First Time Gardeners and Me

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first time gardeners - starting seeds

First Time Gardeners and Me

I know there is still snow on the ground but most avid gardeners are pulling out the seed catalogs and planning their plots.  We are starting to get questions about gardening so I thought now would be a good time to post this.

I am not the gardening expert– Tawra is and I mean she really is. She has a certificate in Horticulture and she has worked for county extensions and the botanical garden here in Wichita. Gardening is her thing. I, on the other hand, know nothing. That has not stopped me from trying for many years to have a garden and flowers but, most years, I failed.

Tawra said the other day that she was going to water her plants and I asked, “You’re supposed to water them?” Maybe that has been my problem. I just wait for it to rain. HA!HA! Needless to say, I drive my poor daughter crazy with my gardening habits. I just thought I would tell you what I did wrong so you could learn from my mistakes.

First, gardening takes commitment. No matter how bad she feels or how hot it is, Tawra goes out every day and waters her plants and takes care of them. In my case, if I don’t feel good I think, “It won’t hurt them to go without water one more day, even if it is 100 degrees outside.” Then the next day I simply forget to water them. By then I know they are a little brown and crisp but maybe if I drown them they might come back. NOT! (Tawra is now shaking her head!)

Whether you feel like it or not, you have to water your garden, feed the plants, deadhead them, pick the bugs off of them and do it all, even in horribly hot weather. You’ll even have to sweat while you are doing it. :) It takes commitment.

Second, you can get a lot of crop from one little plant. Most beginners set out 10 tomato plants for a family of four, not realizing that two or three plants could easily supply them with plenty of home grown tomatoes. The first year I planted flowers a neighbor gave me a large three pound coffee can of Zinnia seeds. I didn’t know any better, so I poured the whole can on a ten foot by one foot area.  For you beginners, that was enough seed to supply all of Texas with flowers. Not knowing any better, I planted them where there was no sun and I ended up with about four six inch flowers. I guess some flowers need sun, too. But then some don’t. It’s very confusing. (Note from Tawra: See what I have to put up with!)

The one cherry tomato plant I planted turned out differently. It wouldn’t stop producing tomatoes. To this day (35 years later), I usually pass on the cherry tomatoes. We had them coming out of our ears. Think small and few when you start. Plant just one zucchini until you understand the full potential of what one zucchini plant can do. Some of them can produce enough to feed an entire third world country for a year.

Third you won’t be able to have a manicure until October. No matter what gloves I wore, I still broke a fingernail and had dirt under my nails. Yes, I did try scraping them on a bar of soap. All that did was give me dirt and soap under my nails. A true gardener like Tawra doesn’t bother to wear gloves. (Note from Tawra: …and I have no nails to prove it!)

Fourth: That first year I envisioned my table spread with luscious home grown vegetables. I envisioned opening my cabinets full of rows and rows of my own canned fruits and vegetables saving us tons of money. The reality was that I spent four times as much on seeds, fertilizer, mulch and water than if I had bought the beans, peas and other vegetables at a gourmet grocery store. Not only that, after hours of back breaking work, I was about to harvest the fruits of my labor when we had a flood that destroyed half of my crop. Two days later, our new large puppy ran through it and managed to wipe out the other half. (Mike slaps his head, wondering how he ended up with a Mother in Law like this.)

I didn’t give up, though. Year after year, I kept trying and year after year I kept failing. One year I did finally have success. I had cleaned my garden up the previous fall and had thrown everything into the compost pile. The following spring, I decided I would give up. Would you believe that I had the most beautiful tomato plants growing in my compost pile? Go figure.

Of course I wrote most of this to be funny even if it was all true. There really are some upsides to gardening (so I have heard:) and it was fun trying. As bad as I make it sound, it does get easier if you keep at it and figure out what you are doing. Tawra has a great web site on nothing but gardening, called Cool Garden Ideas and check out other ideas about how to successfully start a garden or yard on this site. Hopefully her advice will help you avoid the garden nightmares that I did.


Note from Tawra: she really does call and ask, “Why are my plants dead?”

I ask: “Did you water them?”

Mom: “No.”

Me: “Mom, it’s been over 100 degrees every day for the last week. You HAVE to water them.”

Mom: “Yeah, but it’s too hot to go outside.”

See what I have to put up with!! It’s going to be all fake flowers and fake grass when we get her to Colorado!


photo by: southernfoodwaysalliance


  1. says

    I’m trying to start seeds to save money. I love flowers and little cute pots all over the yard. I’m going to end up buying the plants anyways because I’m just growing mold at this point. Sometimes the frugal way is the expensive way. I love being frugal but I’ve spent $11.37 for a few marigolds. UGH!

  2. Natalie says

    My family had a large vegetable garden during my growing up years. As an adult, I haven’t gardened per say, other than tending to the landscaping plants around our house and planting some annual a couple of times! However, I do appreciate the produce from gardening… my in-laws have some earth boxes, and I can’t wait for some tomatoes from them!

  3. says

    Thanks for the gardening tips.

    I’d love to start a beginner garden, and it would really help to have this beginner seed pack free. I have designated a place in my backyard, found soil for $1 a bag at the dollar store and ust need to put it in some boxes with seeds !

  4. says

    I have no idea what I doing when it comes to gardening and with looking forward to being very pregnant again this summer, I’m not sure how I’ll do but I so want to learn. I’ve got some seeds sprouting (and some dying!) in a spare room upstairs that gets lots of sun. I am terrified of bugs and hate being hot but I really, really want to provide some fresh veggies for our fam (to save money, hopefully)! I am looking forward to reading the gardening tips. Thank you for such a great resource!

  5. Julie says

    I love your website, books, blog, emails, well you get the idea! We just moved to a new house and are about to embark on starting a garden. It would be exciting to receive seeds for free! Thanks for all you do!

  6. Dani says

    I LOVE your funny stories of gardening–I have been over at GardenWeb reading some funny posts by “oldie” gardeners to give “newbie” gardeners hope, and maybe a little insight. After reading their stories, I will live by the motto that there are no gardening mistakes, only learning opportunities! I look forward to starting my garden, and sure hope that Tawra posts some helpful tips this summer for us newbies!

  7. Dawn Miller says

    I will also be using earth boxes this year which I happened upon from a neighbor who is “giving it up after 40 years” He had 15 earth boxes for him & his wife and sold all but 5 of them at 1/3 the cost of new, lucky me! He also shared his tips for success so I can’t wait for the Wisconsin growing season to kick off! I would love to receive some seeds to keep this project even more frugal. Thanks for the try at this offer!

  8. Amelia Brooks says

    Following some thrifty advice I found online, I just picked up a whole bunch of free 3 gallon buckets from a diner near home (the kind pickles and pie cherries come in). We have a tiny backyard, but I plan to have my family’s very first container garden started this year. A garden seed kit like the one you described would make us so happy! I hope we are one of the lucky winners!

    Thanks again for your tips too! I’ll need them 😉

  9. jill says

    Those buckets are great. We a had a huge green house one year in Idaho and need buckets for our tomato plants. Someone said the prison had a whole bunch they got rid of all of the time. We got tons of them.

    So if you don’t have a restaurant(we only had one small one in our town) check out schools or any other large organization like that.


  10. says

    This is my first year to do a garden(I’m 46)…we have the spot tilled and added 2 yards of orgnanic compost.I’ve checked at our local feed store and Lowe’s for seeds and plants. Haven’t purchased anything yet,sooooo…it would be knee slapping great to receive the beginners (that’s me) seeds. Happy Gardening!

  11. says

    Last year I started my first garden. We had lots of tomatoes and peppers. This year I want to add some more veggies and berries. It all just tastes so much better. To me, it’s worth the time and dedication. My husband has put drippers on our trees and plants, which really helps. Now, we need an easier way to keep down the weeds!

  12. kathy says

    I grew up helping in the garden and now that my youngest is 9 I am ready to get my hands dirty again. It will take me some time to really learn how as I just did what my mom told me to do!

  13. cathy! says

    I am getting kind of adventerous this year too. I will be growing tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and some squash. My experience with eggplant has been abysmal though.

  14. Carol says

    I agree with the start small. It’s amazing how much food you can get from a few plants. I always end up buying plants rather than seeds but I would love to try growing everything this year from seeds!

  15. Tina says

    I need this kit in order to help feed my family. My husband and I are raising our grandchildren. My husband is only getting to work three days and its hard to stretch what little money that we have. I want to grow an organic garden and with this kit it would really get me started. I love this website and learn alot from it, but cant afford to buy the books. Keep sending tips out for us. Thank you so much!

  16. Angela says

    I love to garden, but I live in the city and need a bigger yard! I think I’m going to try to experiment with more containers this year. I grew carrots in a container last year and it worked well. One of these days I might convince my husband to let me replace our yard with a bigger garden!

  17. Barbara Marlow says

    I really want to do a garden but am at a loss at to how to start. I started a compost bin, I guess that’s a start. I am really interested in a raised bed garden.

  18. Rita says

    I have enjoyed gardening for years even though we don’t always have a great garden. I have tried to garden organically and found fish emulsion to be a great fertilizer…also put your leftover vegetable peelings and coffee grinds in the compost pile.

  19. says

    I love Living on a Dime and gardening! I have fond memories of the garden my Dad had as a child. I had a large garden for the first time last year that produced lots of great tasting fruits and veggies for our family and our friends. We recently moved because my husband and I lost our jobs. I was very sad when I had to leave my garden behind and lots of my equipment too, we had no more room in our u-haul. I currently have a small area to work with now and I need to do it all on a budget. I do all my vegetables from seed to help cut the cost. I plant everything in groups and then reseed every two weeks to keep it coming. My goal is to enjoy our vegetables cheaper then it would be at the store. Besides nothing taste better then freshly picked fruits and vegetables. I don’t have to worry about the safety of our vegetables either. Thank you for your tips!

  20. margo says

    i enjoy reading all the helpful hints from Tawra and everyone. i tried a garden last year and was sooo disappointed. i’m hoping to get an above ground plot ready this year; had so many moles last summer.
    i’m retired & on fixed (actually disappearing due to the economy!) income so would love to be lucky enough to win free seeds. thanx for the chance at a drawing.
    good luck to all :0)

  21. rose says

    jill… you sound alot like me when it comes to gardening and plants… hehehe :D… i have such a “brown” thumb its actually horrible!…
    i either water the plants too much or not enuff…
    i would love to do a garden but where i live its not feasible (too many rodents, opossums, and raccoons)…
    i would to get one of those hydoponic systems (disney world grows all of their fruits and vegi’s with this system) but it is quite expensive to set it up… and those earth boxes look easy enuff… hubby was saying he would invest in the earth boxes…
    i was telling my daughter she should do a garden and her and her fiance plan to when they get a house (they live in an apt at the moment)…
    rose 😀

  22. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    You may to consider edible landscaping using perennials. I planted black, blue, rasp, and strawberries as well as tomatoes, peppers, and herbs because they are so good for you, expensive and because I have little sunny lawn. In MD it is too humid for fruit trees so I have none.

  23. Sheri says

    I think where I live, the container garden is the way to go. I live next to an empty lot, my neighbors are gophers… They are really bad around here! We try to keep them from going into my other neighbors yard. He has a nice garden with a mini orchard. No one else around him cares about the gophers. He must get really frustrated.

    Also, we have sand. It holds no water. Containers can hold more water. Right down the street is a community garden. I have considered going over there. I don’t mind someone else paying for the water! That would also be a way to get to know some neighbors and share the love of Christ.

    Anything that needs heat or sun does well here! Right now, we are frozen. We almost don’t have a fall or spring. We just basically go from summer to winter. Our seasons change at the end of October and early May.

  24. Mary Jane says

    Make no mistake, any and every garden takes commitment until it is all harvested. rototilled under and put to bed. I do not garden because I love the gardening thing in and of itself. I do however, love to get food from a garden, so since my kids were babies, I have always had a garden. I have planted, weeded and harvested with babies in snuggle sacks on my back, or when I have been big as a boat with pregnancy. I have learned to freeze, can and dehydrate extra produce. I sometimes think we eat our quota of green stuff for the year all in the summer. My advice is to start small, and plant what appears to do well for you. Most years I had only enough success to keep a few fresh veggies on the table during the summer months. However, now after being at it for over 35 years, I have a good garden most years. Lots of compost from rabbit manure, growing what has done reasonably good in the past, and commitment has finally paid off. I still hate to garden, but love to get the harvest. We now have two gardens, and as empty nesters, we grow almost all of the vegetables we will eat for a year, and we have a very short gardening season. We don’t use any pesticides or herbicides, and all the weeding is done on hands and knees. Every body pays something for food…if it isn’t through a paycheck, then it is through the sweat of your brow. If you can’t garden or have little success with yours, let people know that you will take their excess. Often people will give it away free, but offer at least something in barter. I always start my plants from seed to save money, and have started many things indoors before it is warm enough to plant.


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