March 24, 2009: R-E-L-A-X. E-N-J-O-Y.

Reader Helene, this blog is for you.

In the past two days, I have read almost identical comments from two different people. Basically, they said "Help! I'm freaking out. I don't know what I'm doing, and I'm finding it too stressful". Helene left a comment on my blog that she felt that way.

Hey...just R-E-L-A-X. E-N-J-O-Y. Unless you are in the business of growing your garden as a source of income for your family, or if it is the only source of food for you, don't sweat the little things.

No kidding. I freak out sometimes, too. Like when I woke up and everything was covered in white hairy mold (which went away once I provided ventilation for the growing chamber). Now my broccoli and cabbages are getting leggier and leggier. I've done all I know to do about it. They are an inch or less from the light source, and all the other veggies look great. They may be unusable in my garden. So what? What have I lost? Maybe 12 seeds out of a couple of hundred that were in a packet? What is the worst that can happen...that I'll have to go to the nursery and buy a four/six pack of each for a couple dollars each? Or wait and plant seeds directly in the garden this summer and enjoy a lovely fall crop?

Now, if all your seedlings keel over and die, THEN you panic!

Psssst...I'll let you in on a little secret. This is the first time I've started my own seedlings inside. I've had gardens for nearly 50 years, but I always bought my tomato, pepper and cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower plants from the nursery. We'll learn how to do it together, and it will be FUN, RELAXING, ENJOYABLE. Believe me, once you let the kids put a few bean seeds in the ground and they see what happens, you'll have some great gardening buddies.

I've always said gardening is only as difficult as you want to make it. All you really need to do is make sure you have decent soil. That might mean buying a few bags of composted manure or, once you decide you're really having fun, start a compost pile or start digging shredded leaves into your beds in the fall. Yes, it's nice if you can afford peat and vermiculite and have a source for unlimited compost, and can have your soil tested a gazillion times a year, and buy all kinds of stuff to make your soil "perfect". But come many of us does that apply to? My grandma had the most beautiful garden, with nothing but her native soil and some cow/chicken manure. That works for me.

Then you need to know the average dates for your last freezing weather in the spring and the first freeze in the fall. Sit down with a pencil and some graph paper and make a rough guess at where and when you want to plant things in your garden (believe me, you'll change your mind several times and then probably not stick to your least that's how I am!) Just remember "tall things to the north, short things to the south" and you'll be pretty safe there. Actually, in my garden, I have tall things to the north in some beds, and tall things in the middle in other beds. Stuff still grows! the back of your seed packet to see how deep and how far apart to plant, go out and put those seeds in, water them when they get dry and stand back and watch them grow. Unless you stomp on them, spray them with weed killer or completely withhold water, they WILL grow.

Know that it's inevitable that you will have disasters...bugs eat plants, plants get viruses and die. It happens to all of us, but you just learn to say "Well, dammit".... and plant something else.

And by this time next year, you will have learned to R-E-L-A-X and E-N-J-O-Y. Well, most of the time anyway. Unless you wake up and all your plants are covered with white hairy mold ;-)


  1. Granny, I freak out a little bit, too. But, it's because of the OCPD thing.....Anyway, you're right - things are gonna happen, and there's not much a person can do about it.


  2. I do that occasionally - just plant something else, but I always seem to come back and try, try again.

  3. Granny,

    Great post for us newbies


  4. Liisa, for a "newbie", you know so very much...I can learn from you!

  5. Daphne and EG, it's just that I think the more the new gardeners read and study, the more they worry. Gardening should be fun and relaxing, and it doesn't have to be rocket science. Shove a seed into the ground with your toe, give it a drink, and it will probably grow.

    That's not to say you shouldn't try to perfect your gardening skills, just that you should maybe go a bit slow as you learn.

  6. For even more relaxation when gardening, try wintersowing. It works really well even for things like tomatoes and warm season veggies. is the site and GardenWeb has a great forum. I'm doing a few veggies this year, but mostly perennials and annuals. No fuss, just put the containers outside and let them germinate.

    I only stress when I know I need to water and can't. Everything thing else can be fixed. It's all just one big experiment, even after several years of growing from seed. And don't forget all those harvests that are bound to come.

  7. Tom, winter sowing works well for some, but I spend my winters in Arizona so I'm not home to sow anything in the winter! If/when I stay here in WA year round, I do want to give it a try.

  8. Hi Granny - I found you via EG... I think you have a point with the relax thing, but it is hard when you have no clue what you're doing. I'd say about 95% of the plants in our garden died last year and I never figured out what I did wrong. I fear I'll repeat the same mistakes. When you've got 50 years of gardening experience under your belt it's probably easier to relax than when you've got less than a year (like me)!! LOL. I will try to relax, but I need at least 50% of my plants to live this time around - sigh....

  9. Kate and Crew, Sometimes I think gardening ability is an inherited gene! My grandmother grew a huge garden well into her 90s, my mother loved to garden, so maybe that's why I find it easy. I do think if you are going to start your own seedlings indoors you would be wise to try the soil blocks. That way there is no ripping out little roots or transplant shock. I'm certainly happy with mine so far.

  10. Bah, I can't even spell those words, hehe. Mention them in 30 years and we'll talk. Until then, I'm trying to out-work EG (not possible, but I'm trying).

    hehe. I totally agree with you about gardening. Right now it's just tough. I really need to schedule some garden time, like my buddy DoubleD says.

  11. Ah wisdom of the ages. Well said! Also a good reminder for long time gardeners as well as those just getting started and a few of us in between. It's hard to step off into the unknown, but as they say, Mother Nature abhors a vacuum which explains all the weeds. There's a good chance whatever veggies you stick in your garden will grow too.

  12. Great post. You put things into good perspective. Its not the end of the world if it doesn't work out, just a temporary setback. If at first you don't succeed.......

  13. Well, you just answered the question I was going to ask. I've been looking at your soil blocks and wondering how they're doing for you. I see you like them. Makes me want to give it a shot.

  14. Sinfonian, I can see how stressed out you get at times. You're just such a caring person who thinks of everyone's happiness and welfare except Sinfonian's. The world would be a sad place without people like you.

    Jenn, Mother Nature and I have a lot in common...we're both about the same age ;-)

    Sue, exactly. Sure, it's disappointing when something doesn't work out, but it's not the end of the world....or the end of the garden.

    Cheryl, So far I'm loving them. I made another block maker yesterday (smaller, round) and did a tray (plus) of 33 soil blocks. I'll finish out the second tray today. I'm going to let them dry and store them on a shelf in the garage, and I should be able to plant and rehydrate them as needed. I don't like the Jiffy trays I bought. Although they hold more, they are too flimsy. I found some heavy plastic trays at the dollar store that work perfect.

  15. Great advice Granny!

    I'm a totally new gardener, so I just look at it all as a big gigantic science experiment. If stuff dies, oh well! At least I will learn what to do differently next time. My seedlings are leggy, but I'm not gonna stress over it. If they live great, if not, I'll just buy starters at the store. Seeds are cheap so it's not a big loss.

  16. PS :) The Sunshine I know is 4. She's very sweet and her name suits her perfectly. :)

  17. Mommyamy, that's the attitude you have to have as a gardener! I look at all successes as being a gift to me for my work, which I also enjoy.

    Our Sunshine is about 35 and her name fits her, too!

  18. So glad you're enjoying your steam mop! I had to laugh at the picture of you steaming up your counters! Great idea! I have tile counter-tops and they're exactly the same tile as my floor, so makes perfect sense to me! Why didn't I think of that?! lol