Mistress Mary, Quite contrary, How does your garden grow?

Winter gloom may not invoke thoughts about gardening for you, but earlier is better when it comes to planning a successful garden! The Rayburn Family is a little ahead of the game this year in that our 25ft x 30ft garden plot was inaugurated last spring. My knight with shiny rotary-tiller (aka my husband, Aaron) dedicated a lot of sweat into breaking soil for our family vegetable garden. I was finally getting the garden of my dreams, unfortunately, my pregnant procrastinator self was late seeding and our heavy Tennessee rains washed away baby zucchini squash, cantaloupe, and cucumbers. Thankfully, I had purchased starter tomato, strawberry and pepper plants so we at least had  some production. I was too lazy and discouraged to start over on my lost plants. Each year I learn from my mistakes, and I take my gardening a little more seriously. If you’re interested in taking gardening for a spin, here’s my Top 10 Gardening Tip list for beginners, 1. Use Sevindust to protect plants against aphids and other insects. 2. Construct towers for tomato plants to climb vertically as they grow. 3. Start seed indoors and then plant the seedlings at the appropriate sowing time specific to each plant. 4. DIY Composting – a cheap and eco-friendly way to provide nutrients to garden soil. 5. Put down a weed barrier (especially when you have a large garden!) 6. Cover plants in danger from frost. 7. Protect garden from critters with an effective fence. 8. Plant in mounds and mound rows for better drainage. 9. Leave enough space for sprawling plants. and 10. Keep yourself motivated because the payoff is so rewarding!

When it comes to number 10, its important to enjoy the process and establish a routine BEFORE the 100-degree summer weather arrives! I find its helpful to set aside the same time each day to water, weed and relish in the growth of your garden. Listen to music on your iPod, or try an audio book. In those hot summer months, drag yourself out of bed early before the sun is high and the heat unbearable. Early morning is also helpful if you have small children, so your spouse can care for them before heading to work, freeing you up to work outside in your garden. Or have them play in the yard while you work. If your kids are old enough, take every opportunity to teach them about the benefits and joys of growing your own food. Enlist them as helpers and instruct them on how to weed around the plants and harvest table-ready vegetables.

If you are new to gardening and want some “Gardening for Dummies” information, check out a few great websites that I enjoyed…

DIY Compost Bin – http://thehappyhousewife.com/frugal-living/diy-compost-bin/

Composting 101 – http://www.composting101.com/what-to-use.html

Planting Schedule Cheat Sheet (just put in your own zipcode!) http://sproutrobot.com/nashville-tn/planting-calendar/37209

Food for the Family Table: Backyard Vegetable Gardening http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20364156,00.html

If gardening sounds like too much work, and you’re just not convinced, read about the benefits of growing your own at http://www.growveg.com/growblogpost.aspx?id=177

Happy planning!

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