Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Inspiration at the garden center

Saturday was a warm spring day, and the predicted rain held off long enough to let Mulch Boy and me clear out the vegetable garden in preparation for spring planting.

Afterwards we hoofed it to the local garden center for seed potatoes and seeds (i.e., seed potatoes, seeds, garlic bulbs, asparagus roots, two ornamental grasses, a pincushion flower, and three pots of English daisies). And thanks to an encounter with a guy at the garden center, I’m blogging today. Thanks, Guy at the Garden Center!

What happened was this: Mulch and I were circling the seed racks, searching intently for kale (new experimental crop for us this year). During this process, I could not help but notice a gentleman juggling an indoor seed starter tray, along with a supply of 4-inch plastic pots, as he quizzed the garden center lady on the how-to’s of starting seeds indoors.

Now anyone who knows me or knows this blog knows I am no expert here. But I have started seeds several times, and had some success, and learned some nice lessons over time. And it seemed pretty clear that Garden Center Lady, while doing her best to be helpful, was not an actual gardener herself, and so was winging it on some of her advice.

Thus, I opened my big mouth and inserted myself into the discussion with my advice and "experience," which amounts to: “I’m no expert, but here are a few things I’ve learned in the last three years trying to do what you’re about to do” and “You may fail with some things, but you won’t with others, and in any case seeds are cheap” and “Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post says to not bother starting peppers from seed; in our area you’re better off buying plants.” (Following this last bit of advice last year resulted in our first actual crop of peppers.)

From this, Guy at the Garden Center seem to conclude I knew what I was talking about (even though I repeatedly told him we are totally winging it) and asked if I blogged, so we gave him our address. Guy at the Garden Center, I hope you came to visit, and if you did, here are my two favorite resources I mentioned:
  • The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible. This book has all kinds of great information about building a vegetable garden, the needs of all kinds of basic veg, dealing with pests, etc. Has lots of photos, too. The one drawback is that some of the planting advice is geared toward a more northern climate, so that must be taken into account. However, that’s why I love...
  • Adrian Higgins from the Washington Post, in all his forms. He writes regular columns. He does live Q&As on the Post website (in fact, if you’re here, Guy, check out this most recent one, where he’s got lots on starting seeds indoors and in the garden). He’s on Twitter. And he wrote this wonderful book that is exclusively about gardening in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, with chapters on both ornamental and vegetable gardening. He changed my gardening life with a single piece of advice: dig holes with a garden fork, not a shovel. Think I’m crazy? Try it the next time you’re struggling in our native clay.
It felts so great to be out in the garden again on Saturday, getting dirt under my nails, smelling that good earth smell. But it felt equally good to be talking gardening at the garden center, sharing experiences with another amateur gardener. That made me want to continue the discussion online. I probably wouldn’t be writing here if I hadn’t gotten into that conversation with That Guy. So thank you, Guy at the Garden Center, for inspiring me to get back here and get blogging. And if you did come to visit, let us know how your garden grows. I myself am planning to plant peas--outdoors!-- when I get home today.

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