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New Gardeners! Why did you start?

Portland, OR

While browsing some garden and food blogs, I came upon some statistics about how many new veg gardeners there are. The timing of the uptick from 34% of us households growing veg in 2009 to 54% in 2010 coincides almost directly with the fall of Lehman Brothers, kinda interesting. I can say that the economy was definitely the reason I got interested in gardening, but not to save money. Work as a farm hand seemed to be the only non-service job I could get when I graduated in 2009, I thought it was a fall back, but it became my leading passion in life. What got everyone here into growing their own?

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Good morning ParmaJon, how are you this lovely morning?

Interestingly enough, my decision to start *any* gardening at all started with the guy who did our front yard landscaping about ... I dunno, I think it was 3-4 years ago. We finally got the jungle removed from the front and had a "real yard" installed, increasing the lawn's square footage by 2/3. He suggested that, with the increase in lawn space, it would behoove us (that means "me", heehee. I'm the outdoorsy one, not DH) to expand the then-boring-rectangular beds into something more interesting and *bigger*. The landscaper's suggestion, combined with my previous neighbor's loving hints/tips/and suggestions aided me on the beginning of my journey. So that's when I started Winter Sowing. I figured it was the least expensive way to start getting lots of plants fast. That was 3 years ago this past Winter. Then, this past early-Summer I read this book called "TomatoLand: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit", and it sickened me. I decided to start growing my own tomatoes, and my first endeavor was a JOKE. ;) So, I decided to re-vamp my ideas, and this past Fall I prepped my first ever soon-to-be tomato bed, and I've now got 6 Winter Sown tomato seedlings out on my deck waiting for their new home. I've also obtained several large containers that are going to house my herbs this year, along with several garlic bulbs that are thriving out in front of my tomato bed in a half-whiskey barrel... and a few green onions that are alive and well out on my deck in a container as we speak. I'd like to eat healthier, and I do LOVE to eat, and to cook, so I figure, while I'm on a roll growing tomatoes (or so I assume I'll be), then why not add to the fun and throw some herbs and other goodies into the mix? The current economy certainly plays a part, but also there's the ever-increasing lack of real nutrients in today's commercially grown produce.... not to mention lack of flavour. (store-bought tomatoes have NO flavour, have you noticed that too, or is it just me?)

So, that's how I got started. I think the seeds of the idea were planted by my old neighbor Tom before that landscaper came along, but he really watered the seeds well, and I think he sneaked some fertilizer in on 'em while I wasn't looking, too! ;)

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

ParmaJon - I started gardening 60 years ago when I was eight. I am able to remember the year because we had just moved into a brand new house - my 94 year old mother still lives there.

I assume the fact that my mother ran a "guest house" for tourists had something to do with her resolve to grow our own vegetables. It certainly wasn't my, or my step-father's, idea. LOL

I'm sure glad I had hands-on experience, because I still use many of those old tried-and-true ways. What we now call "heirlooms" are what we grew back then.

Will I ever give up gardening? Probably not. My hubby says I'm not happy unless I'm "digging in the dirt".

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I was in a very difficult marriage. I started gardening to get out of the house. My garden became my sanctuary. I became very successful growing veggies in buckets.

I got divorced.

Now, I'm building my VERY OWN garden!

I am very happy.

I hope the plants keep growing...^^_^^

Houston, TX

When I was a kid, I was part of a family that was seriously poor. Our gardens were our lifeline. We had several, and traded vegetables for meat and milk, sold some, had chickens, etc. This was what we ate and if we did not work, we would not eat. We also traded eggs and vegetables for pretty much anything we needed with anyone that would trade.

Needless to say, I got out as soon as I could.

Over the years, though, I remembered how incredibly good the food we had tasted, and I wanted some of that back. Yes, it was hard work (what isn't to a kid, though), but I remembered it as tasting amazing.

Over the years in Houston, I researched a bit about how to garden down here, and when I bought the house, put a garden in. The very first vegetable that I grew tasted like I remembered - sweet and strong and delicious. I've been trying to grow as much as I can ever since then.

(And often growing more than I thought I would - cucumbers seem to LOVE this climate).

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

I started gardening when I was a kid. My parents planted and worked a garden to supplement the groceries with fresh food. My mom canned vegetables for year-round eating since they tasted better than "store-bought." My mom died while I was in high school and my dad and I moved into town. I went off to college, got married, joined the Army (through ROTC) and spent 8 years at various assignments in the US. Left the Army, moved to Texas, and went to work in computer support. After 4 or 5 years I built and planted a few raised beds for tomatoes and okra with my two daughters. About 7 years ago we built a house in the rural suburbs of Austin. I started gardening more seriously then, expanding the plot over time to its current size of about 5000 sq feet. I didn't remember that much from the work as a kid--except I could run a tiller! Since I started again, I have learned a tremendous amount of information about gardening from and with other Dave's members.


San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

I had tried to grow a few things over the years, but it seemed like we spent a lot of time living in rentals or moving, so I never did much. But I would read about organic gardening and daydream about it and grow my one potted tomato and sigh a lot!

In 2005 we moved to a permanent spot (retired), and in 2006, my dad died. My dad always had a vegetable garden and I think when he died, something clicked in me -- like a torch passed. I just knew that It was time to really learn to garden. And when I garden, I feel close to not only my dad, but my grandparents and family further back. I come from Dakota homesteaders and I often think about them when I'm here in my Texas garden.

Kingsland, GA

My father always had gardens when I was growing up but after I joined the military it became difficult to keep up with a garden, since I was constantly deployed. Now that I am retired from the military I am getting back into gardening and trying to teach my children what little I know, as well as trying to learn some new things for myself. One can never know too much about gardening I suppose.

Tonto Basin, AZ

I just wanted tasty tomatoes.

New Port Richey, FL(Zone 9b)

As I recently became an empty nester my husband suggested i get a life-lol preferably my own. Meaning it was time I quit worrying about everyone else and do something that I wanted to do. I had always had some form of container garden in which the boys and I would plant 1 or 2 things and marvel in the fact that we could actually grow something. So I sprouted a few seeds last october and bought a few already grown plants from the box store and decided that if I didn't kill anything by spring, that I was on to bigger and better. So we are in the process of constructing an above ground (due to sandy soil) garden. I have many health reasons for growing my own vegetables. I love to cook and the fact that I could save money at the farm stand and know what is in my food, thrills me. So, here we grow-lol

Jonesville, SC(Zone 7b)

1. Home vegetables taste better than those in the grocery store.
2. Seeing the results of hard work.
3. Watching the growth process.
4. Wanted to learn enough to share with my kids, when I have them.
5. The connections you can make by gardening.
6. Just love the whole process.

Gardening is becoming, in itself, more and more expensive each year. Fertilizer has sky-rocketed. Seeds become more and more expensive even though I save certain heirloom varieties. Tillers are expensive. Tractors are really expensive. Attachments are costly. It takes a lot to get started esp. if you have a larger area to work. Things will continue to go up in price because more people will get into gardening if the economy stays in terrible shape. That is a totally different subject!

Newport, TN(Zone 7a)

Hi all,
This is such interesting reading! Funny how the economy tipping over has brought so many back to the old ways. A Victory Garden campaign would really work these days. Each gardener has a personal reason and it is reflected in the type or style of garden they grow.
The first time I grew veggies was back in early 90's (the decade of my 20's). I got an unsolicited seed catalog, either johnny's or burpee, and the pictures of all that beautiful produce had me hooked, I would never have to buy produce from the supermarket again.hahaha! . I had only grown flowers before, and never from seed. So I went out in Feb. dug up a spot by hand with the only tool we had, a big ole pick axe. I was so stiff the next day i could barely lift the seed packets. I grew tomatoes, sweet peppers, and zucchini. Planted everything too close together, didnt leave space to walk and had to battle the weeds to find my tomatoes. I went to the library and got interested in chemical free gardening. The money saving aspect always appealed to me after hearing my grandmother's depression era stories.
Over the years I have had small gardens here and there, always trying something new to me. Even when I lived in NYC a 5gal. bucket on the roof worked ok. Now here in east TN I have room to spread out my roots. yay! 3 nice raised beds and a butterfly / hummer garden going in.
Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment,and providing nourishment that gardening provides, and the beauty of nature always amazes me.
Oh, and watching those seedlings come up makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

I'm really enjoying reading all about how everyone got started. ParmaJon, if you're still around here somewhere, thank you for this thread, very cool! :)

Granite Shoals, TX

I started gardening this year because the house I bought last year had a separate garden area with raised beds and a compost bin. I've read a tremendous amount about how to grow vegetables but I still feel like I have no earthly idea what I'm doing. I'll just plod along and see how it goes (or grows)...

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Parmajon, I started gardening for the same reason as you, the economy however, my gardening started when I was a little girl here in UK and the 2nd world war had just ended. Here in UK during the war everything was rationed, you got say 2 oz of butter per person a week six eggs a week, meat, pork, etc was also so many oz per person a week and you had to line up outside the stores to get your hands on this stuff, I still remember the police walked up and down every street and knocked on doors to warn people their indoor lights were showing and this was an offense, the Germans flying over UK could use this as a target to drop bombs, jeeeeez how did cabbages grow with all that going on !!!!.
Anyway because there was such a shortage of food and this began before the USA joined UK to fight the Germans, my Dad, from country folks grew his own fruit, veg, flowers, so while my brothers were at school I was aloud out to play in the garden and without realising, my darling Dad was actually teaching how plants grew, how to make lines and the end of fork to make drills for seeds, watering, weeding, harvesting, winter was a time for making pickles, bottling fruit, veg, baking with powdered eggs if no real eggs available,
at age 6, I got my own little plot where I grew Radishes, lettuce and carrots, not too well but that was when I realised that having your fingers rub lumps out of the soil was a wonderful feeling and I still love my hands in soil today.
Every day we had a horse drawn bakery carrage a come and it stopped outside our house, the horse was fed and naturally it dropped the poo on our road so you got sent out with a bucket and spade to gather up the horse droppings and we were taught this was like gold, it went straight onto the Roses, or fruit bushes. How can you forget your Dad's face when he arrives and sees your very first garden and he gets his sleeves up to show you where you went wrong and how to fix it, as the years passed he was so proud of my gardening skills and was embarrassed when I told people he was responsible for my gardening knowledge, I still remember the garden we had as I grew up, nothing was wasted, not a bit of wood, not a nut or bolt, oil drums were water buts, old tent frames were turned into fruit cages, the fat from the roast tin was put into the bottom of the hole where Roses were planted to fend off green fly along with crushed Garlic, OH my goodness, 60 years later just like Honeybee, there is no more pleasing thing than my memories and my garden, my daughter has now taken up gardening and her little daughter too so never underestimate the power of gardening.

Gillette, WY

After having my son, I started learning more and more about food and where it comes from. And got really disappointed in what i found. We finally bought a home (with a decent yard) and I after a year of living here, decieded I better take advantage of owning my own "land". I got my hands on a rototiller and haven't looked back! Last summer was my first year, and it did better than I thought it would. I had tomatoes coming out of my ears! My friend who has a community plot said that it probably did so well because of the soil not being robbed of its nutrients (like at the community garden). Whatever the reason, I love it! I love having a purpose in the backyard besides picking up dog poop and supervising kiddos.

I also love that i have 1 year under my belt and can start making a more educated decision on what to plant. I know I will be growing way more spinach and peppers and less tomatoes. :P

Durham, NC(Zone 7b)

We have always had a small container garden with a couple tomato plants and herbs. The last couple years it has grown exponentially to 8 tomatoes and 12 pepper plants last year. Now that I have ripped out the Mrs' rose bushes *grin* I now have a small 40' x 10' plot on the south side of the house to play with. We have always bought seedlings from the local big box places but this year I jumped in with both feet and grew everything from seed. First year so way overplanted and have tons of seedlings that need a good home lol. I am learning something every day (a lot of it from here) and it is just relaxing to be out digging in the dirt. There is also a satisfaction for getting to eat what you grow!


BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

Now that I'm retired my medical problems I have the time on my hands, and it's PROBABLY the least trouble I can into. Plus it's nice when you can go out to your garden and grab some tomatoes and beans and have them for dinner.

Don't think Momma wants me to get involved with cows...just too much blood...LOL....

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

WeeNel - your post brought back so many memories. Including having to cover the windows at night. I lived in the outskirts of London as a toddler and remember unexploded bombs going off in the small hours of the mornings. All the railings were stripped from peoples' yards to make bullets!

My mother was in the WRAF (Womens Royal Air Force) so I spent my baby years in London with my grandmother. She had chickens, so there were always fresh eggs.

I remember rationing, too. I think it ended when I was about eight or nine.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Honeybe I think the rationing went right on till 1954, you folks in London had things slightly worse than we did up North in Scotland, but not a lot worse.
We lived in a building where many families shared the same building we called them tenements, anyway we lived very close to the Docks in Edinburgh where the ships came in and out to pick up or unload their cargo, Early one evening my mother had my brother in bed fast asleep when the sirens went off to alert us there was an air-raid about to go off (we all had to run down the back of the buildings where there was air-raid shelters for the people to take shelter till they heard the all clear) anyway this time as my mother grabbed my brother she also grabbed his pacifier that was attached to the cot spars of wood, as My mother sprinted down the stairs to the shelter and my Dad close behind with a kid under each arm, Mum heard this rat-a-tat sound behind her and fearing the Germans were shooting with guns she was heard screaming, "the Germans have shot my family" to be informed by my Dad that it was the wooden spire of the cot that was tap, tap taping the steps as she ran NOT the German's who by this time were well away.
However the building was ablaze because the Germans mistook these buildings as belonging to the dock where they wanted to stop the flow of shipping getting our to sea to take more supplies to the navy, etc. My poor Mum never likes the sound of tapping after that and she was the but of many jokes there after.
I think brought up having to prevent waist has spilled over into my own life and garden, I never see the sense in half the crap thats is for sale in most garden centers like little plastic greenhouses that you know as soon as there is a slight breeze, the owner is going to be running down the street after their plants that have got blown away with the crap greenhouse.
Take good care and have a great gardening season.WeeNel.

Tanglewilde-Thompson, WA

I grew up in Ky in the 70's. We were poor and my mom along with many of my neighbors had a garden. My next door neighbor is the one who planted the seed for me. She had me shucking corn while sitting on the porch swing and she tought me how to can. So I grew up and joined the military and never could garden. I retired 3 years ago and slowly I have been getting back into it. I have 5 raised beds my wonderful husband built me and I still use pots and part of the yard. This year I want to try to have a year round garden. So I always have something growing. Right now is garlic, leeks, carrots, onions, spinach, lettuce, kholrabi, bee balm, and collards are coming up. I have my hot weather transplants going inside the house and I plan on putting my cabbage and potatoes in the ground soon. I always read the advice on here and I treasure it. It is always right on the money. May everyone have a wonderful growing season!

Glocester, RI(Zone 6a)

Wow. I'm reading a lot of posts here and realizing just how lucky I am.

I started gardening a couple of years ago for a few reasons. We had just moved into our new house that had a huge yard. There is a big area in the front yard that was mainly mulch with a few small ornamental trees here and there. It would probably end up costing us a couple grand every few years just to keep up on the mulch. I love to experiment in the kitchen, and our son was due over the summer, so I made the decision to go with a vegetable garden in this spot instead of just expanding the front lawn. With a little one at home, it was nice to take up a hobby that I could do at home, since I haven't had much time for fishing or kayaking over the past couple of years. I get to try out new food, plus my family and I get to eat tasty organic fruits and veggies on the cheap.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

WeeNel - I was ten in 1954, so my estimate was close.

Your post brought tears to my eyes. Those were, indeed, dreadful days when one didn't know what tomorrow might bring. Even though I was VERY young, I still remember the tension in the air as the adult women (the men were in Europe fighting the Germans) gathered around the radio listening to the news.

Every male in our family came home safely with nary a scar or missing limb - but o what tales they had to spin!

Portland, OR

Wow, what great responses. Its been great reading for sure!

Lakeside Marblehead, OH

As a kid all the neighbors had a vegetable garden...I still remb. getting those great tasting radishes as the first treats from the garden..Later it was green beans, carrots, cucumbers,tomatoes, sweet corn, cabbage, bell peppers, onions, bi-colored indian corn, melons, stawberries, etc.
I'm now 57 & work in the Merchant Marines on the Great Lakes...With recent cuts in my work I may be home longer till things get settled...

I've always had beautiful flower beds & when I was gone for 2 months at a time I would have friends water them...Now being home I want to venture into growing veggies..I find gardening very relaxing even tho it's alot of work...The sunshine boosts my energy levels, & it's just great watching things grow which is the big reward in the end!

BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

Back in the 70's when I was growing up in northern N.J., we lived around a lot of farms, though mostly dairy farms. We had a gentleman that came around on Saturday mornings during the summer, Mr. Meyers. When I got a little older, about 11 or 12, he'd pick me up first thing in the morning and I'd help him on his "route." He'd give me some apples or oranges as "pay" but it was fun just going with him to help, as he was getting into his 70's.

Virginia Beach, VA

I enjoy picking fresh veggies few steps away in to my backyard. It is also a therapy!!!

Happy gardening!!!


Lake Charles, LA(Zone 9a)

i started a garden this year since about 15 years (that time period we lived in apartments with surrounding tenants with mischief brats). then reason i started gardening was the fact i grew up with my grandparents who always had a kitchen garden in the backyard. today its a lot of work but i find it relaxing from a days work or when i'm having a writers block. And the wife said if i didnt get out of the house, i was going to a summer camp.

This message was edited Apr 10, 2012 10:29 AM

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

As a kid, Mom owned the garden and I was assigned to turn the soil, break it up and rake it out each spring. She knew about adding peat moss, but that was expensive. I had re4ad about making comp0ost, and another of my jobs was rtaking and burning leaves, so I ghot to create a compost heap and improve the soil that way.

Of course it's much eaiser to turn the4 soil when it's lighty and orgaqnioc, compared to heavy clay! And I knew that *I* had improved it, and was proud. That seemed like a combination of science and magic.

After that, I always wanted my own garden, mainly so I could cultivate the soil! Plants were of secondary interest because I didn't much like vegetables or flowers. I wwas bed-bound for most of a year at one point,, and read a loot about soil improvmeent, drainage, propagation, cold frames, greenhouses and the New Alchem Institute.

Once I got some land of my own (and time to work it), I graded and put in drainage ditches and raised beds. Excavated de4ade clay, screened it, made compost, and then put SOIL back into the beds. Again: pride is a motivator for me.

I even eventually found some interest in some flowers and vegetables. After all, I needed an excuse to play with the soil! Then I got to like colorful flowes: they proved that I could make something GROW. I even like a few vegetables now! Bok choy and snow peas, mainly.

Then I discovered DG and became a total seed-aholic. Trading, saving, organizing. I think that I discove4eed a new mental disease: O Seed D.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

LOL Rick, "O Seed D"!!!! Haaahaahaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, I think many of us here are afflicted with that!

Pride in soil cultivation, that's an interesting start to gardening I must say! It really does something to ya though, to know that you took a rock-like span of wanna-be soil and turned it into real loam that you can grow stuff in. What a wonderful feeling! =)

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I always tell new gardeners to start with improving their soil, and it amazes me how many decide to "skip that step" and then wonder why their results were disappointing.

Lake Charles, LA(Zone 9a)

Bee, those are called Really Lazy Gardeners.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

synsfun - I'm not sure they are lazy - just enthusiastic about getting their garden started. They purchase plants from a local nursery, get them home, and want to dig a hole and plant them right away.

Last year I decided to test that theory. I had several (about 16 plants if I remember correctly) tomato plants left over so I transplanted them to an area where the soil had not been amended. One plant gave two tomatoes, one gave one. The rest just sat there and did absolutely nothing.

In other words, I did what some beginners do: I dug holes, put transplants in them, and was disappointed with the result.

Lake Charles, LA(Zone 9a)

Thats true. Me, I go through the whole shabang, but once I get them in the ground is when I'm excited to start picking. To me that's the fun part.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

My thrill is when the seeds start sprouting. After that I'm in control. But there's nothing I can do if the seeds are duds!

Lake Charles, LA(Zone 9a)

It aggravates me that lost time i spent waiting for duds to grow. speaking of, its time for me to germinate some hollyhocks for the wife this weekend.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

The 15th/16th are my set out dates for tomatoes and squash. The peppers and melons will go out towards the end of the month if warm enough.

Lake Charles, LA(Zone 9a)

this afternoon, after work, i'll transplant 9 serrano chilli peppers to my lil garden. tomorrow i'll do my 6 bell california wonder bell peppers. fun fun fun in the sun

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I'm really enjoying this thread.

>> took a rock-like span of wanna-be soil and turned it into real loam that you can grow stuff in. What a wonderful feeling! =)

That's it exactly. Heavy, dead, anearobic clay. Rocks and weeds. Ugly and unproductive.
Mix with a little "Corey Corps of Engioneers" and Abra-ca-dabra! Happy, thriving, living things.

Now I'm about to start struggling with the temptation to over-till. One of my beds is getting to be pretty fair soil, but I'm still tempted to turn it over every fall or spring, "to get more compost down into it". The deeper layers are still pretty clay-ey, and the upper layers are far from "organic enough", but soon I should till less and compost more.

If the local compost vendor had lower prices, and didn't make it 90% sawdust, I would be there already. Howeber, I have been squeaking along with the least amount of bought compost I can get away with, and my progress with making new beds suffers as a result.

But I have fun!

Lake Charles, LA(Zone 9a)

hmmm sounds like to me you should have removed the weeds and stuck with the rock garden. but that's just me. lol

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