Where my gardeners at? Come on, I know you're out there. Even if you kinda want to have a garden, we can call you a gardener-with-potential, right? That's me this year, a community gardener with potential.
So many people I talk to about gardening love the idea of it, but feel like the reality is out of their realm of possibility. "I've got a brown thumb" is something I hear a lot. Let me tell you, I am not the green thumb of our family. That prize goes to my brother. I'm not sure what magic he's got, but he's always been really good with plants, bringing them back from the dead sometimes it seems. So, I get the whole brown thumb thing. However, I am here to let you know that yes, you too can get over that brown thumb. And you don't even have to paint it green!
Gardening, like so many things, takes time to learn. It takes good teachers, and it takes a bit of trial and error. When we lived in Minnesota, gardening was a lot easier. The soil is black and nutrient-rich (that amazing blackness was FREE from a local spot, crazy right?) Water doesn't evaporate as readily in MN, and it probably rains a bit more frequently in the summer than it does here in Colorado.
We built a raised bed for our yard then and had a blast learning about square-foot gardening. If you're new to that idea, square-foot gardening is a method of planting that works well for backyard gardens. At it's most basic, you divide up your plot into square foot sections, then plant one type of plant per section. The number of seeds/plugs depends on the plant itself. For example, in one square foot you can plant 16 carrot seeds, 9 beet seeds, 4 cauliflower, or 1 pumpkin. It really makes the most of a small garden, and allows you to plant a big variety in a tight space. It also makes it easy for little ones to grab what they want and have at it! My little bean (now almost 5) used to love picking her veggies straight off the vine!
Now that we are living in Colorado, things are a bit different. The soil is more clay than anything else. It get HOT in the summer, and rain storms aren't quite as normal. So, I've had to learn some new tricks for gardening here. And this year we're trying out a bigger plot at one of the local community gardens. I'm SUPER excited!
The whole concept of community gardens is not new, but for many urbanites, the ability to garden is. We don't have a huge yard at our house (think small kidney bean), and we're limited to some extent by the HOA rules. Thankfully, our city has three community gardens available to anyone who wants one...and gets on the wait list early...
The city comes in with a rototiller over all the plots in late April/early May, and that's about it. Thankfully they do that because that soil gets pretty compacted! We've had some random snow here lately, so I haven't planted much, but have gotten in the girls down to the garden plot to pull weeds, add compost, and play in the dirt. I've also gotten to know some of the other gardeners...and taken notes on their strategies!
I mentioned before that gardening is a learnable skill, and this year I plan to learn a LOT from my fellow gardeners. Some of the them have been gardening here for years. Some are newbies like me. I am fully aware of my incompetence and lack of experience, so I'm looking to soak in the gems the other gardeners are willing to share!
This is one example of a plot that got started early. They planted all lettuce, which does well in the cooler temps, so it's a great early crop to start with. They also did some mounding in between the plants. Why? It turns out this can really beneficial AND is also an age-old practice! It can also be used two ways.
1. Mounded soil warms quicker than the surrounding garden soil. Mounding (or hilling) allows more soil exposure to the warming rays of the sun, and to the air. This can let you begin your planting season earlier. It can also translate into extra days of gardening in the fall.
2. It's a great way to control moisture. Any excess can drain off and away from seeds and plants. Cold, heavy spring rains can rot seeds and drown roots of your seedlings. You can control for that a bit more by planting seeds in the mounds. You can also plant veggies that need MORE water in the flats, as they tend to retain water better, whereas the mounds tend to drain water and allow water to evaporate more quickly.
3. Mounded soil is also less compacted, making air pockets and and nutrients more accessible to your plants. The looser soil allows your plants to more readily spread through the hill, and grow a larger, healthier root system. (source)
I started super small and planted 6 (yup, just 6) lettuce varieties, planted in the flat between the mound.
Another gardener has gotten pretty fancy. I love this idea, though I'm not sure what the thought process is behind it. I have yet to meet everyone and am hoping I run into them soon! I'm assuming they plant around perimeter and down the middle, while leaving a walkway for themselves in the middle of it all.
Another family came by a few weeks ago, spread out their compost and other soil goodies, then covered everything to prevent weeds. They figured they wouldn't plant until closer to Memorial Day (due to potential frost) and didn't want all their work to go to waste. They also plan to spread that mulch around the their plants to hold in the moisture (Colorado is HOT!).
Needless to say, I've got a big learning curve this year. And that's totally ok with me! I'll probably end up planting about half of the plot this year and leave a big space for my girls to dig around in. I'm kind of inspired to try something fun for them, like this bean teepee, making a fairy garden, or planting some giant sunflowers just because I know they will love them.
What have you got planned for your garden this year? And have you ever tried a community garden? Comment below and let us know! Share a picture of your garden to give us some inspiration while you're at it!
I'm Tonia, a Midwesterner transplanted to Colorado. I'm a mom of two lovely littles, a yoga instructor, DIY-er, teacher, stay at home mom, and a doTERRA Wellness Advocate. I blog about a little bit of all of these and everything in between!
Are you looking for natural health options, but don't know where to start? Book a 1-on-1 appointment with me! We'll spend about 30 minutes getting to know your health goals and concerns, learn a bit about doTERRA, and go over the most commonly used oils that meet your needs. You don't have to buy anything, but if you see something you like, of course I can help you!