Ultimate Guide to Beginner Gardening & Summer 2023 Journey
Not only does this article talk about my personal experience in my summer 2023 garden, but also has in depth tips and tricks I used during each step of the process for beginner gardens or anyone looking for more information about starting a vegetable garden. The process from seedlings to full adult plants to harvest is documented as well as what I experienced during each stage. Gardening tips and growing information such as gardening zones, watering, organic fertilizers and pesticides like neem oil are talked about to help you with your own beginner garden journey. These steps can be implemented in backyards or pots for people living in smaller areas to help grow your own food at home just for beginners or any producer looking for additional experience and tips!
Growing food takes time, patience, love, commitment, consistency, and care. Make sure to nuture your plants so they can nuture you :)
This journey is meant for me, first time gardeners, experienced gardeners, and anyone wanting to learn about how to grow your own food.
I do not believe anyone should have to pay for food, as it was founded on this green Earth, and all things from nature should be our God given right to enjoy at no cost <3.
Unfortunatley... at first it will but once we start seed saving and growing and reusing the soil you treated you never will have to spend a dime on food ever again. Lets change the world we live in starting now.
My summer garden started in January. Most people don't know the lengthy process it takes to grow produce... personally why I believe that the farmers should get paid the most out of the entire food supply chain process. Unfortunately, they receive the least pip while the corporate giants take hold of most of the profit.. but thats a story for another day.
Back to my summer garden!! So, it all started in January. I wrote my plan out inside my journal, what I was growing, and the information I find that is vital to grow your seedlings into plants.
Examples of what I wrote in my Journal back in January:
If you are a first time gardener, this is a good start on what to write down:
In an organized list, write down your produce in groups such as all cucumber varieties in one section, and then all melon varieties in a separate section etc. that way, it is neatly organized for you to reference back to and in a safe place that you can always reference.
1. Determine the amount of days until germination. can be anywhere from 7-21 depending on the species. This will determine when you need to start the seedlings.
Plant growth Cycle:
- Start Seeds (Approx. 7-21 days until germination)
- Time period from germination to transplant (Approx. 40-50 days)
- Days to Harvest (Approx. 50-100 days)
How to Write it Down Example:
Name of Tomato Variety (example, Yellow Pear)
Days to Harvest (This is the full length from transplant date until 1st harvest)
Seed Start Date Period (example Feb 20-28th)
Transplant Date Period (Example April 16- Apr 20) IMPORTANT: Most do not plant until after the last frost. Make sure to look up the date of the last frost in your area
Spacing Between Plants (The space required for plant separation, example 2-3 ft)
Required Sunlight (example, Full Sun)
I started some plants earlier than others. The first to go into their containers were spring and early summer crops. These crops require lower temperatures into order to thrive.
What went in first:
Bunching Onion (White Libson) ~ can be planted pretty much anytime of year
Gourmet Blend Lettuce
Dark Opal Purple Basil - basil is great for anytime, this one has not bolted at all
Each of these seedlings were planted in their containers right around Jan 27th - Feb 01st
Once the first set of Spring Crops had germinated, I went ahead and planted the second set of vegetables and fruits.
This set consisted of:
Early Silver Line
Bush Sugar Baby Watermelon
Sweet Burpless Cucumbers
Yellow Pear Tomatoes
Giant Belgium Pink Tomatoes
Black Beauty Zucchini
Patty Pan Squash
Cherokee Wax Beans
Each of these seedlings were planted in their containers right around Feb 19th
I bought form Lowes in April:
Meyer Lemon Bush
I took these pictures on March 20th. I remember taking out the small plants during the days when the weather was nice. I would keep them inside however, during nights because they are fragile and small, we don't want any frost or cold temperates to kill the plant.
What happens when temperatures are too high?
Some crops like the 1st set of plants mentioned above are more spring and fall crops because they require temperatures that are lower around 65-75 F to thrive. If the temperatures become too high, the leaves could either wilt, turn yellow and fall off, or bolt. Bolting is the process in which the plant grows upwards causing it to flower. The leaves will also turn bitter. Yes this is great if we are collecting seeds, but we don't want this to happen if we are in the middle of our growing season.
Crops that can easily bolt:
Basically any leafy green.... here are some examples,
Lettuce!! ~any variety
Brassicas (Kale, Broccoli, Cabbage etc)
Herbs such as Oregano, Rosemary, BASIL, CILANTRO, PARSELY, and more
After determining how much space each plants needs, and where to place each one, I had everything mapped out. I used an app to help determine where I should place everything. Some plants require to be separated from other plants, due to cross pollination, and so one plant doesn't take excess nutrients and water.
This picture was taken on April 23rd, directly after I had transplanted each plant into the ground. This year, I was able to plant each one at the end of April because here in Georgia the temperatures were finally warm enough to have the small plants in the ground without frost biting them.
This plant/start date will always differ depending on your zone.
Here is a chart to determine what Zone you are in:
Shown are color coded and numerical Zones 2-10. I am in Zone 7/8, almost right on the line!!
Depending on your Zone, this will always determine when you need to be planting. The dates I've provided and examples are based out of Zone 7/8. The farther north you live, the later you will need to start your planting. The farther south you live, you can plant earlier because of the warmer temperatures starting in the Spring.
Consistent watering is key, whether you build your own ground watering system or you just spray with a hose, make sure to not get cucumber, melon. and squash leaves too wet as it could attract fungal diseases such as powdery mildew. It is important to either water in the morning or the evening. If we water midday too much water hitting the grounds surface will evaporate into the air and the roots will not get enough water.
Soil Types and Important Information About the Ground
Also I haven't mentioned yet the soil type I have that has maintained the water moisture in the ground.
Here in Georgia, I have clay soil. For my summer garden I did not till the land but I did weed wack the ground until there was no more vegetation on top and the top soil was completely bare. I then added in ground organic garden soil and mushroom compost. After the ground was treated with the new soil, and watered, I could then insert the plants.
Tip 1: Always treat your soil with in-ground gardening soil (any organic type) and some type of compost, I use Mushroom Compost by Black Cow. I like to use mushroom compost because mycelium adds amazing nutrients and almost act like Earth's neural pathway, connecting many of these plants allowing them to communicate, and making a stronger plant force.
Tip 2: Determine your soil type. This will allow you to determine how much you need to be watering your plants because different soils retain more water throughout the day. For example, Clay soil retains water because it is very compact, where as silty or sandy soil does not retain as much moisture.
Tip 3: Till or no till? Well its up to you, I didn't till this year and it was perfectly fine but I was picking out weeds like every day. I did a shallow till for the area I extended in the Garden for the Winter/Fall Garden. I'll update on any differences. I do want to mention, constant tilling will ruin your soil and strip the land of its nutrients. If you do decide to till, only do it the first year to clear the ground, the year after that you will not need to till again, thats what the earth worms are for!
Tip 4: To have constant nutrients running through your soil, before the winter if there are no plants in your garden anymore, plant a cover crop such as Buckwheat. This will add nutrients back into the soil, suck Carbon Dioxide out of the air, and all around help your garden stay maintained. Youll start to notice every year how much more your plants grow when you keep consistent with a cover crop. Of course before you start in the Spring again, we want to cut down the cover crop to make room for your new garden.
So what soil types are there?
3 Main Types : Clay, Silt, Sand
In many areas these soils can mix causing endless combinations of soil types. There are 12 within the United States but the most important thing to remember about your soil is the main base of it. Here is also a map to show the soil types throughout the United States. There is really only one thing you need to take a way from this color coded map. The warmer hues such as red and orange are where soils are more sandy/silty, whereas we can see on the entire eastern United States the water retention in the soil is ample (Greens and Blues). Browns are going to be more of the silty.
Beginning Stages of Plant Growth Taken May 16th
The video above was taken on May 16th and we can see the beginning stages of plant growth. They're like tweens!
The video below we can still see the middle stages of plant growth, however, the tomato plants are now strung by a string that will tighten and raise as the plant grows taller. The cucumbers are trellised as well and some of the peppers have metal rods. In the red wagon, we can also see a lot of microgreens growing in trays with lettuce. Actually maybe the mircrogreens arent in the video? Anyways.. this video shows the plants around the middle stage right before their first flowers.
Side note: I have now switched from plastic pots and trays to clay.
Stringing Plants, Pots, and Trellises, What Do I Need?
Plants that should be trellised: (Really anything that vines)
Cucumbers - great on either tomato cages or "foldable cucumber trellis" - its important because the leaves need to remain dry
Melons (Smaller Melons Can be Trellised like Cantaloupes or Early Silver Line) - leaves also need to remain dry
Tomatoes can be trellised, small cherry tomatoes will do great on an archway trellises or tomato cages
Whats the deal with stringing your tomatoes?
Tomatoes can use a variety of supports such as trellises, tomato cages, tomato rods (can be plastic, metal, or bamboo, I used bamboo this year)
I had six tomato plants and took care of them myself, a section about pruning tomatoes will be near the bottom of this page..the stringing method is shown in the video below.
What are my thoughts?
I hated it.
I do not like using the string method for indeterminate varieties of tomatoes.
Indeterminate Tomatoes- Continue to grow throughout the season until fall/winter unlike determinate tomatoes that grow for a short period of time and have about 1 ot 2 harvests.
Determinate varieties would be good for a string but both of my indeterminate tomato varieties are still growing!!
Next year I will be using an arch trellis for my small yellow pear tomatoes and tomato cages for the larger varieties. Maybe I'll try string again and set it up differently? I liked it at first until I let my tomato plant go crazy which I always do in the month of August.
What are Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes?
Of topic.... these took about 3 weeks to grow. Look at how beautiful these microgreens are! They are part of my "Spicy Salad Mix" microgreens. Inside the pack are Broccoli, Arugula, Kale, Kohlrabi, Cabbage, and Kazumi. Here is a picture of them all cut and ready to be served :)
Microgreens contain 40% more vitamins and minerals than their adult counterpart
As the season continued I was able to grow and harvest hundreds of dollars worth of produce. I truly had such an abundant summer. The produce was completely organic, which can sometimes be tricky. You need to make sure you are going out to the garden everyday and checking for different aphids and other insects that will eat your crops. You can pick them off or use Neem oil which will make the insect think its already hungry and will basically starve by not eating. I know grusome... but sometimes you gotta go what you gotta do. I got worms in many of my lemon cucumbers because I picked them a day late and didn't see that a white butterfly had dropped eggs on the cucumber plant. These white butterflies are actually moths that lay the Pickleworms and Aphids.
Look at the little critter on my Dino Kale, So cute :)
This little baby lived in my garden all summer long :) heres another time I found him on an eggplant.
On this day I couldn't help but lay out in the backyard and admire my beautiful abundant garden.
I may have even had a glass of wine to celebrate...
Its harvest time!!!
Okay so its finally harvest time! I promise, gardening is super easy. Just follow all of the steps above and if you have any questions contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The only things you need to have for a beautiful abundant garden is commitment to the process, patience, love, time. consistency with gardening procedures, consistent watering, pick some weeds, pick bugs off your plants, and just have tender loving care for them.
In due time, you will have a wonderful beautiful harvest.
White and Green Patty Pan Squash
Patty Pan Squash is a sweet summer squash variety similar to yellow squash. Its taste is amazing, delicate, and sweet. It can be fried, sautéed, and even stuffed. Patty Pan can come in different colors such as Yellow, Green, and White.
Veggie and Rice Stuffed Patty Pan Squash from the Garden
Black Beauty Zucchini
Zucchini is one of my all time favorite squash varieties. It's definitely not as sweet as the Patty Pan but so versatile and robust. This meaty squash is all around perfect in stews and soups, or fried up on a cast iron or the grill. Only the middle one is a Zucchini, the bottom one is a Sweet Burpless Cucumber!
Speaking of Cucumbers.... look at what is next...
I had such an abundance of Lemon Cucumbers. The funny thing that happened, is that sometimes our seedlings dont always make it. In the case that some of my cucumber seedlings didnt make it, I ended up planting more. When I planted more, I only planted Lemon Cucumbers thinking that was the variety that died off. Without my knowledge, I ended up planting too much of the Lemon and not enough of the Boston Pickling or Sweet Burpless.
I went ahead and was able to pickle 3 jars of pickles with the Sweet Burpless and so many of the Lemon Cucumbers. After jarring up those three jars, look at how much cucumbers still remain. Lemon Cucumbers and Sweet Burpless are very similar in taste, just very different colors and shapes.
Make sure to watch out for Pickle Worms that could seep into your entire crop of Cucumbers, Squash, and even Melons.
Out of all the melons I planted, only one survived. I wasnt sure which one had made it but my intuition was telling me it was Cantaloupe, and I was right!
Harvest ~ I was only able to grow two of the melons but that is okay, there is always next year :)
Kale and Eggplant
I cant even describe how much Kale and Eggplant I was able to harvest. I made Kale chips, Kale soups, I was putting Kale in my salads, sandwiches, pestos, and pastas. I was making fried eggplant, eggplant parms, Baba Ganoush, eggplant sandwiches, and I mean the list goes on! Here are some pictures :) I really didn't get many pictures of the Kale and Eggplants though, they just kept coming.
I have harvested hundreds of Yellow Pear Tomatoes and well over 20 Belgium Pink Tomatoes this summer. The Belgium Pink tomatoes are one of the best varieties i have tried and will continue to use them in the follow years to come. I will say the same thing about the Yellow Pear Tomatoes, which are great in salads or made into pasta sauce. The Yellow Pear pasta sauce turns into a beautiful hue of yellow once cooked and canned. The Belgium Pinks are amazing in sandwhiches, salads, soup bases, and pasta sauces as well.
Quick Tomato Tip: Always prune your tomato leaves once the plant has reached its "Teen Stage". This means cutting off sections of the plant that is no longer needed to produce flowers etc. Tomato leaves or "stem" look like little branches coming out from the plant. Too many leaves on the tomato plant will cause too much energy to go into the leaves for photosynthesis and not enough energy will go into the flowering process for the fruit.
Take a look some of the tomatoes I have harvested this season so far :) The yellow pear tray was getting refilled every week.
Prune the stem. The sucker is where the plant will continue to grow different offshoots to then grow more flowers/fruit. You can always prune the offshoots as well if you do not want your tomato's to grow a certain way. Either bushy or tall.
It started getting so hot that the Belgium Pink Tomatoes were literarily rotting on the vine. I ended up picking them all and allowing them to turn inside and the cool instead of the heat. It was so awful but at least I saved them right in time.
And trust me... you cant even get enough of a good old fashion mater sandwich with homemade bread and homegrown tomatoes. Cant get any better than that!
Step by Step Pictorial on a Mater Sandwhich
Step 1 : Cut the bread and toast it
Step 2: Cut the tomato and salt and pepper that thang!!
Step 3: Slab that mayo down on both sides of the bread
Step 4: Assemble!!
So far the summer garden is still thriving and I will def update as the season continues. The temperatures will stay pretty hot here in Georgia until the end of November. I am just now starting the beginning seedlings for the Fall/Winter Garden, so we can also go through that process together. Thank you for reading and learning with me to see how simple it is to grow your own food. You don't have to have a bunch of supply and all of these you can grow in raised beds or containers.
The possibilities are endless.
Dont get discouraged!