April 10, 2022
You Grow Girl! A blog post on changing your thumb from black to green!
By: Kelly Damery
I hear it a lot. I can’t grow anything. I killed a cactus. And my personal favorite, my house is where plants come to die. After what feels like an eternity of hibernation this winter, spring is finally here! And with spring comes dirt, and there is no better place to clean your negativity than by getting your hands in the dirt!
A gardener by its very definition is a person who gardens. Thank you Google. Do you have an acre of land that grows every vegetable under the sun? You’re a gardener. Do you have a hedge of rose bushes along your fence line? Bam, you’re a gardener. Do you grow mint on your windowsill strictly for your mojito habit? Guess what, you’re a gardener too. Gardening doesn’t have to mean subscribing to seed catalogs, most big box and local stores will have plants starts. And it doesn’t mean you have to set-up an indoor greenhouse when your backyard will work just fine growing tomatoes that taste better than the store bought ones do any day! Gardening is simply, a plot where fruits, flowers, herbs or vegetables are cultivated.
For anyone who tells me they just can’t grow anything, I have the same advice. Growing plants can be hard, but you can do hard things! It’s really a matter of knowing your surroundings. What zone are you in and does this plant grow well in my zone is the first question to ask. And you can find your growing zone by asking Google. Your growing zone is really an indicator of what flowers+vegetables+herbs+fruits will grow well in your climate. So it makes sense that you can’t grow a pineapple in zone 3 that includes parts of Canada, right? Next up is the dirt. If you are in Illinois, count yourself lucky because we have some of the best soil in all the US for growing not just corn & beans, but all sorts of produce from pumpkins to peonies. So unless your soil is particularly rocky or sandy, generally you won’t have to add anything to it here in the Midwest other than when you need to rotate the crop or produce you grow on it. If you’re not from here or you are container gardening, most of the dirt mixes at the big box stores will already have the nutrients in it for your seed or plant to grow. Some plants and produce will require you to add acid to the dirt, blueberries and hydrangea bushes for examples like a high acidity in their dirt, or require it to get the color flower you are trying to achieve, pink vs blue. The final task is reading the back of the seed packet or plant instructions. You don’t want to plant your seed too deep, or too shallow depending on what it needs, and you don’t want to plant a full sun vegetable in an area that gets shade 6+ hours a day. The plant notes are telling you exactly what to do, and what not to do. Follow them. And do research when you feel like you don’t have enough info.
So now that you know your growing zone and you have dirt, you are ready to garden! You can garden directly in the ground, in a raised bed or in pots & containers of all sizes. You don’t need to buy anything new except the plant start or the seed packet. Don’t get overwhelmed or priced out before you start. Use what you have. But for my black thumb gardeners, my 4 foolproof things that I believe absolutely anyone at any age can grow include a super sweet 100 cherry tomato (I recommend a plant start for a new gardener) as cherry tomatoes are very prolific, Genovese basil (either from plant start or seed is easy peasy for the new gardener), garlic in the fall (I know, seems like a strange starter but it’s as easy as set it and forget it and in the spring you have garlic shoots already coming up!) and finally, zinnias all spring and summer long. This is the most resilient flower, and the more you cut them, the more they grow and who doesn’t need fresh cut blooms in their life that they grew themselves??? You can grow all 4 of these things directly in the ground, in a raised bed or in containers on your patio. If you still can’t grow these 4 things, then perhaps I will believe you when you say I can’t grow anything!
Kelly Damery is a member of the Assumption Farmers Market Committee, and runs a vendor booth at the market filled with handmade wooden craft signs and various garden produce, plant starts and seed packets. As an avid gardener, she has over 15 years of large scale vegetable and flower gardening experience and helps beginners learn the ropes of gardening, hone in on their inner green thumb and find their unique growing style that works for them. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram @cityrootsincountryboots and follow her market booth page on Facebook and Instagram @2blackdogs_
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