Gardeners have some OPINIONS. I asked my trusty community (that’s you!!) to send help–it was actually an S.O.S, hah!–in growing a small herb and veggie garden. Not only did y’all deliver, but I got some hilariously conflicting advice…ranging in everything from direction of planting (North vs. South? East vs. West?!) to which flowers ward off critters and bugs best and though I am definitely a bit overwhelmed by the suggestions, I’m also SUPER thankful for the support!! Gardening is becoming a really cathartic thing for me, and I love teaching Leni about where our food comes from! I’ve compiled 10 tips I’ll be following and using as a first-time gardener; I’m NO expert but I believe trial and error to be extremely useful research, so here goes nothing!!
- Use the right soil. Soil3 Organic Compost Soil caught my attention initially for two reasons–it’s organic and made by a high-heat composting process with 100% natural products from the farm. This unique process creates humus compost, and I LOVE that!! Reason number two? It came to my door. If you know me AT all, delivery to my door is basically my love language at this point.
- Keep critters away. There was a lot of input regarding how to keep away bugs and deer when I asked pro gardeners for tips on my Instagram, so after a bit of additional research it seems that NOTHING is deer-proof, but planting lantana, garlic, and agave seems to help! Traditional kitchen herbs are also largely safe from rabbits and squirrels, but some sort of repellent might be called for in the case of insects. I literally have had deer trying to sabotage my garden already so these kinds of tips have been a top Google search for me lately!!
- NO ice, ice baby. Learn frost dates for your zone! I don’t have a lot to say about this, other than I’m not trying to go full Elsa on my new plant babies. I read that putting a clay pot over a seedling overnight when temperatures dip helps a lot, so even though North Carolina probably isn’t due for much frost soon (we have a 200+ day growing season!!) I’ll definitely be keeping that hack in mind.
- Location, location, location! At first, it seemed like no one could agree on which direction to plant veggie rows, but I’ve read tons of articles and talked to Nana Weezy and the verdict is in: it’s North to South!! Apparently planting East to West means the plants will overshadow one another. Or at the very least, make sure your plants are getting adequate sunshine (or shade) as suggested in their original packaging.
- Feed them well and regularly. Here’s to hoping I water them at the right times (I’ve heard doing it during midday means your plants will bake and die, so morning or evenings are best!) and with the correct frequency. Overwatering signs include brown leaves and droopy-looking plants. Not gonna lie, I think I’m nervous about this part the most!
- Grow herbs. Other than the fact they’ll keep certain rodent-y and unwelcome visitors away, they’re apparently quite easy to grow and they smell AMAZING!! I can’t wait to have fresh basil and mint to use in different recipes.
- Try not to start with challenging plants. I definitely erred on the side of caution here and went with some of the easiest herbs and veggies I could imagine; it doesn’t hurt that they’re the ones we will use and eat the most, too! Zucchini, tomatoes, herbs and peppers are some of the goodies growing in the garden and I’m so hopeful they turn out well so we can have fresh produce whenever we need it. I grew up with fresh garden veggies (shoutout to my parents!!) but we had almost everything you could think of growing–and I remember more than one occasion where certain crops would fail but we’d still have tons of fresh herbs and squashes to work with.
- Consider mulching. This is less of a raised garden tip than a traditional one, but I’m still considering testing it out! Apparently during the summer, mulch helps the soil hold moisture better so you don’t have to water your veggies and plants as often–this is HUGE when you live in the hot and humid South like we do. Mulch can also keep weeds at bay by blocking the sunlight that would allow them to grow. BONUS: mulch looks so good when it’s next to beautiful green grass from SuperSod!!
- Water the right amount. Everyone I’ve talked to has said to go for moist and not saturated soil!! This kind of goes along with tip #5, but it’s worth mentioning again that this is apparently a make-it-or-break-it situation for being a plant/veggie garden mama.
- Spill the tea. Literally. Apparently a super-weak brew of chamomile tea (light yellow!) misted onto your plants wards off something called “damping-off disease” where either a soil fungus attacks your plants at the root and kills them within days or they grow up fine. Either way, brew a bit and prevent yet another thing trying to kill your precious garden.
I am getting really excited by the idea of fresh garden salsa in late summer, but I’m definitely thinking a TON of the things I try this spring and summer will be a bit of an experiment in beginner gardening. Either way, I love making these memories for Leni–and if we get a few good tomatoes out of it, it will have been worth it.
If you have tips for the novice gardener (me!! ME!!!) drop them in the comments below!! New blogs coming in HOT!