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The Accidental Gardener

Ten Tips for the Urban Gardener
The Accidental Gardener
Published on July 14, 2010 : 17 comments

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Finally…it’s garden season here in Omaha, and soon we will be chowing down on home-grown tomatoes like they’re going out of style. I can’t wait!

Please don’t let these pictures fool you, though. Yes, they are shots of my very own personal garden. But, no, I am not a gardener.

I can’t really even say that I particularly enjoy gardening. I mean, wouldn’t an avid gardener be pouring over seed catalogs in mid-January?? Not me. I’m more of what you’d call a “lazy” gardener. Sure, I enjoy the harvesting and the feasting, and, yes, I might shed an occasional tear at the miracle of a seed that actually sprouts or a stem that somehow manages to bear fruit…but I am not so keen on the manual labor of prepping soil, planting seeds, staking plants, washing veggies, etc.

Even if my zucchini plant bears no fruit, it was worth planting just to experience these gigantic blossoms!Even if my zucchini plant bears no fruit, it was worth planting just to experience these gigantic blossoms!Basically, I’m truly more in love with the idea of having a garden than with the process of gardening itself. In fact, I’m most accurately described as a gardener of circumstance. It’s not that I have a green thumb or just can’t get enough of wading around in mud, pulling weeds, and being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Heck no; I am a C-I-T-Y girl through and through. I have just developed a deep appreciation for real, organic foods…and growing these things oneself is, by far, the cheapest (and freshest) way to go!

As you’ve likely surmised, gardening does not come naturally to me. I envy the folks who just seem to have a knack for it. Not realizing this was a friendly caterpillar, I killed it. Sad, but true. (But it hissed at me, I swear!)Not realizing this was a friendly caterpillar, I killed it. Sad, but true. (But it hissed at me, I swear!)Every time I teach someone anything about gardening or learn that I have “inspired” someone to start their own garden, I have a good laugh (on the inside, of course!) because I know the embarrassing truth about the limitations of my gardening “expertise.” I suppose you could say I learn things “the hard way”—I’ve pretty much learned all that I know about gardening by losing crops and then frantically checking in with Google (or one of my human friends) for an explanation and, hopefully, a solution.

Speaking of losing crops… consider yourself warned: Critters that look like cute little yellowish-green lady bugs should not be treated as such! They must die! (Sorry folks, no one said this was gonna be pretty!)

The Square-Foot Advantage

Luckily for me, very early in my gardening “career” (chuckle), I was fortunate enough to be tipped off to the concept of Square-Foot Gardening —or as I fondly refer to it, “Lazy, City-Girl Gardening.” Oh, it is a glorious method, indeed—with no tilling, minimal weeding, and no flooding (yes, even this year)! It’s as if this method were invented just for me!

One of our 7 raised beds contains: pole beans (on trellis), kale, Swiss chard, baby carrots, lettuce, broccoli, bell pepper and parsleyOne of our 7 raised beds contains: pole beans (on trellis), kale, Swiss chard, baby carrots, lettuce, broccoli, bell pepper and parsleyIf you’re interested in the concept, I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of the Square-Foot Gardening book. It’s a very basic book that gives you all the info you need to get started…without overwhelming you with details! If it worked for me, it can work for anyone! This book covers everything from how to construct the raised beds and what to fill them with, to how many seeds to plant in each square and how long to wait before harvesting!

Square-foot gardening is a method of raised-bed gardening that allows for maximum use of garden space. It looks pretty darn cool, too (according to my neighbors)! It’s also great for yards with contaminated ground soil (e.g., lead) or no soil at all (patios and balconies)! The beds can also be built on legs for folks who are in wheelchairs or have trouble bending. All you need to get started is a 4’ x 4’ space and a taste for good, fresh food!

Lessons from a City Girl’s Garden

In closing, I offer you a “Top Ten” list of lessons I’ve learned from my extensive (cough, cough!) gardening experience. Have any tips you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below!

10. Bees are our friends. They are not to be feared (regardless of how afraid of them you may have been raised to be because you grew up with a mother who was terrified that they might buzz around and get all tangled up in her very long, very thick hair)!!

9. Cute, fluttery little white moths are not our friends. Ditto for tiny little green worms.

8. Plant your garden where you can see it and enjoy it (and, thus, where you’ll be less likely to forget about it or neglect it). There’s no law that says your garden must be tucked away out of sight in a back corner of your yard. I have a lovely view of my garden right from my bedroom window! Just be sure your space gets 6 (preferably 8-10) good hours of sun!

7. Plant your garden out of reach of any male dogs. Veggies taste best when watered by humans.

6. Food tastes better when you know where it comes from, so grow as much as you can.

5. Plant more than you need. There’s no better feeling than giving fresh food to others. Plus, if something goes wrong and some of your plants die, you won’t be left veggie-less!

4. Always plant radishes. They provide instant gratification because they grow very quickly. Even if you don’t eat them—just grow them and give them away. They’re pretty dummy-proof, so you’ll feel successful even if the rest of your garden dies.

3. Fake snakes will deter birds, but the birds will eventually realize their fakeness if you never move them! Or, perhaps, birds just don’t fear snakes they presume to be dead?! Either way, you lose!

2. If you’re the type of city girl who doesn’t enjoy little spiders and things crawling on your kitchen counter, it may behoove you to give your garden-fresh veggies a quick rinse outdoors!

1. Make friends with every gardener you meet. Sure, they may be great folks and you might enjoy their company, but that’s really beside the point. Chances are they will have extra food they’ll need to give away at some point. Which brings me to…Lazy Girl’s Gardening Lesson #1: Never grow for yourself what others will grow for you for free!

Happy Gardeningand a special bonus! Watch the video below as Christy takes us on a tour of her square foot garden.

First baby carrot harvested this year!First baby carrot harvested this year!

cpooschkeChristy authors the "What's Fresh?" column on Omaha.net. She is a local "foodie" and owner/operator of GroceryGeek.com - Check out her natural cookbook, grocery shopping guide, diet make-over services, and personal chef services on her site! She also oper

Comments

Weedless_So_Far (not verified) says:

July 19, 2010 : 6 years 10 weeks ago

Weedless_So_Far's picture

Those zucchini flowers are great for stuffing (this is in case you don’t get much fruit).
One of the folks that saw my garden said that his wife makes them into enchiladas somehow, and they are outrageously good.

cpooschke says:

July 19, 2010 : 6 years 10 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

Thanks so much. I was looking forward to making some unique dishes with those blossoms. Unfortunately, since writing the article, my solitary zucchini plant lost its life to the borers :( Enchiladas, though?? Will have to look into that! Yum!

Shawn Finch (not verified) says:

July 20, 2010 : 6 years 10 weeks ago

Shawn Finch's picture

I love it Christy! And your garden is beautiful! We could not find anyone else in Omaha who had a Square Foot Garden - isn’t it fun? I can’t for the life of me keep a houseplant alive but our garden does great with that method. It has become such a fun thing!

cpooschke says:

July 20, 2010 : 6 years 10 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

Thanks, Shawn! LOL! I have NO luck with house plants, either!! Square-Foot saved my life :)

Kathleen Bracken (not verified) says:

July 21, 2010 : 6 years 10 weeks ago

Kathleen Bracken's picture

I am inspired to give this a try. I look forward to great success as it sounds so easy. I will let you all know how it goes. Thanks for sharing.

cpooschke says:

July 21, 2010 : 6 years 10 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

@Kathleen - So glad to hear that! Please do keep us posted! Are you going to get started this year? If so, you’d still have time to plant some things for fall :)

tim m (not verified) says:

July 21, 2010 : 6 years 10 weeks ago

tim m's picture

i couldnt find anything about fences on their web-page, and i noticed you are using one. am i correct in saying that a fence around the garden is a must?

cpooschke says:

July 21, 2010 : 6 years 10 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

@Tim - The fence is to keep the bunnies out…and my dog, too! Some folks don’t use fencing, but I feel it’s well worth the trouble!

cpooschke says:

July 24, 2010 : 6 years 10 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

Please note: I just added a video above that was not originally included with the article. Check it out for a MUCH better view of the garden :)

Kathleen Bracken (not verified) says:

July 26, 2010 : 6 years 9 weeks ago

Kathleen Bracken's picture

I am planning to build it this week and ordering the book from Walmart today. It sounds perfect for my style of gardening.

cpooschke says:

July 26, 2010 : 6 years 9 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

@Kathleen - let me know if you have any ?s. Happy gardening!!! You should have plenty of time to get at least a few seeds going for fall, like spinach, radishes, lettuce and maybe some peas :)

Kathleen Bracken (not verified) says:

July 26, 2010 : 6 years 9 weeks ago

Kathleen Bracken's picture

Thank you for the suggestions. We should do well here in Florida with the fall planting don’t ya think?

cpooschke says:

July 26, 2010 : 6 years 9 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

@Kathleen - LOL! Was thinking you were in Omaha. Surely you’ll do much better down there :)

ARLENE KIRK (not verified) says:

August 14, 2010 : 6 years 7 weeks ago

ARLENE KIRK's picture

BTW you can pick up the Square Foot Gardening book at any Dollar General Store for $5. Its the only way to garden!

cpooschke says:

August 17, 2010 : 6 years 6 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

@Arlene - Thanks SO much!!! I just stopped there and picked up a couple copies for our lending library b/c folks are ALWAYS borrowing my only copy :)

cpooschke says:

August 17, 2010 : 6 years 6 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

My square foot garden will be featured this year in the BENSON GARDEN WALK on Sept. 26. Click here for details: http://www.completelynourished.org/events/benson-garden-walk

Idaho Sweetheart (not verified) says:

April 24, 2014 : 2 years 22 weeks ago

Idaho Sweetheart's picture

Hi Kristy, Your Garden is beautiful. I will trying the Square foot gardening this year. I am very excited. Can you tell me how you keep the weeds down, or any type of vegitation in between your beds. I will be removong the grass but is there a spray that I need to use to prevent weeds and such growing? Thank you and Happy gardening.