Hello there! My name is Whitney Carnecki. I am a wife, a mother to four awesome kids and a part of the MIgardener team.
My husband Joe and I have had many different hobbies throughout our 22 years of marriage. Gardening and raising our own food is something we enjoy doing together.
As a mother, eating healthy, providing real food and teaching my kids where their food comes from is very important to me. Along with gardening we also raise meat chickens, hens for eggs, turkeys and have a few pigs out on pasture. This has all helped to save a lot of money on our grocery bill!
We started a small garden 10 years ago with just a few peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes to see if we could actually keep them alive. They all survived…. we caught the gardening bug! Our garden grows bigger and bigger every year. We now plant a ¼ acre garden with many different vegetable varieties! At the end of each growing season we invite our family and friends over to harvest and take home what they’d like.
Throughout our journey of growing our own food, we’ve made some mistakes but with the tips below you will not have to learn the hard way like we did.
Here are 4 tips for every beginner gardener that we’ve learned along the way.
1.Plan Your Garden
Once you’ve decided what you want to grow, make a map of how you want to lay out your new garden.
There are several things you may want to consider when you are laying out your garden. Make sure that taller plants won’t shade out smaller plants all day.
Laying your garden out in a North to South direction can give your plants all the sun they need. If this is not possible make sure that your taller plants such as corn, tomatoes, pole beans or peas are on the furthest North section of your garden. Shorter plants such as carrots, radishes and lettuces are on the furthest South portion of your garden.
If you’ve previously had a garden you do not want to plant certain plants in the same place they were planted last year. This will combat disease and nutrient deficiencies that may be lurking in the soil from last year. Plants in the nightshade family are good examples of this. You do not want to plant tomatoes where you had potatoes or vice versa the year before. Being in the same family (nightshade) they share a lot of the same diseases and can transfer year to year if not rotated.
Make a map of where you would like to plant all of your plants. When it comes time to actually put your seeds/plants in the ground make sure to alter your map to show any changes you make. It is very easy to forget where you planted. A map can help when it comes time to pull weeds. Knowing what plant is where can help you decide what you should and should not pull.
2. Start Small
Gardening is a lot of work. Our ¼ acre garden can take between 10-30 hours of labor per week. This does not include the time it takes to preserve all the fresh healthy veggies for our family to eat. You don’t want to get to a point where you can’t take care of your garden. All that time, money and labor invested in the spring goes down the drain because weeds have overtaken your garden.
3.Use High Quality Seeds
Using older seeds can be done but every year germination rates can decrease by a large percentage. If you save your own seeds be sure they were not cross-bred with other plants. The squash family is a good example of this. They are pollinated by insects and bees. Pumpkins can cross breed with your zucchinis. Trust me pump-cchini’s do not taste good and they make ugly Jack O lanterns!
4.Space Plants Properly
Some plants can be planted very close together and if fertilized and watered properly can produce high yields in a small area. Lettuce and radishes are good examples of this. These can be planted a lot closer than the information on some seed packets will tell you. On the contrary, things like squash, zucchini, pumpkin and watermelon need a lot of room to spread out. If you have a small garden you may want to limit the amount of these you plant and make sure to leave walking room to get around them. You can train cucumbers, melons and small pumpkins to grow on a trellis, this will save you some space. Tomatoes should be planted far enough away so they do not touch one another. Diseases such as blight can transfer from plant to plant. If your tomatoes are growing so well that they start touching you can prune them back.
I hope these 4 tips can help you as a beginning gardener to grow lots of healthy food for you and your family to enjoy!
See you in the garden! - Whitney