Confessions of a First Time Gardener


Hello everyone,

Last year's salad greens

My name is Rick Kelly and I’ll be your amateur gardener this year! I’m going to be making posts all season about my backyard garden. This is actually my second year gardening… but last year my whole harvest amounted to about 5 salads and one meal of miniature root veggies. So I’m really hoping to do better this year!

This year I’m armed with knowledge from some workshops organized by FEASt (Food Education Action St. John’s), a lot of advice from friends, and hopefully some advice from you! This can be a space for commenting on any issues facing first time gardeners, or about what I’m doing specifically.

2008: My one great tomato plant.

I live in a downtown apartment that gets very little direct sunlight, and I don’t have a yard. So, right now I’ve got some seeds sprouting in trays in my kitchen, under a grow light. My actual garden is going to be in my Dad’s backyard, also downtown. Last year I dug up some sod, put down some top soil and a bit of manure, and planted right on the ground. If you are going to do that and you live in downtown St. John’s, you should definitely get your soil tested for its lead content, as I did. Sending a sample to a lab costs under $20, so it’s definitely worth it. To find out more about lead in soil, visit the Safer Soil website.

Seedlings under canopy and plastic cover.

For this year’s garden I’m planning on a raised bed of 4’ by 12’, with some other containers as well. Some of the other types of containers you can use are pots, fish pans, old tires (great for potatoes, I’ve heard), and anything else that will hold soil. I’ll post about how I’m constructing my raised bet in a week or two. In the meantime, I’ll show you my seedlings:

I started some tomatoes and herbs inside to give them a head start before putting them out this summer. I mixed equal parts top soil, compost (my own vermicompost), and vermiculite in which to start the seeds.

Seedlings in plastic trays.

The standard plastic trays you get in gardening stores come with clear plastic tops for keeping the moisture and heat in. I also constructed a cardboard canopy to keep the light on the seedlings. You also want to raise the seedlings so that they're never more than 6-8 inches from the light, if you're using artificial lights. They seem bright at bigger distances, but they don't do much for the plants.

I've already had one problem so far this year. I planted a whole tray of onion seeds only to have none of them come up. It turns out that onion seeds don't keep really well (I didn't store my leftover seeds really well either). Instead I've bought some small bulbs for planting, so not too much harm done. Next time I'll try new good quality seeds :)

Cardboard and tinfoil canopy.

That's all for now. I hope to have a lot to write about this year as my veggie garden grows!