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 on....how 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 plan...at 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!
Now...read 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 ;-)