I am not known for my green thumb. One year in elementary school, everyone in our class was given a packet of mixed seeds on Earth Day. I took them home and dutifully planted them in a little plastic terrarium I had gotten as a McDonald's Happy Meal toy. I watered those buggers faithfully for weeks and nothing happened. Not a single sprout popped out of the soil. Defeated, I dumped the soil and the seeds out into the front yard and forgot about the whole thing. That is, until a whole year later when a thick mysterious vine began snaking its way through the yard from the very spot I dumped my seeds. That year we had homegrown pumpkins.

The moral of this tale is the only way a plant will grow is if I have nothing to do with it.


This year I'm giving real vegetable gardening a try for the first time ever. We have all this property and eat a lot of veggies, so it would sort of be ridiculous not to at least try. So Ez built three 4' x 8' raised beds over the past few weekends. Yesterday I planted the first batch of seeds for some cool-weather crops -- peas, broccoli, lettuce, two types of kale and two types of carrots. (Johnnie helped by dumping a handful of carrot seeds over a row of lettuce I had just planted, so we'll see how that turns out...) I'm also planning to do tomatoes, beans, spinach, summer squash and basil. Despite my dismal record at keeping plants alive, I remain hopeful that we'll be able to harvest a little something this year. If nothing else, I'm happy to have a project that will force us to spend more time outside.

Are there any organic vegetable gardeners out there? What knowledge resources do you use? Any tips? What are your favorite seed and plant sources? I've spend hours and hours researching on the internet, but I would love recommendations for books and websites you find particularly helpful. (Keep in mind, I've had to google things like "how to plant a seed.") Please email me or, even better, post in the comments so others can benefit too!


  1. What fun! I love gardening but I had to remind myself often that it's not an act of perfection and every step in a learning experience. I love the square foot gardening book by Mel Batholemew. I've lent it to tons of friends an it has some great tips and reference.

    1. I'll check it out! Thanks!

    2. Also, I can totally relate to the perfectionist thing, and I am trying not to let that seep into this gardening experience... Ack.

  2. Here's my advice - start small and simple with vegetables that are easy to grow. I know the first (and only year) that we did a garden, we spent so much time and money on trying to grow everything and realized that we knew nothing about growing food and most of it died before it produced anything. But I think most of learning to garden is trial and error. I can't wait to have a garden next year!

    1. I started out knowing NOTHING, and now I know a teeny tiny bit after what feels like hours and hours and hours and hours of research. Broccoli is the only thing I'm planting that seems like it could be particularly stubborn. I'm fighting the urge to buy every seed and plant I see that sounds interesting and just stick to a few things this time. I have low expectations this time around -- hopefully I will be pleasantly surprised and not get too discouraged to try again next year.

  3. the simplest most basic garden plants should be pre-statrted tomatoes. Next easiest is lettuces.....pick green leaf lettuces when they are small. They will continue to leaf until the weather gets too hot. Squash are also very easy to grow. The key is to remember that your first couple of years are about learning and maybe harvesting a few things. Learning means faithfully watering (but, not overwatering) and keeping the WEEDS under control. i.e. try to weed AT LEAST every other day. Otherwise, the weeds will very quickly overwhelm your plants. Also, you will want to find a means to keep rabbits and other critters like deer from invading you garden when you are not looking. Also, insects are sometimes a problem. Your local garden store can recommend organic means to control them.

    There are also several really great organic gardening blogs that can provide solutions along the way.

    Good luck!

    1. Tomatoes (from plants) are on the agenda, as is zucchini and lettuce. I am most nervous about knowing when to water and whether I am over-watering. I have asked Ez for a wire mesh fence around the beds, so hopefully that will be going up soon... We have rabbits everywhere.

      I need all the luck I can get!

  4. EK:

    Anytime you're in need of some horse manure for your garden, give us a call, we can help. :o) Have fun with it.

  5. I'm jealous of your next endeavor! My parents have always had an amazing garden, and although I spent most of my childhood weeding (seeking perfection started young) I haven't had much luck growing much on my own. I like to blame the tall apartment building that blocks most of my sunlight in my tiny Brooklyn backyard, but really, I'm pretty sure I just can't give my plants the attention they need. Weeding and watering regularly (in the evening is best - otherwise the sun will burn the plants where the water droplets evaporate) is really all you need. And once you start producing vegetables - make sure you are picking them regularly (and get ready to give some away because you may be overwhelmed all at once).

    Also - learn how to prune - I always feel guilty cutting plants back, but plants need to be reminded of what their priorities should be. They will want to grow up towards the sun, but really they should be concentrating on growing vegetables, so the extra branches that begin to grow out of any "Y" stems should be pinched off (you'll see this a lot on tomato plants).

    Start small and enjoy the process!!

  6. We continually go back to The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward Smith. To the point, concise, easy to understand. Also become acquainted with your county's extension office. They'll have information about growing and planting for your specific area.
    Sometimes I think the hardest part of gardening is knowing what to do with everything that comes out of it (especially the squash). To heck with canning and sauce-ifying and so forth; the freezer has become one of our best friends.

  7. I second the Square Foot Gardening method. My parents have used it for thirty years and I've used it in my garden for the last 5. (Also, the older editions of the book are better and usually available at the library.)
    It tells you how close to place plants and when.

    You should also look up a companion planting website to know which plants work well together and which should be separated. For example, basil and tomatoes are good partners.

    Seed Savers Exchange is an excellent source of high quality heirloom and organic seeds. One package usually lasts us about 3 seasons.

    Broccoli is really hard to grow, and in the mid-Atlantic area it attracts cabbage moths so you either have to spray (which means your kiddo can't eat food out of the garden without washing it) or learn to tolerate hundreds of gross little caterpillars on everything.

    I also recommend installing a rain barrel. It makes watering much easier and cheaper.

    Also, some toddler recommendations: get her a little watering can so she can help. When my oldest was a toddler, she loved filling it up and dumping it out and it kept her busy for 30 minutes at a time while I weeded and pruned. When your daughter is older, give her a plant of her own. Strawberries are very easy.


Thanks for reading! I love your thoughts, feedback and suggestions. Keep 'em coming!