A Letter to New Gardeners

Dear New Gardeners,

Welcome to the world of gardening.

Many roads lead to the garden. Perhaps your road was one paved by the boredom of staying at home during the pandemic? Or maybe you came via the grocery store where you discovered that you can actually grow some of the food you buy and it will taste better?

However you arrived, we are pleased you are here and we—the experienced gardeners—are ready to help you however we can. We will even forgive you for running to our local garden centers and greenhouses and nearly selling them out before we even had our last frost.

That last frost? Yes, sorry that many of you new gardeners, and even some over-anxious experienced gardeners, got caught with your frost-tender plants exposed to the elements on that last freeze right before Mother's Day. It gives me no "I told you so" pleasure to tell you that once that tomato plant turns black like that it isn't likely to recover. You'll have to go back to the garden center and hope they have more plants for sale. They should. Maybe you won't get your first choice of varieties, but they'll have something for you to buy and re-plant.

Varieties, you ask? Oh yes, tomatoes, peppers, flowers, and all those plants? They come in different varieties. You'll learn about those in time, and which are your favorites.

You'll learn so much in the weeks, months, and years ahead now that you are gardening. Until you learn more yourself through trial and error (or trowel and error as we like to say) may I offer a bit of advice?

Prepping the ground and planting a few tomatoes or filling up a few containers with your favorite flowers is just the beginning. Yes, you can stand back at that moment and admire what you've done, even pat yourself on the back with your shiny new trowel to celebrate your accomplishment. But then, the fun begins. And by fun, I mean doing all you can to protect your new garden from weeds. And maruading insects. And plant diseases. And rabbits. And chipmunks. And deer. And if I go on much longer with this list, you'll throw your trowel at me and call it quits just as you've gotten started. You'll claim no one warned you!

Sorry about that. Here is my warning. There is a lot of interest from a lot of critters in your garden so you should plan to watch over it and be ready to act in its defense as needed.

Then you will have questions. A lot of questions. What is this plant? Is this a weed? What is that flower? What is wrong with this plant? What should I do about that plant? This yellow leaf? That funny growth on that leaf? Who ate my plant? Etc.

I recommend you find a local group on social media where new and experienced gardeners gather to help one another out. By the way, if you find a group that gets all nasty and mean with others, get out of that group and go find another one. Gardeners are nice and helpful people in general. Look up the cooperative extension service for your county and see when the next Master Gardener class is. Sign up. Don't worry that you don't know enough about gardening to take a class to learn about gardening. They'll teach you!

Finally, don't get discouraged. You will soon discover that gardening can be a lot of work too, leaving you dirty, exhausted, and wondering why you thought you could tame your yard and turn it into a garden. You'll soon realize, about five minutes after you thought you were done planting, that all will not go as planned in your garden, or in my garden, or in any garden. Plants may die. Weeds will flourish. And just as you are about to pick your first tomato ... see above about the interest other creatures will take in your garden.

But trust me. It will all be worth it. You'll soon be eating tomatoes you grew yourself. Sharing flowers you watched grow from seeds you sowed with your kids. Basking in the shade of a tree you planted. And before long you will be talking about what you'll do differently in your garden next year, and the year after that.

One day, you'll be the one answering all those questions people are asking about their gardens.

You'll be a gardener.

Welcome.

Carol




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