Wishin' Won't Make it Grow or ...... A Letter to Wanna Be Gardeners

Dear Wanna-Be’s,

So . . . . you think you want to be a gardener? Do you read gardening and homesteading magazines and books and covet the gardens and lifestyle? Do you see yourself in a tomato patch filling a basket with vine-ripened tomatoes? Do you imagine pantry shelves lined with beautiful jars of home canned foods? Maybe you have dreams of al fresco dining, with several friends of course, amidst the abundance of a fabulous kitchen garden. All these visions are admirable and I say go for it.

Design your dream garden, shop for some seeds, buy some transplants, work up the soil, and begin. Your garden will teach you what works and what doesn’t. Start a garden journal to remind you of your successes and flops. Make a start any which way you can.

I know that when we plan and plant a garden, we have a mental image of gorgeousness. My picture always includes overflowing abundance, healthy plants, plenty of rain – always at the right time of course, weed seeds that never germinate, lots of sunny days, kitchen counters full of picture perfect vegetables, and loaded pantry shelves at the end of the season. I wish it were always so. But darnit . . . wishin’ won’t make it so and wishin’ won’t make it grow.

The reality of gardening is that Mother Nature has her own plans. She can send us drought, hordes of insects, vicious summer storms, and anything else she can dream up to knock us on our toucas. We can shake our fist at her or learn to work with what we cannot control. One way to fight this reality is to build a healthy soil. If plants have their roots growing in a healthy, alive, soil they can stand up, (ususally!), to Mother nature. Let’s face it, sometimes she sends plagues that pretty much put an end to at least part of the garden. But, with a healthy, organic soil plants can often fight back.

What you need to understand is that if you are starting a new garden it will take 3-5 years to build decent soil. Patience. Patience. You can spend a fortune on fertilizer to keep your plants growing but until you build a healthy, living, soil your garden will struggle. You must begin to add grass clippings (nothing treated with herbicides though), chopped leaves, compost (get your pile going), a layer of manure in the fall will help(you can buy bags of composted manure at any garden center), and after a soil test, lime in the fall. No soil test? It is safe to add 50 pounds of lime per 1000 feet per year without upsetting things in the soil. Personally, I would get a soil test and have a starting pH number.

The vegetable plants in my garden beds are mulched with grass clippings and/or chopped leaves all summer. If the mulch layer disappears into the soil, which is what I want it to do, I pile on more. If I have enough compost I will use it as a summer side dressing. I also fill trenches with compost and then plant beans seeds into those enriched trenches and plant squash, melons, and cucumbers in small hills enriched with compost. Every fall I top each 100 sq. ft. raised bed with 5 pounds of lime, a 3-4 inch layer of chopped leaves mixed with grass clippings, and at least an inch of compost/manure. If I don’t have enough homemade compost I buy bags of composted manure. I go over each bed with a small broadfork to mix things up and loosen the subsoil.


A healthy soil supports uncountable microorganisms which will, in turn, grow healthy vegetables loaded with nutrients which will, in turn, make you healthier. Not a bad deal for simply collecting leaves, grass clippings and using your kitchen garbage in a compost pile. It’s the circle of life. Jump in and become a part of it. Your soil and your health will thank you.

Picture this, it’s one of those looong, sweet summer evenings. You are surrounded by friends, sharing a wonderful meal in your gorgeous garden. Raise your glasses and toast that soil you have worked so hard to build. Thank you Mother Nature.

Hey from the farm,

Fran, The Country Cousin


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2 comments to Wishin’ Won’t Make it Grow or …… A Letter to Wanna Be Gardeners

  • Linda Hatton

    Thank you, Fran! You must’ve written this article with me in mind. All those books…all those dreams. I’m in the midst of planning next year’s bounty. So fun, drawing the plans and poring through seed catalogs (which are more like magazines). I’m so glad I live in a 4-season area. I need this time to dream and scheme. Keep writin’. Love it. 🙂

    • Thanks, Linda. Your garden will be beautiful next summer. Just look at what you have accomplished during the last few years. The structures are gorgeous. Just remember that you have a young garden and be you should be patient with things that don’t work. Keep on gardening. Hope to see you soon.

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