Learning to Grow – A Beginner’s Journey

a-tray-of-seedlingsLet me start on a humorous note. I always tell folks who inquire that my entire journey into learning about growing thus far has been via a “YouTube Education.” Yes, I am one of those iPhone power users that loves the YouTube app. I think this is funny and it causes me to smile and laugh. Others may think that this is corny, but yet they tend to smile and laugh at my exuberance about it. Prior to my “YouTube Education,” I can earnestly say that I never even considered the world of gardening or self-sustainable food. Now it’s all I think about. I have truly found a sense of tranquility surrounding growing things that do not die and that taste so much better than store bought items.

My journey started a little over a year ago. My man and I had just moved from a city dwelling we lived in for more than 10 years to a more suburban area. We moved into a townhome that has a backyard, a basement and a garage, none of which did we have in our city apartment dwelling. This opened up a world of possibilities. A friend of ours gave us a basil plant as a house warming gift as she knew my man loves to cook. Suffice it to say, my entire path that summer was to not kill the gifted basil plant and to figure out how he could use it to cook! As I knew negative 7,000% about keeping a basil plant (or any plant) alive, I turned to my iPhone and pulled up YouTube and queried “Basil.” Throughout that summer/fall season, just by watching many of those videos, I learned not only how not to kill basil; but also how to harvest it, how to freeze the leaves, what heirloom seeds are, how to put the leaves in little ice cube trays with olive oil to freeze, and then what it means when the plant starts to flower. That basil plant did end up dying at the end of the fall as I didn’t realize at the time what the signs were once it started to flower. What did not end up dying though was my utter curiosity for more knowledge.

indoor-greenhouseThat entire experience caused me to become very curious so I turned to Amazon. During the fall/winter time I proceeded to purchase various heirloom non-GMO basil seeds from Amazon. I was so exuberant I also purchased sage, thyme, and rosemary seeds, little rockwool cubes (as they looked cool!) and starter trays to try my hand at growing. As much as my man kept stating that it was not a good time of year to try, I still ended up continuing on my winter path as I tend to be stubborn once I have my mind on a path. What did I learn? Well, apparently, growing seeds need… light! As much as that fall/winter seed growing project was an epic fail, I learned that it wasn’t an uber epic fail and there are definitely tiers of failing that are all a success in some way, shape or form (smile). Instead, I learned an awful lot just by watching the seeds try to grow while also watching YouTube videos on the subject and I learned about what essential elements they need.

My entire curiosity graduated and went on a wild journey when by happenstance during that winter I also ran across a video on the fact that you can grow potatoes in a bucket! Watching those YouTube videos was just simply awesome. My man then surprised me and purchased me an indoor 4 shelf greenhouse and a bunch of buckets from Home Depot. My man further surprised me and installed special grow lights in the indoor greenhouse. Talk about an explosion of inspiration!!!

This inspiration further developed into doing all of the following during the spring/summer season:


• Grew potatoes, garlic and carrots in buckets outdoors. I learned that Home Depot buckets may not be the best to use as I learned they are not food safe, so a friend gave us a bunch of white food safe containers that the carrots and cherry tomatoes grew well in.
• Grew peas and green beans in two new small outdoor patio planter boxes. As it was our first time, we determined to go with a small starter setup.
• Grew 29 basil plants from seed in the greenhouse and then moved them into larger pots and learned to have an endless supply of basil. I ran out of room on an indoor sunny windowsill that I had them on so my man extended the window sill to accommodate them all.
• Grew sage and rosemary which both were not successful although I was able to harvest a small bit of sage.
• Grew 6 cherry tomato plants from seed in the greenhouse which grew into huge plants outdoors; as well as, grew two hanging cherry tomato plants.
• Grew 3 lemon trees ordered from Amazon in the greenhouse.
• Started to try to save a peach tree that I learned has peach borers and peach leaf curl in our new backyard.
• With all the basil and sage grown, learned how to harvest, freeze, propagate more, dry into shaker seasoning, and harvest the heirloom seeds for next season, and started learning how to create essential oil.

lara-with-her-potato-harvestNow that the 2015 northeast summer growing season has concluded, I am now at a point of going back and doing a review of the ups and downs of my first official growing season. Overall in that I am quite a beginner grower, I deem the growing season a success in my book. I definitely was not growing enough to be fully sustainable, yet, I grew enough to have some awesome dinners with my man filled with fresh vegetables/etc. I also was able to freeze about one meal’s worth of each so during this coming winter I hope to have some fine tasty Sunday dinners. The basil plants are still growing and I am still harvesting and propagating. I am curious to see how long they will last into the fall/winter. The lemon trees are still happy in the greenhouse although unfortunately I had to learn all about “fungus gnats” and had to transplant the lemon trees to get rid of the large amount of gnat larvae. They are still adjusting to the transplant. I also learned about nitrogen, soil pH, the different types of soil and the importance thereof.

As I move into the winter months again and as much as last year was an epic fail, last week I had the opportunity to watch a YouTube presentation on indoor winter gardening and hydroponics. On the same day I watched that presentation, I also found down the street a hydroponics store had just opened up. Based on this new inspiration… broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and peanut seeds were ordered. I plan to learn a lot about each of these this winter.

Suffice it to say… “Next round of inspiration, here I come!!!”

Thanks to Lara Smith for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest.

We have over $2,097 in prizes lined up for the Fall 2015 Writing Contest, including all of the following:

– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $382 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $288 value
– 1 free 1 year membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $239 value
– A Worm Factory 360 vermicomposting system from Nature’s Footprint, a $128 value
– 2 large heirloom seed collections from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, valued at $103 each
– A Metro-Grower Elite sub-irrigation growing container from Nature’s Footprint, a $69 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $59 each
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $43 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $46 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $33 each
– 4 copies of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, valued at $31 each

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  • Keep on trying your hand at gardening and take good notes like you are doing now. That will be a treasure trove of info for you later on. Understand one thing too – “failures” are not always your fault. I always thought I didn’t know enough about gardening, and then found out some of the things I had grown quite easily had died in the hands of “experts.” There are so many variables that can affect your plant’s health, and two people doing the exact same thing can have varying results just because they live on different sides of the same mountain. I’m proud of your efforts to better yourself so keep on keepin’ on!

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