Ask the Experts: Getting Started with Gardening

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two hands holding a bowl of tomatoes

By Sara R.

Like all rewarding aspects of our lives, gardens are a labor of love. They are messy, temperamental, and even demanding at times; but little else compares to the first bite of a fruit grown from seed, watched carefully by our eager eyes since the first two bright green leaves popped up from the soil. We cannot will a seed to burst into a tomato in an instant, just as we cannot force our dreams to manifest on command. Patience is a lesson well learned in recovery, and one mirrored in the efforts of a garden. Idleness in the mind and body create space for the pervasive craving, while busy hands in the dirt can interrupt and distract our impulses and begin to smooth the raging currents of our minds.

So where does one begin? I start in my belly- what do I want to eat? From your farm to your table what will get you the most excited once it’s ripe, eager to bring it directly into the kitchen to make something fresh and delicious. For me; that’s cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, butter lettuce, strawberries, herbs like basil, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme! The possibilities for what to plant are endless, but our favorites are an excellent starting point.

The next question is- what space do I have? Are we working with a patio that can fill up with planters and pots, or do we have a slice of earth we plan to upheave? Where do I get sufficient sun? Any of the produce mentioned would thrive on a patio, as would many others; of course, the effort and time needed for a garden grows with its size.

So that begs the question; how much time do I really have? This is a great chance to be honest, to deliberately take on a responsibility that will not overwhelm or discourage us. This draws in the debate of from seed or from nursery- your local climate will change the timing for all of this. The internet has endless forums of incredibly expert advice for when to grow in your zip code. Find out what zone you are in through a quick search to discover when your season begins. Nursery employees are friendly local experts, don’t be afraid to ask them questions! For your very first garden, I suggest purchasing baby plants from the market which will usually be placed outside once they are ready for the earth. Plants are typically sold in trays of four to six, so this is a great time to bring a friend along and split the winnings if that is beyond the scope you were planning (I usually go with my mom for this!).

With the practicals out of the way, it’s time to have fun. Connecting to the earth in this loving way helps us give back what we take, contributing to the circle of energy always flowing between ourselves and our environments. Waking up, having a cup of tea or coffee, and strolling outside to gaze on your growing life is a simple pleasure created for tender care. Happy gardening everyone, your belly, spirit, and the earth thank you!

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