Dear Aunt Tomato

The information I provide to you is editorial and helpful in nature and cannot be construed as perfect truth.  Some of the information I am providing is based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience.  The benefit claimed has not been evaluated by the USDA or your local extension service.  Your results may vary.

Dear Aunt Tomato,
I’m a new gardener and I’m overwhelmed by how much there is to learn.  Do you have any suggestions on where I begin?
Bernard Saint

Dear Bernard,
Thank you for your question.  I agree it can be very overwhelming to figure everything out in the garden.  I failed at quite a few gardening initiatives before things started to make sense.  When I look back on those failures now, they seem like silly but necessary mistakes.  For instance, one of my long-ago Portland, Maine neighbors explained how easy it was to save marigold seeds.  I was appalled!  I thought “wow, she is so cheap!  Marigold plants are inexpensive.”  (OK, it was the early 90’s, I was young, and it did seem like money grew on trees.)  Yet here I am, 15 years later, saving marigold seeds.  Aunt Cheap Hypocrite Tomato.

But enough about me; you asked a question.

Finding your way around the garden, Bernard, is sort of like a three-legged stool.  The first leg is YOU.  A new gardener needs to try a few things and simultaneously prepare for failure.  Anything you dream of doing is only a dream until you actually get your hands dirty.  Commit to trying three things this year, such as growing a patio tomato or a container of herbs.  If you’re really scared, try one of those Topsy Turvy tomatoes.  They look fool-proof.

The second leg of the stool is the “book-learning.”  It’s amazing what you can learn just by “liking” a few local garden centers on Facebook or signing up for alerts on an organic seed company’s web site.  There is nothing new under the sun and someone out there has already started some seeds and posted time-lapsed video of it on YouTube.  If you can Google it, you can do it.

Finally, the third leg on the stool is your fellow gardeners and farmers.  I love talking to some of the alumni gardeners at the Victory Garden.  They have so much knowledge and I have yet to meet a person who grows things and won’t talk to you about it.  (Well, there was this one farmer at a market in Connecticut who was kind of secretive about his lettuce-growing techniques, but maybe I was being a little pushy!  Aunt Snoopy Tomato.)

I hope that helps, Bernard, and I wish you well with your three projects this year.  Keep us posted on your successes and failures.  We’re rooting for you!

Aunt Tomato

What do you think is the most important tool for a new gardener?

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