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The following post is a guest post by Susannah Shmurak
Calling All Newbie Gardeners!
Interested in all things green but haven’t tried your hand at growing your own food yet? Know absolutely nothing about gardening?
That shouldn’t stop you from growing just a tiny bit of your own food this season.
You do NOT need to know a ton of information about plant types, soil, and growing zones to get started. I’m a proponent of “good enough” gardening and think anyone can start growing something, right away.
And no worries if you have no extra cash for this project, as it doesn’t have to cost a thing. Growing your own should actually save you money while providing you and your family with the freshest, most delicious food.
Gardening for Newbies – where does a total newbie start?
First: Growing Greens
The easiest beginner project is some greens — like leaf lettuces or arugula — in a pot.
All you need is a container of some sort, with some holes drilled in the bottom. Fill it with potting soil, press in a bunch of seeds a few inches apart, water, and voila! You have salad. (OK, that’s a few weeks away, but you can harvest tiny greens sooner if you’re impatient.)
Next: Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs cost a fortune at the store and are so easy to grow. Planting from seed can be a little tricky, so I recommend getting a division from a friend or neighbor (a division just means they dug up a little of the plant for you). Or you can buy a plant at your local garden center.
There’s nothing better than stepping outside your door and snipping a few herbs for whatever you’ve got cooking that evening. You can also use them for medicinal purposes like this lemon thyme tea.
A number of common herbs are perennial, so they come back every year with pretty much no work on your part. It also means that other gardeners will have clumps they will be happy to share with you.
If you live in a temperate climate try:
- Lemon balm
(If you’re hoping to plant them in containers, check with a local garden center whether they’ll survive in pots over the winter or will need to get buried in the ground. You can also try taking them in for the winter if you have a sunny windowsill.)
If your climate is colder your options are more limited, but these cold-hardy plants should be fine:
- Lemon balm
Mint spreads aggressively, so plant it somewhere you don’t mind having it take over, or plant it a container (which you can bury in the ground if you like). Lemon balm will pop up in different places around your yard, but it’s easy to yank or move. (It’s a member of the mint family, but not as persistent, and when you discover soothing lemon balm tea, you might be perfectly happy to have more plants in your yard.)
Many of these herbs are beautiful and can be tucked in all around your landscape and no one will realize you’re growing food. Their flowers also help our endangered pollinators.
The beauty of getting started with these tiny projects is that if your first attempts at gardening don’t go perfectly, no big deal. You didn’t invest anything but a little time.
Do you want whatever project you choose to be crazy-cheap?
Gardeners absolutely love to share, so ask around your social network to see who’s got extra seeds or herbs they’re willing to divide for you.
Freecycle is also an amazing for source free plants. Just put out an ISO — you’ll likely be inundated with offers.
Look around your yard or patio and you’re sure to find a few places to tuck in some herbs that will add spice to your cooking for years to come. Once you’ve had success with your efforts, you’ll want to add a few more. Then a few more. You’ll be a gardener before you know it!
Susannah Shmurak is a freelance writer and avid food gardener, whose blog, HealthyGreenSavvy, offers practical, money-saving tips on gardening, food, and low-impact living.