I have always wanted to start a vegetable garden. I grew up picking fresh veggies for dinner, or just munching on green beans while talking to my mother while she gardened. It is the same way I wanted my kids to grow up. There was only one problem, I had absolutely no idea where to start. So I called my mom, the garden guru, and asked for some advice. Together, we came up with a plan for starting my plants inside.
We live in the mountains of Northern New Mexico at about 7500 ft and I knew that what worked in town for my friends, probably wasn't going to work for me. The first thing I did was figure out what zone I was in. I needed to know what plants would do well, which ones wouldn't, and when the optimal times for planting would be. I think this is the first step any new gardener should take. I discovered that I am in between a zone 4 and 5, zone 4b. Based on a lot of conversations with other gardeners, and our knowledge of past winter temperatures, we figured a safe last frost date would probably be between June 1-15. I looked at all the seeds I had gathered, and based on their various germination times, and hardiness, I decided to get them started around the first week of April. I could hardly wait to dig in the dirt, so I focused on future planning.
Here are the supplies we gathered;
4x4 pots (about 24)
Empty paper egg cartons
Popsicle Sticks (for labels)
Seeds (too many to name, but I will later)
The day for starting our plants finally arrived! On April 2nd we gathered all our supplies, and got to work. Tessie scooped soil into the pots and egg cartons as I supervised and then she placed the seeds very carefully. We started tomatoes, cabbage, and broccoli in the pots, and spinach, arugula, bibb lettuce, and romaine lettuce in the egg cartons. I wrote out the name of each plant on popsicle sticks and Tes gingerly inserted them into the pots, and I wrote directly on the egg cartons.
We have a very sunny hallway with south facing windows, and we set up a table in front of the windows for our "green house." Tessie could not have been more proud of our work!
I kept the soil moist, and although Tessie checked on them constantly, we had to wait almost a week for our first sight of green. On April 6th our first sprout was sighted! The romaine lettuce was the first thing to emerge, and in the days following the rest of the veggies started to push towards the surface. Tes was beside herself with excitement, and I shared her enthusiasm. I admit that there was a part of me that doubted anything would live at all.
The Kindness of Fellow Gardeners
As our little plants grew bigger, so did my need for gardening know-how. Everyone I knew who gardened became a new source of information. I started up conversations with people in our Fly Shop, and discovered that some customers I had known for years were avid gardeners. I peppered them with questions, and people were more than happy to offer help, give suggestions, and share their gardening stories. One of our customers invited me out to his home to check out his garden and did up some raspberry bushes. I couldn't refuse the generous offer, so the next morning the kids and I headed out to "the farm" as the kids called it. We walked around their beautiful garden, imagining what it must look like in the summer, and I mentally took notes, and a few pictures. In their greenhouse I checked out the raised beds, and they confirmed my "simpler is better" inclination. Tessie was given some Sorrel, a dark green leafy lettuce that is very lemony, and she munched on it during our whole tour of the garden. We ended up leaving with 11 raspberry bushes, sorrel seeds, two thyme plants, and a bag of frozen raspberries.
Another friend/customer from the Fly Shop turned out to be a self proclaimed "tomato guy" and offered me a ton of tomato advice. He was worried I started my tomatoes too late, and that I wouldn't have ripe tomatoes before our first freeze. His suggestion was to start them as early as February, or just buy big plants instead of starting from seed. We also talked a lot about cherry tomatoes, and he recommend a variety to me (which I bought shortly thereafter.)
I now believe that other gardeners are the best source of information out there. I was touched by the kindness and willingness that people had to share their knowledge with me. Thank you!!!