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How Are Your Gardening Skillz?

I have a confession to make. I am a novice vegetable gardener. I have had successful herb and flower gardens, but I have never — not once — started a vegetable garden and seen it through to harvest. (I have planted a veggie garden. I’ve even harvested a vegetable garden. But I’ve never done both in the same garden!) Somewhat frequent moves, lack of space, and being heavy with pregnancy have been my excuses over the years. What are yours?

As it stands, I’m actually going to plant a vegetable garden this year. Tomorrow, in fact. And you know what? I have no plans to move out of this home before I actually harvest my happy mini-crops. Will you join me in this adventure?

It may be Spring, but here in Texas it’s already Summer. Two days ago my house A/C unit went out. It was 93 degrees upstairs! Even with my home’s windows open and ceiling fans spinning away, I was dripping sweat and smelling quite “natural” (if you know what I mean). How on earth did my parents ever live here before the advent of air conditioning? It’s a strange, strange world.

My neighbors are already harvesting bell peppers. Green peaches are slowly growing on the local trees. It won’t be long before they ripen. Strawberries have already come and gone and blackberries are right on their heels. It’s almost ridiculous to think about planting an organic garden now, but I am. I am joining the hordes of urban homesteaders participating in this year’s Sowing Millions Project hosted by Seeds of Change. You can follow the project at Facebook and Twitter. And as your own garden begins to flourish, you can even share your favorite pictures in their virtual garden. But first, we need to weed our beds.

In February, we harvested some surreal carrots from the garden. They’d been planted by our home’s prior occupant. (We just moved here in January.) Whoever dug the garden last year apparently didn’t dig very deeply, so the carrots grew in twists and turns through clumpy, rocky soil. Check these babies out!

After that, we ignored the vegetable bed out back in favor of planting flowers and herbs out front. We planted basil, dill, cilantro, mint, and rosemary for our herbs, along with jasmine, bluebonnets, petunias, salvia, and purple shamrock (which has totally taken off!). A few fresh green ivies, corn plants, and aloes inside the patio make for a welcoming front yard and porch.

But of course, all that front yard attention means we’ve ignored our back and side yards completely. So, that garden’s now a mess of grass and weeds. Tomorrow, the boys and I are going to go out there with our shovels and do John Jeavons proud.

Sowing Seeds

We’ll also start sowing some seeds. Since our growing season is pretty much year round here, many things that people in other parts of the country might start with in the Spring are actually things we won’t sow until the late Summer or early Fall for a Fall/Winter harvest.

If you want to start a garden, but aren’t sure what to plant or when, try contacting a local natural garden center or store. For where I live in the Austin area and Texas Hill Country region, the go-to source for reliable information is The Natural Gardener.

So taking my cues from them, I’ll begin by planting Pronto Beet, Imperial Black Beauty Eggplant, Bennings Green Tint Squash, Garden Chives, Rhubarb Chard, Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans, and Tendergreen Bush Bean. All of these are certified organic seeds, courtesy of Seeds of Change. A couple of these varieties are even heirloom.

It’s Not Too Late

Listen, if I can plant a garden in the heat of a Texas “Spring,” then surely it’s not too late for you! Why not join me and the thousands of others trying their hand at organic gardening this year?

Check out the listings on my Resources page for gardening supplies, seeds, and more!

And in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to let you know that I wrote this post while participating in the Sowing Millions Project by Real Food Media on behalf of Seeds of Change. As per my standard disclosures, you can bet that I received product and other goodies to facilitate this post (read: FREE SEEDS!). My thoughts and opinions are my own and not of those of Real Food Media or Seeds of Change.

(herb garden photo by kate monkey; purple shamrock photo by catface3)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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29 Responses to How Are Your Gardening Skillz?
  1. Kelsey Byron
    April 28, 2011 | 7:57 pm

    This is my 4th or 5th garden in this home, and you and I are neighbors. Horrible soil, needed lots of work. You may also try out Round Rock Gardens. They have bags of “potting” soil with all the good stuff, like what the Dirt Doctor recommends. It’s not cheap but you can mix it with compost, purchased or homemade. I’m growing potatoes for the first time ever and I have them all in Smart Pots, purchased online. I can’t believe how well they seem to be doing! Yes, you’re getting a late start, but you could get by this spring with potted plants grown from seedlings while you take your time building raised or semi-raised beds for the fall. I have some space left in my in-ground garden and will plant lettuce soon. Also coming up here are lots of tomatoes (Celebrities are easy), bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, dill, mint, and basil. Good luck!

  2. Karin Johnson
    April 28, 2011 | 9:37 pm

    I am in awe of peppers being picked already! Here we have to grow varieties that ripen early. We have a 9-10 week growing season and there can be frost anytime of year…and snow.

    After struggling, amending, composting, green composting, digging and pitching rock I have relented and accepted the fact that my back yard was a gravel driveway once upon a time. Raised beds are being built this year with the square foot technique being applied. Container planting is also on the agenda. The less I have to purchase from the local corporate supermarket the better.

  3. Abbey
    April 29, 2011 | 8:29 am

    I have had vegetable gardens off and on for years but always lose them in our hot, humid August weather. I am trying Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew this year (check your library, that’s where I previewed the book and technique). I never did like the long row cropping, weeding, sweating so I think this is going to work well for me. Best part: no digging! The planting medium is pricey but once done, it’s done and should last for years.

    Good luck!

    • KristenM
      April 29, 2011 | 9:46 am

      I’ve used square food gardening before and really enjoyed it. Like the John Jeavon’s “biointensive” method, it puts plants close enough together that weeds aren’t really ever an issue. It’s such an efficient use of space!

  4. Jamie Gold Sarver via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 9:40 am

    Not yet. :( We’re waiting for the ground to dry out enough to get in there

  5. Heather Brown via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 9:41 am

    Because I’m in a swamp! LOL I do have peas and potatoes in, if they haven’t rotted in the ground.

  6. Melissa Buker Parcel via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 9:55 am

    It’s way too cold and wet here. Just froze 2 nights ago.

  7. Correy McAtee via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:01 am

    Still snowing. Frozen irrigation every morning. Only when the snow’d off Black Butte!

  8. Yvette Noir via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:03 am

    I have no land and my thumb is red instead of green. :(

  9. Marilu Rund Johnson via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:07 am

    Getting the soil ready by adding some black dirt & compost

  10. Dana Krapfl via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:09 am

    I live in Florida so I had no problem starting my plants a month or so ago. We have tons of stuff growing right now and are very excitedly waiting to harvest, this is our first year doing our own veggie garden.

  11. Emily Stranz Petty via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:11 am

    We will be—-as soon as the freeze danger is over! We’ve only just now had grass pop up. :)

  12. Melinda Todd via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:12 am

    It’s too cold still.

  13. Matthew Nelson via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:15 am

    Peas, broccoli, onions, garlic all under a cold frame.

  14. Vivian R Palmer Harvey via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:17 am

    i can put some things in this week.. frost is a danger still

  15. The Nourishing Home via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:19 am

    eagerly awaiting my seedlings to arrive from Azure Standard. planting an herb container garden! :)

  16. Debbie Cook St John via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:19 am

    We are pretty close to being able to plant outdoors but it’s still a bit too chilly at night still. I do have 2 flats of seeds started indoors though – growing beautifully! I can’t wait to get them outside because that means one step closer to fresh organic veggies!

  17. Emma
    April 29, 2011 | 10:21 am

    I love Natural Gardener! Starting in fall we grew enough lettuce to last us through winter and into the spring. I pulled up the remaining lettuce in March (it was already going to seed!!) and now we have radishes and spinach going. Hooray for Austin weather.

  18. Melanie Hoffman via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:22 am

    We will but we live in the frozen tundra of North Dakota where our last frost is May 31st. The ground just thawed enough to dig.

  19. Gena Miller via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 10:32 am

    Waiting for a change in this weather.

  20. Robin Phillips-Knotts via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 11:58 am

    can’t plant until mid march to late march b/c of weather. :(

  21. Barbara Bradley Hoyer via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 12:29 pm

    We planted snap peas, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and lettuce in March, and now we’re harvesting the lettuce. I just put all my tomatoes in last weekend, and the peppers, even though some people think it’s a little early.

  22. Karen Barger via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 12:37 pm

    Still too cold in NorCal to actually plant in the ground. Have flats and flats of started seeds for about half of my garden growing nicely in the greenhouse. Just waiting for some warm weather–that and gotta get some more planters built to grow more stuff. This is my 5th year of really growing our own food.

  23. Alicia Ghio
    April 29, 2011 | 12:54 pm

    This will be my second year planting a garden … i’m also writing about my garden successes and failures on localinseason.com. There’s so much to learn, but it’s so much fun trying to figure it all out. i love following along with fellow novice gardeners.

    i’m in connecticut so right now my i have seeds started inside and in about 2 weeks i can direct sow things like lettuce, kale, carrots, etc.

    good luck with this year’s garden!

  24. Howard C. Gray via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 1:02 pm

    Because we can have killer frosts up to the middle of May.

  25. Elizabeth Jackson via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 6:22 pm

    Because I live in Alaska and it is still too cold. ;)

  26. Kristi Wilbanks via Facebook
    April 29, 2011 | 6:45 pm

    buying a house this next month, then garden up!

  27. Tamara
    April 30, 2011 | 10:31 am

    Im in Austin too but i dont have a house, so i will be doing the balcony container garden routine. im kinda unsure as to what i can plant right now, so i’ll cruise over to the website you suggested.

  28. Gary
    May 1, 2011 | 8:12 pm

    For those who have a large enough harvest, consider sharing some of it with your neighbors in need.

    People who need to use food banks/food pantries/food shelves to help feed their families (about 1 out of 6 Americans) almost never have the opportunity to get fresh produce.

    You can help… visit http://www.AmpleHarvest.org to find a neighborhood food pantry eager for your garden bounty (and if you know of a food pantry in your community that is not listed on AmpleHarvest.org, urge the pantry to register…. its free!)

    Help your community by reaching into your backyard instead of your back pocket.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.