It’s official, I have spent two gardening seasons community gardening with Halton Food (a program of the Halton Environmental Network). I began my community gardening journey in June 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as a self-proclaimed beginner backyard gardener, and now, two gardening seasons later, I can finally say I am a slightly more experienced beginner gardener. These last two years have provided me with so many wonderful experiences and opportunities for me to learn and experiment with gardening, so I would like to share my five key takeaways with you!
Lesson #1 – Gardeners have different schools of thought.
Every gardener has had a unique experience and history with gardening, a different knowledge base, and a different purpose. Experience and preferences of gardeners can range from community gardening to backyard and container gardening to large-scale gardening, and what each gardener chooses to grow, such as vegetables, fruits, trees, and flowers. There are so many different gardeners who all have different thoughts, so it was important to learn from multiple, more experienced gardeners and do my own research when faced with challenges in the garden space!
Lesson #2 – There are many ways to “correctly” prune a tomato plant.
The age-old question, to prune or not to prune! I cannot begin to count how many times I’ve had the discussion of whether to prune or not to prune tomato plants and if pruning, how much is too much. Some gardeners prune every non-fruit bearing, ground touching, diseased, and non-air circulating leaf and sucker off, whereas others allow their tomatoes to grow wildly. As a tomato pruner, I fall somewhere in the middle. My tomato plants will always be pruned, albeit not heavily. As it turns out, there is also a vast difference of opinion about tomato cages.
Lesson #3 – Every summer is different and comes with its own set of challenges.
It’s only been two growing seasons, but each season has come with its own set of challenges. With the varying weather patterns the success of different crops can be hit or miss, the garden pests and diseases can vary drastically, as well as the maturation rate of crops. This summer we have had plenty of rain and high temperatures, which has caused our gardens to flourish. However, the heavy rainfall, humidity, and warm temperatures have caused issues with pests like Japanese beetles in gardens like never before. Every summer comes with its own set of challenges, goals, and opportunities!
Lesson #4 – Reliable water access is a must.
Water, water, water! It goes without saying that a gardener will have a hard time growing successfully without consistent and reliable access to water. Whether it be by rain barrel or proximity to an outdoor hose, water access should be one of the first and most important considerations when establishing a garden space.
Lesson #5 – Even experienced gardeners Google questions, refer to gardening books, and ask others.
Yes, it’s true! Even the most experienced gardeners will Google questions about a garden concern, refer back to their gardening books, and ask other gardeners to help them solve a problem. As a new gardener, it’s easy to be intimidated by the wealth of knowledge that more experienced gardeners have; however, no one gardener will have the perfect answer for every single gardening-related question. That’s one of the beautiful things about gardening – in a changing world there is always so much more to learn about gardening!
The gardening world is vast and this experience with Halton Food has allowed me to learn new gardening skills, master old gardening skills, and learn from some incredible gardeners while enjoying the beauty of gardening!
What are your best gardening tips for new community gardeners? Share in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.
Questions? Please email us at email@example.com.
Contributed by Alicja Jazwiec, Community Garden Education Assistant