2014 - Beginner Garden

 Starting with a handful of painted terracotta pots full of herbs and veg

Starting with a handful of painted terracotta pots full of herbs and veg

Spring of 2014 was the first time I gardened, using an our condo terrace that had previously been a semi-storage area fixed seasonally with the cheapest bistro patio set we could find. 

The size of our patio was typical for a condo, or some dare say "big" with how micro units have become these days. We could comfortably fit 3 acquaintances, or 4 snug friends.

 

Specifications:

Size: 4.5ft x 8ft

Lighting: South-western facing

 

There aren't many photos from this era as this was way before I started documenting my garden, but I did very typical rookie mistakes that someone starting at ground zero may do.


Beginner mistakes TO Avoid:

Not Knowing Your Direction:

Yes, we're talking bare basics here: know what direction your garden is facing. This translates to how much direct, indirect and shaded areas you'll receive. But additionally, each garden is unique because obstruction can be present and should be noted: a tree, a nearby building, etc that obscure your lighting. Take a day off and observe how the sun moves at every corner and document how long it stays there.

Not Having Drainage:

You can get away with no-drainage pots indoors (or if you have a covered patio) but that won't fly outdoors. Rain will quickly overflow your pots and cause water-logging which equals to unhappy plants. Drill extra holes into pots if you need to.

 

Planting All the plugs:

Ah yes, you get a whale of a deal with 4 plant plugs in a cell pack and it's tempting to plant every one. But read the tag! As a beginner, take the direction fairly literally until you're confident enough to try more high density gardening. When in doubt, less is more as it allows plants to grow to its full size, flowering and fruiting properly. You'll also have less nutrient deficiency problems early on as your soil won't be depleted as quickly.

This is the perfect time to trade extra plants with your friends and neighbours.

Not upsizing the nursery Pot:

Nursery pots (the small plastic pot you buy your plants in) are only temporary homes. Similar to overcrowding your plants, it's important to upsize to a proper container size according to the tag.

 

Not Looking For Space-Appropriate Plants

Plants have been wonderfully cultivated to have varieties that fit any space! If you are working with a small condo balcony like I was, look for tags that specifically state that they are dwarf or container varieties. As a beginner, typically heirloom varieties you see in the garden may not suit your container garden.

Growing Herbs You Don't Actually Eat:

It's fun to grow a variety of plants (I encourage it!) but overtime you should cull to the herbs you actually eat. Herbs grow quickly and you'll learn which become too abundant for you to grow. I know we only really use mint, rosemary, chives and basil regularly. But, also think outside the recipe: you don't have to have a herb-specific dish to use it! Just throw a few leaves into an existing salad to reap the wonderful nutrients on the spot.

 

Flowers aren't always good:

Mostly related to herbs, when certain plants flower (like mint) it alters the taste. Look into pinching off blooms for your herbs to prolong their desired taste. A flowering herb may also mean that it has outgrown its container, or is stressed from the weather (you've planted a cool-weather loving herb like cilantro, during the heat of summer).

 First strawberry plant: I wouldn't try again until years later

First strawberry plant: I wouldn't try again until years later

 The final and only harvest: the tiniest handful

The final and only harvest: the tiniest handful

 Herbs and ornamental planted with the mistake of not upsizing the pots

Herbs and ornamental planted with the mistake of not upsizing the pots

Overall, even though this list gives you a buffer on which mistakes you can avoid, gardening is all about embracing the lessons learnt. I didn't learn any of this without failing: I didn't over-prepare by researching incessantly on every single plant I grew. That would take the fun out of gardening. But you can atleast bare in mind some basics to help the mistakes be a little less frustrating.


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