DIY: Cheap and easy gardening for beginners

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Happy mother with her children gardening.  [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786778][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/family.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786750][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/summer.jpg[/img][/url]

About 80 years ago I was taken to the garden and taught how to plant onion sets. Mom’s finger made a row of holes and she watched carefully so I would put the root end down. Of course, she could have done it in half the time alone, but gardeners are made, not born, and she wanted the company. All of her three children gardened when they grew up.

I want to advise you how to get the garden in as cheaply and easily as possible. Raised beds are fine for small plantings. Flat land and fencing to keep rabbits out are usually needed. Sunshine and rain at the right times help too. The garden is plowed, raked, etc. It is not necessary to use a string to make straight rows. Just drag a hoe to make a shallow trench and eyeball it. You get more seed into a crooked row anyhow, I am told, and I have never heard a seed complain. Don’t plant too early, the ground is cold. The seeds take forever to come up. I had nice soft soil last spring and planted radishes on Good Friday. They took eight weeks to be big enough to eat instead of three.

Forget the seed packet instructions to plant thickly and then thin. They are selling seeds. Plant only the amount of seeds to get the food you need-thinly. What next? Stand back and let them grow. Onion sets planted in the same row as carrots and beets mark the row weeks sooner.

Start weeding as soon as the soil dries out so it doesn’t pack. Two weeks of rain may make you wonder why you ever started. You may prefer to hoe some every day, but do not despair when it rains. Someday soon you will be giving extra to friends, and they will be returning the favor. When offered plants or seeds, take them, smile but don’t say, “thank you”, superstition says they won’t grow.

Remember the advice given me by my father when I complained I did not know how to do something he wanted done, “You can’t learn any younger!” If you didn’t garden last year, remember that next year is coming. Have fun, and eat well.

Laurel E. Norman, Spring Valley, MN