How to start a garden?

….. or what I’ve learned in my first two years of gardening.

When did it all begin?

For the beginning of my gardening endeavors I would have to go back to when I was somewhere between 8 and 12 years old and I was helping my mum in the garden. I don’t remember to have ever sowed or planted any seedlings in our garden but I do remember weeding between the tiny carrot and lettuce plants. During weekends when my mum would be preparing lunch, me and my sister would spend the mornings in the garden, battling the weeds. I remember being fascinated with the transformation of the tiny seedlings to strong carrot or lettuce plants by the end of the summer. My chore during early autumn days would be peeling the carrots so that my mum could freeze them and use them in winter beef soups.

Except for these occasionally assigned tasks, I didn’t show any interest in the gardening during my childhood and especially puberty years. The story repeated itself during high school and for the most part of my undergraduate life. Mum would take care of the garden while me and my sister would help with the harvesting and storing the produce.

In my first year of master’s degree studies I moved to a house that had a huge garden in the front (!!) yard. I remember looking across the empty garden in the spring and asking myself how can a single person take care of such a large garden. The front yard is clearly visible from both the living and dining room of the house so “Out of sight out of mind” approach wouldn’t work in this case.
My mother and grandmother were in charge of the garden during my first summer at the house. They have started so it was only fair that they finished the season as well. I was going to school and didn’t put too much attention to the garden.
The thought of taking over the garden has first crossed my mind in the autumn of 2015, when I settled in the house and I started monitoring my expenses. I noticed that I was spending (way) too much money on fairly low quality and low-energy-providing food. I started to develop an interest for growing my own food. I spent the winter of 2015/2016 researching gardening and self-sufficiency. I was fascinated by all the plants that I could grow on my garden and that were impossible to buy in the store. Next to plants I also researched processes for storing the produce during the winter months. Later on I also stumbled upon making homemade cosmetic, plastic-free lifestyle and other subjects that go hand in hand with self-sufficiency.

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My garden, May 2015.
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My garden, July 2015.
Year 2016

In spring 2016 it was go time. I had a lot of help from my mum, who provided me with all the seedlings that I needed. She has chosen the same varieties of veggies as she did for herself , the same ones that have been part of our delicious meal for years. I started planning my own garden. I tried to take in to account crop rotation which can be quite challenging.

My first year gardening could be summoned in these points:

1. Weed battle
The number one problem in my garden was weed. It’s quantity remained about the same during the year but it’s varieties have changed depending on the part of the season.
2. Abundance of beans and lack of tomatoes
Beans and other legumes were growing wonderfully in my location. I guess they like the sun/shade ratio that is due to the fact that the hill behind the house would cast an afternoon shade. Quite the opposite has happened with my tomatoes. Despite the aggressive growth and a lot of showing fruits, the plants were infected with rust and have deteriorated. I haven’t produced a single tomato. that year.
3. Bad organization and watering schedule
This was the year when I was watering the garden without any plan. Often it happened that I forgot which part of the garden has been watered and which one should be watered next. Watering turned out to be a huge burden and a big source of issues.
4. First perennial planting
My first perennial planting was an L-shaped raspberry bed at the edge of the garden. Aljaz and I both love raspberries and in case of abundant harvest you can always freeze and use them in smoothies and deserts so all the things in favor of making a raspberry bed. In the autumn of 2016 we made the construction and planted our raspberry plants.

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Planting in the garden, May 2017.
Year 2017

I entered the 2017 gardening year determined and equipped with new knowledge. During the winter I read about permaculture and biodynamic. My gardening notebook is full of marks about effects and power of the moon (the moon calendar is the foundation of biodynamics) and the plants. I also read about herbs that can be picked in the wild or grown in the home garden.
Full of fresh knowledge I started the new gardening season. During the planning phase I picked all that plants that will grow in my garden this year. Each plant had a place in the garden. I also started planning the floral beds which would be places at the edge of the garden.

My second gardening year could be (up until now) summed in the following points:

1. Trying out new varieties of vegetables and herbs
This year I chose my own vegetable varieties that I decided to plant. Of course I sill listened to wise advise of my mother but I started to gather the courage to experiment. So this year my garden is also hosting more exotic vegetables and herbs like peruivan groundcherry, strawberry spinach, pepino, chickpeas and citron verbena.
2. Expanding perennial beds
Next to my last year’s respberry bed I also added an asparagus bed and began to plat an edible hedge made from different varieties of berry shrubs.
3. Petra : weed – 1:0
This year most of my garden is covered with mulch. I use leaves and old hay and both work great. Not only as a vital weapon in my weed war but also for it’s ability to contain water in soil which is vital in the dry summer we’re having here this year.
4. If you can’t get rid of it, eat it!
During my intense battles with weed i couldn’t help but to think about the possible use of weed in my everyday cooking. Maybe some varieties of weed are edible or even extremely tasty and would be prefect for cooking? During one of my visits to the local library I found the book Wild food (Divja hrana) by Dario Cortese and behold – I found some of my enemies in there. From then on they are a part of my salads or side dishes. I tell you, they’re amazing! 🙂

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Welcome to the jungle – my garden in July 2017.


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