Starting A Garden

The Ellison Homestead

My first season of summer gardening is coming to an end and I would like to share some tips I have learned that can hopefully help you get started on your garden next year!

Let's start with the beginning, which is starting seeds indoors. This is something I tried to do, and did not do well at first! My first mistake was underwatering and I lost quite a few seedlings because of this. What I started to do once I realized my mistake was check to see if the soil was damp, if not I would bottom water, so I would fill the tray with about a 1/2 inch of water and let the seedlings drink up! My second mistake was not having my plant lights close enough to the seedlings. You pretty much want the light within an inch of the emerging seedling otherwise it will become leggy as it tries to reach for the light, and this creates a weaker plant. Now I still saw some success, but my seeds that I direct sowed were much stronger and produced better than my leggy seedlings from indoors.

Something I did well was used a nutrient dense seed starting mix and worm castings! I highly recommend finding a good, organic mix to get started.

Another recommendation I have is just going with the flow and being more relaxed. As soon as our frost threat disappeared I tried to plant everything at once, when in reality I could've just done a little each day or week and I would have more consistent harvests rather than having everything mature at once. I'd also recommend writing down when you plant things to have a better idea of when they will be fully mature, I did not do this and I wish I did!

A switch I made early on was to my watering schedule. I was watering daily and I did have happy plants but they were a lot happier when I stopped doing that and started doing deeper watering every couple of days.

One last tip is to have fun! You will run into pests, critters, and just wake up to a dead plant sometimes. That is okay! No good gardener has gone without killing a plant! Let me know if you have any questions or anything else you would like tips on, and Happy Gardening!
Photo taken by me : Marie Ellison

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Chicago, IL

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