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I hit pay dirt


TRACY HIGHLAND

I hit pay dirt

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WOW. HAS IT REALLY been seven weeks? As I look back on my journey I am somewhat in disbelief. After 30-something years of trying, I’ve managed to grow a garden! I’m eating food I’ve grown organically. Seriously, how did this happen?

I’m so proud of myself. One more thing has been crossed off of my list of things I wanted to conquer. I could not have done it alone though. I have to start by thanking my gardening coach Malaica, of Seed Burst Nurseries, for her assistance. Gardening, like everything else, is a learned skill. She patiently taught me what I needed to know and answered my million questions. Her ‘keep it simple’ approach really worked for me.

I asked her this morning, as usual over WhatsApp, to give me an honest review of my performance. This was her reply, “Automatically I would say you did well, but I will think about it.”

I burst out laughing. You have to love Malaica. I’ve grown to appreciate her honesty and extreme frankness. It’s kept me from going garden gimmick crazy, which I have a tendency to do with new projects.

“Lol. Can you think fast? I have to finish this article by 7 a.m.,” I messaged back playfully.

Her review: “You were apprehensive at first but you followed instructions which is the most important. You were obviously spurred on by early success, which is good. You stayed with me on the path to keeping it simple and did everything exactly how you were supposed to do it. You showed enthusiasm and dedication once you got past the original mental hurdle. You threw yourself into it wholeheartedly and reaped success. Just keep on applying the same principles. Keep expanding so you have an on-going supply,” she added.

I’ll take that! She summed up my journey perfectly. I was a good student. I followed instructions, consistently and it changed the game.

Here is a bit of what I have learned.

Keep it simple

If you are new to gardening it is best that you have an uncomplicated set up. A lot of the pretty arrangements you see in YouTube tutorials are great, but for a new gardener it might be overwhelming. Start basic. A few containers, some seedlings, lots of gravel for good drainage, compost and potting mix. Look for a sunny area and practise watering every day (depending on weather conditions and the plant’s needs).

Do your homework

Get help. I can’t scream this loudly enough. Do your research. Just like you wouldn’t bring a pet home as a first time owner with absolutely no help or guidance, you can’t have a successful garden with zero knowledge. You can’t toss some seeds in the ground and expect them to reach the heavens overnight. Align yourself with someone who knows about gardening and listen to them. It will increase your odds. 

Set yourself up for success

Be aware of your environment and formulate an arrangement that will work in it. If you have pets who love to dig, like mine, consider putting the plants out of their reach. In my case a container garden up on two tabletops worked perfectly.

Be committed

You have to commit yourself to taking care of your plants every day. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but just like other living things they will die if you don’t give them consistent care and attention. You wouldn’t feed your dog every other day would you? Well, plants are the same.

If it’s hot and soil is drying out fast, you probably need to water them every day. Again, this depends on the variety of plant, but if you do your homework like I suggest above you’ll be aware of your garden’s needs. Daily care will also help you to identify pest problems sooner rather than later.

Timing is everything

You have to learn about timing with certain crops. Some things are time specific, for example lettuce. If you go past four to five weeks with lettuce, it starts to get bitter. As Malaica puts it, “Stop waiting for photoshopped vegetables and pick what you have produced.”

Know your options

You don’t have to use chemicals if you don’t want to in your home garden. There are plenty of alternatives available for organic gardening if you decide to go that route. I use a natural pesticide made of neem and garlic which is commercially produced and available on shelves. Instead of chemical fertilisers, I’m sticking with good old-fashioned sheep manure. You can also mix 1 gallon of water, 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of ammonia for home-made miracle gro. 

It’s really up to you though. According to Malaica, “There are some plants that are nutrient specific to bear fruit, so be aware that chemical fertilisers are not your enemy and may be necessary sometimes to assist you.”

It’s been my pleasure sharing this experience with you. I hope I’ve inspired at least one person to slay their gardening dragons and get started.  If you’ve begun and are reaping success, encourage someone else to start too. Pass on what you have learned. Each one teach one.

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