Garden Lifestyle

A First Year Gardener

For a first time gardener surrounded by experts here at Fine Gardening magazine, I was a bit intimidated by all the information they knew and how much I didn’t.

My beautiful 'Juliet' tomato babies. Just waiting to turn a wonderful shade of red.

As a first time gardener surrounded by experts here at Fine Gardening magazine, I was a bit intimidated by all the information they knew and how much I didn’t. After quickly deciding I wasn’t an ornamental gal (I wanted to eat what I grew!), I knew an edible garden was the way to go. My third story apartment in a small city affords me nothing more than a balcony situated with three chairs and an old coffee table. Container gardening seemed to be my only option, and luckily it was the option I preferred because it promised to be worm free. Now, these chairs are lucky enough to have five containers to keep them company.

Tomatoes have always been my favorite fruit, so they were first on my list. I went with a plant whose label read only “container tomatoes.” It seemed like a good bet, since that was all I had room for. I quickly snagged some ‘Juliet’ tomatoes when one of my coworkers brought seedlings from her garden. I asked her for some advice on growing them and turning a bit red, she told me she wasn’t sure they were the right tomato for me. These little guys could grow much taller than my five-foot stature. No matter, I’d corral my six-foot tall boyfriend to harvest them for me when the time came. I learned how to prune my prized tomatoes from watching our very own homegrown/homemade tomatoes video series, and now I have an abundance of little green tomatoes teasing me as I wait for them to turn a delicious shade of red.

While shopping for the tomatoes, I could not resist the temptation of bell peppers. I read our article on how to grow bell peppers for some helpful hints and also asked our senior editor for some help. She told me Connecticut is not the best place for them to grow; they need consistent heat that we usually don’t get. I’ve never been one, however, to shy away from a challenge and this fickle plant has just begun to flower and produce peppers. I may only get a few peppers, but a few is better than none.

When cleaning out my kitchen cabinet, I came across a forgotten potato that had sprouted eyes. Having seen the video about how to grow potatoes in containers I knew an opportunity had arisen. I cut the potato in half, planted it eyes up in a plastic garbage can, and those bad boys are growing like wild now.

Basil has been my favorite herb for as far back as I can remember, and when I walked into a local nursery for more soil, I gravitated towards all the different varieties of this delicious herb. I went with Italian basil and have been consistently pinching off the flowers, a trick I learned from our homemade/homegrown basil series, to be sure this plant keeps producing those aromatic leaves. My boyfriend may complain that he is tired of basil being in every meal, but frankly I don’t care, basil makes everything taste better.

This first year of gardening has shown me why all the other editors here love it so much. I had helped my mother in her garden years ago, and while the hydrangeas and tulips she planted were beautiful, I never felt connected to the garden. As embarrassing as this may be, I speak encouragingly to my plants and give them a soft touch because I feel invested in my container garden like I never imagined I would. I already have plans in mind for next year and I know one thing for certain: there won’t be any room for chairs or a table out there next year because that balcony is going to be a fruit and vegetable jungle.

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