Our spring growing season has officially begun! We started our first round of seeds in the greenhouse this past weekend, and some seedlings are already poking their heads up through the soil. Ever since Kevin and I started the seeds for my first garden years ago, the process has always struck me as magical. It still inspires me to watch a tiny seed, fed with the simple ingredients of moisture, heat, and nutritious soil, become a plant that can feed us all season. It is thrilling to see new signs of germination in a different crop each day, and noticeable growth from yesterday’s tiny seedlings. Time flies, and I know it won’t be long before we’re transplanting these babies out into the great big world, and then not much longer until we’re enjoying their bounty!
If you’re planning to start a garden for the first time this year, there are lots of books and other publications out there (sometimes to the point of overwhelm!). Ron and Jennifer Kujawski’s Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbookand The Sustainable Vegetable Garden: A Backyard Guide to Healthy Soil and Higher Yields by John Jeavons and Carol Cox may be good places to start. If you’re looking to dive into more resources (whether this is your first growing season or your tenth—there is always more to learn!), I compiled a list of some that have been useful to us in this blog entry last year. We love learning and exchanging knowledge, and would love to hear about your go-to gardening resources, too!
This sweet little bee ventured out on a warm day into the high tunnel. Don't get ahead of yourself, my friend!
In the midst of the current crisis, lots of folks are starting their own vegetable gardens for the first time or digging into existing gardens with a greater sense of purpose. There can never be too many vegetable gardens, as far as we’re concerned, and growing some of what you eat, even if it’s just a few herbs or a potted tomato plant on your deck, is such an empowering way of connecting with your food. I will never forget the thrill of growing our first garden eight years ago--the magic of sprouting seeds and the intense satisfaction of eating our first harvest.
It’s inspiring to see so many of our neighbors and friends turning over ground to start their own coronavirus victory gardens for food security and for the joy of watching plants thrive under loving care. In a time with so much unknown, when many are feeling disconnected from the world we’re used to, it can be profoundly grounding and empowering to put your hands in the dirt and to know in the deepest way where our nourishment comes from.
Growing food is a continual learning experience (part of what keeps it interesting!), but here are a few online resources we have found really useful in our ongoing garden education:
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s Growing Guides are a great place to start. They are very thorough, covering everything from seed starting and growing for biodiversity to crop-specific guides for just about any vegetable you’d want to grow.
Seed Saver’s Exchange also has a very good library of articles on all aspects of the vegetable garden, including site planning, crop-specific growing guides, and seed saving information.
Your county extension office is an incredible resource (shout out to our amazing horticulture agent, Faye Kuosman!). They can help you with soil testing (a key step to garden success!), troubleshooting, and connecting you with all the resources you need. The UK Extension Office’s guide to Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky is a useful reference, as well.
We haven’t used Territorial Seed’s Garden Planner App yet, but it looks like a user-friendly way to keep track of all of your garden planning information in one place (rather than our approach of massive spreadsheets!). I want to give it a try in the future.
The Bionutrient Food Association has a vast library of documents, videos, and book recommendations available online. They tend to be more advanced, for experienced growers wanting to increase nutrient content in their crops by creating a super healthy soil food web.
The University of Kentucky’s Center for Crop Diversification is geared toward professional growers growing on a large scale, but its crop profiles and maps contain a lot of good information.
I really enjoy listening to the Farmer to Farmer Podcast, in which host and experienced organic farmer Chris Blanchard has down to earth conversations with other farmers about their operations and experiences. Unfortunately, Chris Blanchard passed away in 2018, but there is a hefty archive of past episodes to listen to while you work.
We learn so much every growing season, from publications, from other farmers, and from the garden itself. It is so exciting to see many others jumping enthusiastically into growing food. Please let us know if we can share our experiences to help you get started!
Many seed companies have been inundated with orders this spring and many are sold out or are suspending orders to catch up. We have some little plants ready to go into your garden, ranging from cilantro and basil to okra and peppers from our own saved seeds and heirloom tomatoes. We also have a set of edible flower plants to make your harvest as beautiful as it is delicious!