5 Tips For a Better Garden (Even if You Don’t Have a Green Thumb)

Even though both of my grandparents had huge gardens when I was a little girl, I don’t think they passed along their green thumbs to me. Not to mention, I have a TINY yard.

I still believe a gardens are one of the best ways to enjoy good, healthy food, even if you have to grow veggies in containers or upside down. Fresh tomatoes, corn, peppers, spinach, beets, arugula and herbs taste great and cost a heckuva lot less than at a local market.

I am still learning how to garden as there is much I don’t know, and I owe my friend Lisa much gratitude for her patience and private tutorials.

In the meantime, here are a few gardening tips I have learned the hard way.

Grow fruits and veggies native to your area.

Since I am a huge okra fan, I have now attempted to grow my own in Boston, Seattle and Boise – all unsuccessfully. Yes I’m trying again (and you can see it’s the only veggie that’s not growing well).

I know I’ll have more to harvest if I stick with squash, peppers, beets, and other vegetables that acclimate well to Boise’s climate. This blog post from Garden Makeover has some great advice on how the length of growing season effects output, and what to plant accordingly.

Start easy.

Much to the previous point, there are some veggies that are simply easier to grow than others. This week, we harvested broccoli that we planted only 6 weeks ago (Luke, my son, was so excited, and here he is modeling).

I’ve also had great luck with spinach and can’t believe how much better it tastes than the packaged version. Other veggies which are easy to grow include potatoes, beans (dry and green), squash (summer and winter), tomatoes, beets, salad greens, lettuce, Swiss chard and other root vegetables.

Give your veggies some space.

This is the first year I’ve actually read the instructions about how far apart to space seeds and/or plants. And even still I’ve been off the mark a bit. For example, broccoli, cabbage and squash will darn near take over the garden, so be sure and make room for these little gems. And though corn takes up little ground space, the stalks will grow tall and potentially block light from its neighbors.

Use fertilizer. My garden last summer wasn’t so great. And part of this could be blamed on a cold spring. But I also failed to use fertilizer (well, actually, I never have until the summer). As All Experts suggests, plants need nutrients just like us humans do, so we need to feed them!

My friend Lisa suggests the following: “Ideally I would fertilize every  week, but sometimes I let 2 weeks go by between feedings.  The amount depends on the type of fertilizer, so I just follow the instruction on whatever fertilizer I happen to have near the garden.”

Welcome worms. After we built our raised gardens this year, my friend Ryan suggested I use a worm composter to create a nutrient rich compost as well as worms. And Mac Pike at Helium suggests these little critters are the unseen work force that make our gardens a success. But after spending a lot to create our garden beds, I wasn’t in the mood to spend another $100+. Maybe next year.

Here are a few other posts I found helpful:

Tee at Veggie Gardener: 6 Steps to Growing a Greener Vegetable Garden

Joan Bolton: Last Chance Summer Vegetables

Rachel Cernansky at Planet Green: 66 Things You Can Can Grow At Home: In Containers, Without a Garden

Got any useful tips to share? I’m all ears!

Melinda Hinson