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Ten Steps to Growing A Stress Free Garden

It's almost the end of May and we're in full blown growing mode on the farm. This year, we feel like we're ahead of the game when it comes to getting the gardens ready, improving fencing, and finishing some of the projects that got unfinished last fall.

One of the most incredible ways to improve your life and your wellbeing is to put in a small garden. Gardens tend to be one of those dreams for a lot of people that also freak them out when it comes to HOW they should actually begin. We've made all sorts of mistakes in the past that caused upheaval that I don't wish on anyone. We now know if you want slicing cucumbers for your salads, you don't need six cucumber bushes. You'll have so many cucumbers, you won't know what to do with them all. Growing things outdoors should be enjoyable, fun, and also rewarding. If there are children in your life, it is one of the very best ways to spend time with them! Here are ten tips for the most successful growing season yet!

  1. Location, location, location. Whether you're growing a container garden on your deck or a substantial garden that's for all your food, WHERE you put it matters. Plants need as much sun as possible so pay attention to how much sunlight your proposed location gets before you put plants there.

  2. How are you going to water the plants? This is HUGE... Gardens need water. If you don't want to truck buckets of water somewhere, make sure you have access to water that is easy for you to use. My husband bought me a watering wand that gently waters our seedlings - and I love it for giving the horses a bath too!

  3. Take some time to make a list of the vegetables that you actually LIKE TO EAT. If you buy tomatoes once a month from the store, you probably don't need ten tomato plants. We've had a hard time with this particular task because we all like different things. What we decided as a family is to pay attention to what we buy the most of at the store. For us it's onions, lettuce, broccoli, carrots, and cucumbers. Occasionally, we purchase eggplant, peppers, radishes, beets, and summer squash. And then seasonally, we buy sweetcorn and watermelon, along with all the fruit. We love fruit at our house. My point is, there are certain things you want to plant that you know you will USE.

  4. Gardens need great soil. In fact, soil is the number one component to amazing food right next to proper watering. We build our soil from composted horse manure. If you know a local horse farm that composts, that would be the very best soil for your garden. They are usually very happy to give you some. Even for your planters on a deck or window garden, natural, organic soil is so much better than the chemically filled soils in those big box stores.

  5. Did I already mention water? Plants get all their energy to produce food from sunlight, water, and nutrients. Just like us! They need water every day. Pick a time of day that works best for you - although plants drink the most in the early morning or later in the evening when it gets dark. If those times don't work for you, go ahead and water when you can, just make sure you water them.

  6. Patience - Yes, this so important. I used to read a story to my students from the Frog and Toad book series where Toad was trying to grow a garden and he got so frustrated with the seeds that hadn't come up he was yelling at the ground! It's such a funny little story that reminds us all, we can't force anything to grow. Being patient and slowing down is part of what makes gardening so special.

  7. Don't be afraid to get dirty. I just read an article that stated dirt under your finger nails improves your gut microbes. How interesting! I'm a firm believer in dirty hands - It makes me feel good when I clean up so well. Getting our hands in the dirt and feeling all that goodness is one way to connect with the earth. Go for it! You can always wash your hands later.

  8. Pay attention to pests. There are all types of insects out there, some beneficial, some not so much. I like to wait and see if a predator comes and balances out things naturally before I start to intervene. If you notice something eating your plants, you may have to come up with a strategy for saving them. For instance, I put out cups of beer to attract slugs so they stay away from my rapini and broccoli. If I don't do that when they start to make crowns, the slugs will destroy the plant.

  9. Bask in the sun with your plants. Yes, spending time with your plants creates an energy around all that growing. Your energy and the energy you project out into the world is a beautiful way to encourage the growth you desire.

  10. When it's time to harvest, leave some for the other creatures in this world. We always share! I love how our farm was barren of wildlife when we moved here four years ago, and now it is like a wildlife sanctuary. From song birds, butterflies, tree frogs, and plenty of bugs, we also have the balancers - bats, eagles, and woodpeckers. ALL the animals create a balance. Even with the smallest garden, you can create a little sanctuary for yourself.

  11. Recommendations: Companion Gardening - a complete guide to what plants love to grow next to each other. Mother Earth News - online and magazine for growing gardens Local greenhouses and flower farmers - these growers have a wealth of knowledge and are over the moon happy to discuss your growing goals. If it's about plants, they love to

  1. chat with you! This season, I hope you enjoy the health benefits of growing a garden - no matter what kind it is, getting outside in the fresh air, manual labor, patience, and enjoying the fruits of your labor are a win win for YOU! Happy Growing!

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