Gardening Guide for the Unqualified

I was pushing my face up against the window, trying to get a better line of sight as torrential rain streamed down the other side of the pane. My home had fallen dead quiet, save for the rolling, black clouds overhead. My daughter took my hand and my husband whispered: “It’s okay. I’m sure it’ll be okay.” The raised garden beds we had built and planted in the months before, and then tended daily with high hopes for an abundant vegetable harvest, were under siege. Heavily, we watched swiss chard seedlings float to the top of the beds and spill over and out while zucchini and carrot were being brutally pummelled into the mud. We were completely helpless, the damage was already done… but were we defeated?

That was the summer of 2019. Earlier in the year my husband, daughter, and I decided to embark on the transformational and joyful (yes, joyful!) adventure of converting our city home into an urban farm. We were unapologetic non-experts and, I promise, were as overwhelmed about how to start as any other brand new gardener might be. Still, we jumped into our garden project at exactly the right place – the very beginning with big hearts and 3 intentions:

  • To share in a family project, practising teamwork and togetherness
  • To become more connected with and appreciative of our food by investing effort in its production and sourcing
  • To discover the fun in failing, the excitement of learning from our mistakes, and the rewards of figuring it out

When the rain stopped we went outside together and tenderly surveyed the aftermath. We picked leaves out of the mud, propped up stems, and re-seeded whatever we thought might still grow. We encouraged each other: “I think this spinach is okay!” “Yes, for sure it is! And the peas look good too!” “Radish overboard! Seeds please!” “I can save the potatoes!” We celebrated together and felt sincere gratitude for each plant that seemed to have survived. 

I refuse to reassure you by saying that was the only challenge we faced in 2019! It wasn’t! Cabbage maggot, leaf miners, blossom rot, sun scorch, birds, slugs, potato vine catastrophe! Still, after every setback, we always learned something new about the plant, the situation, and best of all, each other. At the end of the season, even having done everything un-perfectly, our harvest was STILL epic! We never needed to be experts, we just needed to be willing to try. Now, armed with our earned experience and nourished by our original aspirations, we are excited to see what we can accomplish together in our 2020 garden. 

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