Gardening is Good Medicine
Gardening is such good healing medicine! It soothes the soul, calms the nervous system, and boosts the production of serotonin. (Check out the post that publishes on June 2 about Green Therapy.) This year’s demonstration garden is now fully planted, and I’ll be sharing a video with you soon, as well as live YouTube sessions to encourage you to get growing! In the meantime, here are some helpful links and information:
Good YouTube Channels to Check Out
Many great YouTube channels provide helpful guidance and inspiration for vegetable gardening. Here are a few that I recommend:
Best Way to Start Exploring Gardening
One of the best ways to explore vegetable gardening is to begin with a small container garden. This will allow you to learn the basics of gardening without committing to a large plot of land. Make sure the container has holes in the bottom for proper drainage. You can start by choosing a few easy-to-grow vegetables and herbs like tomatoes, swiss chard, and basil. Make sure to read up on the specific needs of each plant, including how much sun and water they require. Use good potting soil in the container. It is a good idea to cover the soil with a hardy mulch (I use small bark) as it helps with water retention. Plants in pots usually dry out faster than those planted in-ground. I have used felt growing bags for containers, but they always dried out too fast, and the harvest was poor. Now I use heavy plastic pots when I plant in a container.
Raised beds are lovely if you have the space and energy for them. If you live where gophers tunnel, you’ll need to put hardware cloth under the bed before filling it with soil. Since gophers occasionally walk around, I line the entire garden plot with hardware cloth. I also use chicken wire and plastic netting as fencing to discourage critters from coming in and dining on my veggies! (It’s virtually impossible to keep mice out, however. They can squeeze through holes as big as a pencil.)
You can sow seeds or plant starts (already growing plants). I do both, but I rely more on organic starts as they are easy, and it’s rewarding to see something growing instantly! If you decide to grow tomatoes, you must understand how to plant a tomato. They are the only vegetable that needs to be buried deeply. You’ll want to pinch off a few of the branches of the start until there are only a few at the top. Dig a hole deep enough to plant so that only a little of the stem and the remaining leaves stick out of the dirt. This will encourage deep root growth and give you a much healthier plant than if you planted it the usual way.
When choosing a start, pick one that hasn’t developed a blossom or started to fruit. When plants get to the stage of blossoming or fruiting in their little container, their energy has gone into the production of the fruit, not into their roots. You want a plant that will put energy into rooting before it begins to fruit.
Essential Things a Beginner Should Know
Here are a few essential things that every beginner should know before starting a vegetable garden:
Location is key: Make sure to choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight and has good drainage.
Soil quality matters: Invest in good quality soil or compost to ensure your plants have the nutrients they need to thrive.
Watering is essential: Always water your plants regularly, but be careful not to overwater them.
Pests and diseases are common: Learn how to identify common pests and diseases, and take steps to prevent and treat them.
Be patient: Gardening takes time and patience. Don’t get discouraged if your plants don’t grow as quickly as you’d like. Keep at it, and you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest!
Baker Creek Rare Seeds is an incredible resource for all gardeners. From exotic flowers to vegetables you’ve never heard of, Baker Creek always impresses. You can request a free catalog or spend a few bucks and get the whole seed catalog. I always get the whole seed one, and I spend hours thumbing through it. The pictures are gorgeous, and the recipes are great!
Renee’s Seeds is another fine resource for seeds. I use her seeds for my summer annuals like morning glory vines.
There are other seed companies, and your local nursery probably carries a few. Don’t wait too long if you are going to sow seeds, especially if you live where a fall frost can come early. You want your plants to have as many days in the warm sun as possible.
There are many companies that ship plants. They all have beautiful pictures online, and shopping is usually quite easy. You can do a search for them. However, the one I recommend is Annies Annuals. Annie’s is here in the San Francisco Bay Area and was my go-to nursery to learn how to properly garden and grow exotic flowers. My front yard garden drew people from all over as the flowers were so unusual and gorgeous. I used to watch videos of Annie planting. I met her once at the DeYoung Museum. I instantly recognized her from the videos and introduced myself. I hugged her and told her how much her videos and nursery meant to me as I was healing from a brain injury (benzo withdrawal), and she had helped me hold on. I was choking back tears speaking to her, but who cares. She knew I was sincere. Annie sold the nursery a few years ago, so I don’t think her videos are still on the website, but the new owner has kept Annie’s mission of growing and selling exotic flowers. Check them out!
Whether your garden produces a bountiful harvest or not, enjoy the process. Tending to your plants is an excellent way to put into practice the second, third, and fourth cornerstones of well-being. If you eat what you grow, then you’re embracing the first cornerstone as well! Eat right, move enough, stress less, and love well are the four cornerstones of well-being. They are the foundation of everyone’s mental, physical, and spiritual health.
I share more gardening ideas and gardening as healing in my support group, Heal With Dr. Jenn. Consider joining us. Share your gardening experiences with us. We’d love to hear how things are growing for you.