Grow and Share: Simple Gardening Tips to Help you


In March we begin work that will yield something great in just a few quick months!

It’s about delicious food being grown with our own hands – which we will be sharing with others.

The increasing number of gardeners in the United States stands for something. It says that people are interested in organic. People are tired of paying the prices and they want to know where their produce is coming from! The lost art of gardening is returning! I can also tell by the number of emails and comments from people who are inquiring, that more and more people are growing gardens again, but they want help with the basics.

Dear Sandy…
This is the year I’ve decided to get into gardening.  I want to use homegrown produce while I’m entertaining, but the costs are so high! What are some general tips that you could give me?

This is the month in which gardeners start itching to get out into their yards. And for my husband and me, it all boils down to 3 simple key points that can make or break our attempts! But before I share the simplicity of these three, keep these points in mind, if you are a new gardener.

Write out a very simple garden plan for the year!
Where do you want your beds, what existing beds do you plan on changing over to vegetables, how much money can you spend?  What would you like to serve to your guests?  Start small – only pick a few items to grow the first year!

How do I know what kind of vegetables to grow?
Decide what vegetables you think taste better homegrown than store-bought.  What can save you money, or come close to saving you money by growing rather than buying?  For example, I do not think it’s worth the time and money to grow garlic or onions!

Start with produce that is very easy to grow – like zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries or green beans. If you’re new to gardening, don’t grow corn! Unless you have a huge garden space, you can probably buy corn pretty inexpensively at the local grower’s market! Two foods that grow well in containers are tomatoes and strawberries, if you do not have a yard or much space for a garden.

Buy starts! 
Unless you are a seasoned gardener, or you have a greenhouse and can daily take care of the plants, you won’t want to mess with seeds. Buy starts and keep it simple! You want to have success!

3 simple key points:

Water, sunshine and the soil are the 3 key components to a successful garden.

Watering has to be either very frequent or very deep. But we all know that water is essential. Many people are enthusiastic in the beginning of gardening season, and then they start traveling or get busy with summer plans, and the garden gets “2nd” attention.  If you plan to leave town – hire your neighbor kid to water! 

Don’t worry about a drip system if you’re just starting out.  Grab a hose, a timer and an inexpensive sprinkler and you’re in business. Water 10 minutes in the morning, and in the hottest weather you’ll want to water twice (again in the evening). Keep the water flowing! 

Even more important, mulch helps keep the process simple!  It reduces the amount of weeds in the beds and helps retain the water. Mulch with partially decomposed straw, shredded bark, or newspaper (you don’t want to use straight straw, because it will sprout).

Surprisingly, a lot of vegetables don’t need as much as you think.  For example, regardless of what you have read, zucchini doesn’t need a lot of sunshine.  If you want to grow the largest zucchini in your state, well, then yes! Pour on the sunshine!  But to grow the kind of zucchini that we like, which is the smaller, under grown type (which we think tastes the best), you don’t have to have full-time sun!

Soil is the most important aspect of gardening that you have control over. Depending on the zone you live in, soil can vary widely.  We call our southern Oregon clay soil “gumbo,” and it’s very hard to amend.  There are 2 simple methods.  Bring in new soil, or use what you have and amend the existing soil with compost, where you amend every time you plant.

The better your soil – the more likely you will succeed

We are enthusiastic about gardening not only for the organic veggies that we produce, but for the benefits that come from sharing, inviting, eating and connecting with friends – many times centered on a meal with many of the entrees produced from our garden!

In this increasingly virtual world, many of us city-folk are getting back into gardening.  The earthy, authentic approach that I have shared is literally a connection that many do now realize.  Beds that were once flowers are now being converted over to vegetables.  It’s a beautiful thing – I think God would be pleased!

We grow and produce. We invite and we share. We eat and we commune. It’s as simple as that. A garden pot on your back patio or a garden space in your back yard – there’s just something about sharing the results with friends over a cozy meal.

Feel free to Ask Sandy … on her blog,, where you’ll find more about this subject and other entertaining dilemmas.

©2009, Sandy Coughlin

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