LEARN AS YOU GROW
Beginning gardeners, take note. Growing your own food has never been more fun or rewarding with tips and tricks from Crystal Broussard. A relatively new gardener herself, Crystal offers valuable advice for those who long to raise their own vegetables and fruits—whether to honor a family tradition or for the simple sake of being more self-sufficient.
By CRYSTAL A. BROUSSARD
As is the tradition around here, I got my spring planting done Derby weekend. My grandparents always waited until after the Kentucky Derby, but the forecast called for rain all weekend and straight through the week. I didn’t want to risk losing the plants that I had growing in the greenhouse because I didn’t get them into the ground soon enough. The tasks of planting out seedlings and sowing seeds directly into the ground not only require attention to timing and weather, but also to soil distribution and nurturing.
Plants should be carefully transferred from the starter container to the ground so that the roots are not completely disturbed. I try to keep some of the soil around the roots and spread the roots slightly to allow them to expand in the ground. This seems to result in healthier, happier plants.
Sowing seeds directly into the ground also requires special care. Every plant is different. Seed packages provide specific instructions on how to plant seeds–how closely together they should be, how much soil to cover them with, what the seedlings look like and when to thin them out.
As has been my tradition, I went overboard, planting five types of red tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peaches & cream and silver queen corn, cucumbers, green beans, carrots, beets, lettuce, brussels sprouts, peas, green peppers, pumpkins, cubanelle peppers and two hot pepper plants that a friend gave me. This is the first year that I am trying to grow beets, carrots, brussels sprouts and pumpkins.
I worked tirelessly and quickly to get everything in the ground before the rain started, and my tomato plants have already grown a few inches. It seems you can nurture and water plants with every best intention, but nothing makes them come into their own like rainwater. Not only is rainwater likely better for your garden than tap water, but it’s also free. Last summer my water bill more than doubled because of all of the watering I had to do to sustain my garden through the drought. I’m considering investing in a rainwater collection system to use on my garden next year. Not only will it save me money, it will likely result in a better yield.
My children were eager participants this year with the planting. The two older ones were delegated certain jobs that my husband supervised while I kept the youngest by my side and supervised her. To my surprise, the older ones took the initiative to stake up the tomato and pepper plants. As I watched, my heart swelled with pride. I was happy to discover how much our family could enjoy playing in the dirt.
With the family garden, not only are my children learning where their food comes from, but they are also learning valuable life skills, such as how to receive and follow instructions and how to take pride in a job well done. The gardening experience will also teach them about dealing with successes and failures.
I only hope that when my crops come in that I have enough to share and sell while putting some away for our family. I’m looking forward to sharing my love of gardening through fresh food.
Crystal A. Broussard lives in Hillview, Kentucky, with her husband and children. She learned her gardening skills from watching her grandparents and by trial and error.