The Novice Gardener: a new blog series – Pinetree Garden Seeds

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Since the inception of this blog a few years ago, we have covered a multitude of topics regarding gardening; catering to beginner and advanced gardeners alike. This summer, we’re taking on one of our biggest projects yet… building a garden and gardener from the bottom up!

We’ll be covering everything from plotting out your first garden, testing the soil, when to start seedlings, how to transplant, feeding the soil, and much more; all from the perspective of someone who has never gardened before.

The posts will be told from the personal viewpoint of Pinetree blogger, Amie, with education and guidance from our trial gardens manager, Jaci! If you’ve dreamt of having a garden to pluck fresh produce from but have never had the courage to start one… this series is for you. Amie may be well versed in all things photography, social media, and blogging… but caring for a garden full of living plants is far beyond what she’s ever accomplished before!

The movement to grow your own food is strong, and we want all of our new gardening customers to start their gardens off on the right foot! Growing your own produce is the absolute best way to ensure that your food is grown right… without pesticides, herbicides, or any other chemicals that you wouldn’t want you or your family to consume.

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One of the earliest things I remember about summer is snagging a fistful of fresh green beans from my mother’s garden and stuffing them into my mouth. The crisp, juicy snap of a fresh-picked green bean is an experience like no other… and I now know that the ability to recreate that feeling for myself and my own family is within my grasp!

When I approached the trial gardens manager, Jaci, at the beginning of this season about implementing a sort of ‘first time gardener’ blog series for customers who’d never gardened before, she was more than excited. We sat down and did an interview that allowed me to ask questions about where to start with gardening. I’ve always seen having a garden as this huge undertaking; one that I didn’t have the talent nor time for… but speaking with Jaci has abolished all thoughts like this!

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AMIE: So, what I want to do is just talk about gardening in a relatively broad manner, like how I should start the process.

JACI: Okay!

AMIE: I started by picking out the vegetables that I knew I would eat, and wanted to grow. Peas, beans, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, carrots, as well as the Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry.

JACI: Perfect! You’ll want to have at least two of the ground cherry, as they need a second plant to pollinate properly.

AMIE: Oh, good! I didn’t know that. So, what I’m looking for is to do a smaller garden… almost like a sample garden. I don’t want to do more than I can handle.

JACI: That’s perfect. You’ll be able to dip your toes into gardening without getting overwhelmed. It sounds like you’ll want two garden beds.

AMIE: Should I be adapting the square foot gardening method to squeeze in all the plants that I want, or should I be doing rows…?

JACI: It sounds like using a version of the square foot gardening method would be more appropriate, so you can do all the plants you want with the limited space. If I was doing something like this at my house, I’d adapt the square foot method.

AMIE: What do you think the time dedication is going to be for a project like this?

JACI: I would say that you could probably get your two garden beds prepared in a Saturday. Early spring is the most time consuming part of gardening, as you’re germinating and transplanting your seedlings, making sure they’re fed and watered, etc. After your plants are in the garden beds, your time will dedicated to watering and weeding, which isn’t a lot of time… keeping up with the weeding (doing a little bit every day) will keep it from getting out of control. You can also mulch to control weeds and help your soil retain moisture. With the amount that you’re taking on, I’d say that you won’t spending more than a couple hours a week.

AMIE: That’s something that I think puts a lot of people off gardening… they think it’s a huge time dedication. But you’re saying that as long as you’re maintaining your garden instead of doing damage control, the time commitment shouldn’t be more than a few hours a week.

JACI: Right!

AMIE: What are some things that you think someone who’s never gardened before should know right off the bat?

JACI: Soil quality, testing, and amending. You want to make sure that your soil is of the appropriate quality, and that you’re incorporating the appropriate amount of nutrients. You also need to make sure that your spot for your garden beds is exposed to the right amount of sunlight. The last thing is making sure that you have the ability to water your gardens easily. Depending on Mother Nature for watering can result in an unsatisfactory gardening season. I had a season where my watering system broke down, and I had to depend on Mother Nature for water… let’s just say it wasn’t my best season.

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After speaking with Jaci, I set about starting my first sets of veggies… peppers and parsley. She uses seedling flats to start her seeds, but where I only need 1 or 2 plants for my garden, she suggested I start them in fiber strip packs instead. She warned me that I should make sure I don’t put too much soil in each container, as seedlings like to germinate without too much obstruction. Jaci instructed me to use seed starting mix, which is light and fluffy and allows the roots of the seedlings to grow easily. Moisten the seed starting mix before filling your peat pots/seedling flat.

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Our catalog should say how long each seed takes to germinate, or poke up through the soil. If you’ve passed the suggested amount of time and haven’t seen anything come up, you may want to start over.

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Peppers don’t require anything before being planted in the soil, but parsley seed requires being soaked at least 12 hours before being planted. Here’s a link to a blog post about soaking seed! Follow the instructions on the seed packet as to how deep your seeds should be planted, and whether they should be covered with additional soil or not. I covered both sets of seeds lightly after planting 1/4″ down, and gave them a light spray of water before covering them with a plastic dome, setting them on a heat mat, and setting up a plant light above the tray.

Unfortunately, my first attempt at seed starting yielded only failure. My peppers got over watered and drowned, and my parsley dried out without enough water! I’ve since learned to check my seedlings EVERY DAY, to make sure they’re getting enough air/getting enough water.

Here’s an example of what happens when you over water; the result being something called ‘damping off’:

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I’ve since restarted my peppers and parsley, and will update on them soon!

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