Rookies can get nervous about tending their food gardens: What if I get pests and weeds? What if I under-water or over-water? Under-fertilize or over-fertilize? How do I stake and thin and prune my plants? When do I harvest?
Basic powers of observation will tell you what your plants need as they grow: If they’re leaning over, they need staking; if they’re growing into each other, they need pruning; if leaves are discolored, the plants may need an extra boost of nutrients; if bugs are eating your veggies, you can troubleshoot with any number of organic options including dish soap and garlic spray.
Don’t be surprised, throughout your tending process, if you feel a preposterous sense of wonder and glory in it all. Rookie gardeners, more often than not, find themselves acting like giddy new parents, wanting to coddle their growing fruits and veggies just as they might pamper a newborn.
Nathaniel Hawthorne put it this way in his 19th century story collection Mosses from an Old Manse: “I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.”
Sounds totally over the top, but it’s true.
Here’s some ultra simple, intuitive advice about watering, weeding, staking, pest removal, and fertilizing. After the slideshow, there’s a lightning-quick tutorial (you don’t need anything more than that) on harvesting.
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Once you’ve done the work of growing your gorgeous groceries, don’t wait too long to pick you’re veggies – classic rookie move. Sometimes it’s a separation-anxiety issue – the plants look so happy and beautiful that ripping them out of the ground seems barbaric. Get over it! Jeanne’s harvesting advice is simple: Don’t be timid — if something looks and smells ripe to you, pick it and taste it. The best way to become a good harvester is to learn by doing.