March 27, 2020
I'm not sure when the word black thumb grew into its extreme power to shame one into never trying to grow anything, but we think it's time that terminology gets composted. As two confessed- nay, proud!- former black thumbs, we want you to know that all you need to do to grow things is start growing things.
Yes, of course there are guide lines, resources, and small skills you'll want to pick up along the way but that's the thing- you will. It's a natural learning curve, and not a very fast one, so any one can keep up with it. You get one chance each season to start a garden, and then in late Fall, that year's trial is left behind until the next season. Hopefully you learned from it, and the following Spring you apply those lessons with a new hope and a few more tricks up your sleeve. In the simplest version of things, that's all we do as farmers: we try to grow things. We plant things, make mistakes, over water, under water, forget to fertilize, question our soil content, learn more each season and with each added crop, and ask questions all the while. And you can too!
You might not grow a prize winning tomato your first year, and I ensure you, you WILL likely kill something, but that's ok. There is no shame in that. I bet you'll grow somethings, too. And along the way you'll benefit from the fresh air, exercise, good eating and drinking, practical knowledge and indescribable relaxation, inspiration, and even FUN that a garden can provide. Seriously, gardens are not just for your grandma anymore, although I bet hers is GREAT.
In our Instagram Happy Hour Garden Chat we walked everyone through some basics, which we'll revisit here for anyone who missed it. (and do tune in for the next one on Instagram, @simplegoodnesssisters!)
Venise's farm is where we grow the cocktail garden, which is mostly grown in a 1 acre field in rows, spaced according to the plant variety and covered in a heavy duty weed barrier black plastic. The plastic is pre-burned with holes for the plants to fit through, to kill weeds organically. (See photo below for a look at the plastic in the rows.) In addition to that space, she has a large raised bed garden where she grows her kitchen garden (the plants she grows to feed her family all year round.) The details of building those raised beds are in previous 5 tips for Raised Beds posts here. Both the raised beds and the open field have drip tape irrigation so water can be automatic and timed so she isn't out there for hours a day watering. They're also both in full sun.
Venise starts seeds in a fiberglass greenhouse she inherited when she bought the farm. It has a quick and dirty watering system rigged up, with a timer attachment and drip tape with 360 degree sprinkler heads added to drip tape, fed by a simple garden hose from a nearby spigot. She has a little garden shed for storage that she got for free off of Craigslist and upcycled with a new paint job, window and a weather vane, as well as a beautiful painted door local artist Julianne of by Something to Chalk About.
Belinda has three 4 x 4 raised beds, 2 6 x 2.5' beds, and a variety of pots for herbs in a side yard on a 1/3 acre lot in town. She also uses an automatic drip tape watering system with a timer. She has cedar chips lining the pathways to keep away weeds, and the paths are wide enough to accommodate a wheel barrow. The beds get sun from mid-morning-afternoon and get some shade from trees nearby. Belinda starts seeds using light from a very sunny bay window, on top of her dining room table.
Here are good resources on how to build raised beds (the most common mistakes are forgetting to use rot resistant wood, or to fill them with poor quality dirt- a mix of quality top soil and compost are recommended), and the basics on automatic watering systems (Belinda's set up cost about $150.)
*If you don't have a root cellar, an insulated building like a garage or shed can also work well to store root vegetables long term.
Starting Seeds: we love this Seed Starting resource from local flower farmer, Floret. If it ain't broke, no need to fix it, right? This is almost exactly how we start our seeds, except that in town Belinda uses heat mats on top of folded towels, on top of her dining room table, in front of 3 windows. She rotates the trays every few days so that the seeds are receiving even light on all sides. And she talks to them encouragingly, because hey, it can't hurt!
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