: Call me ignorant, but I had no idea and never would have guessed that those stalky vegetables turn into a feathery fern.  I mean, look at it...does that LOOK like asparagus to you??

8. The Critters aren’t so Cute: Animals I once loved to watch frolic in my backyard have now become garden pests and real nuisances. I loved to watch the bunnies until they ate all of my peas (we built a fence and the bunnies mostly went away – problem solved…though now I’d like to see them back in the yard).  I love to see the deer in my backyard, but HATE how they’ve eaten away my garden this year.

9. Potatoes Always Grow: This lesson was told to me by a friend, but I wasn’t convinced…that is, until my old, nasty supermarket spuds turned into a new crop of potatoes for me!  I really think these are one of the easiest things to grow, and I’m looking forward to doing them again next year. Also, digging them up is fun!

10. Every Year is Different: Different weather conditions, different crops or flowers planted, different pests, and varying amounts of time I have to spend working on my garden can all affect how my garden grows each year. Among other things.  You just have to work with what you have,  make the most of it, have fun with it, and know that things are not going to be exactly the same last year!

I’m sure I’ve learned many more things these past three years, but those were the first ten that came to mind.  I’ll continue posting updates here as a learn and as my gardens grow!

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!