Why Planting a First Garden can be Scary

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"Planting Ocimum basilicum? Always pinch your basil before it goes to flower."

“Planting Ocimum basilicum? Always pinch your basil back before the plant goes to flower.”

If you follow recipes to the letter, measure every ingredient precisely, fret if you accidentally use 1/32nd of an ounce of flour more than the instructions call for – you may want to skip this post. It may drive you bat-guano crazy.

But if you’re the person to whom a ‘pinch of salt’ means ‘grab the salt shaker, throw it at the bowl, and hope some salt gets inside’ – this post is for you, adventurer.

Planting a First Garden? Or thinking about it..?

Some people plant their first garden like they raise their first baby. With precision, trepidation and panic.

  • The exact temperature and composition of soil calculated and documented
  • Specific amounts of water distributed at exactly the right time of day
  • Copious notes on feeding, checking, moving, resting
  • Contact information posted on the refrigerator at all times – “If you see signs of sprouting, call me. I don’t care if I’m in a board meeting or in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a life raft. CALL ME!!”
  • Light and heat measured and charted on perfectly executed spreadsheets, printed and inserted into the garden’s journal, updated hourly.

We new gardeners come unhinged if someone walks too heavily past the spot where the baby garden sleeps – quietly (so as not to wake the wee seedlings) – SHH! You’ll wake the Ocimum basilicum!!

We obsessively scrapbook each millimeter of progress.

And we can drive the rest of the world up the wall as we delve into the alchemy of how a garden grows.

Planting the Second Garden is Less Traumatic

By the time the second garden comes around, reality starts to set in. Our garden-planting shoulders are loosened. Hovering over the seed incubation trays with a sunlight calculator, while informative (and still fun), does not consume every waking hour.

We start to (*gasp*) reuse potting soil.

Our plant markers no longer need to be carefully printed calligraphic masterpieces. We discover that a magic marker-written length of painter’s tape atop a recycled bamboo skewer works pretty darned well.

We begin to buy into the process of gardening. That a garden is more of a journey than a destination.

We start to ‘get’ that things like germination time, watering needs, sunlight preferences are not set in stone but reside within a rhythm that does not warrant panic over lack of overnight growth, or fretful trips to Wikipedia every time a marker gets misplaced.

And as we settle in, our gardens grow with more confidence and less worry. After all, if we’re not freaking out, neither will that philodendron.

With this settling in comes membership in a vast and solid society of Those Who Garden. Welcome to the club.

So Get to the Point, Garden Lass…

The point is simple: If you’re just starting out, first garden and all, or thinking of a first garden, or petrified of the thought of starting your first garden: Breathe in, exhale, and dive in.

Don’t stress out — this garden isn’t your first born infant. No need to drive yourself (and everyone around you) crazy.

Start with what you see. You already have a sense of what’s growing where you live. If you look around your local landscape and see 999,999 acres of sunflowers and one lonely palm tree… start with sunflowers.

By doing this look-around before you start planting anything, you’ll be sure that the odds will be ever in your favor (to butcher a quote from The Hunger Games).

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

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