You Can Garden, I Promise!


If you have ever gone to a farmers market and thought to yourself that you could grow your own food, you can. Drove past a home with what seemed like a bountiful yard, a seemingly perfect garden, full of variety? You can have this too. Stood, staring at rows of tomatoes in the produce department, wishing you could just walk outside and pick your own?

Hi, I’m Rachel, and I love to garden. Now, let’s get one thing straight: I don’t have acres of land, nor do I have endless time. No, I’m just your average mama trying to provide for her family in a sustainable way. So, if you want to explore this a little further, here are my tips, tricks, and insight into what could be your next adventure.

Start small.

My first garden was a collection of Dollar Tree pots, a bag of cheap dirt, and a few 5-gallon buckets. It wasn’t fancy, and it wasn’t expensive. I wanted to grow my own peppers and tomatoes but didn’t want to commit to anything since I was in an apartment. You do not need raised beds or a soil mixture, despite what some people will say. Do what works for you and then evaluate it at the end of the growing season. I know some people who grow green onions and lettuce in water on their windowsill. You don’t have to do a big production. A pot, a raised bed, sowed directly to soil, a bag of topsoil with rips in it? Nature finds a way, and you never know just what will work best. This is a low-stress mission!

You don’t need the fancy seeds.

Listen, I love a great heirloom seed as much as the next girl, and I have spent some MONEY on seeds. But, I have had success with the run-of-the-mill seeds you see at the grocer or at Dollar stores. Seeds are seeds, and whether they take and the yield they produce is completely dependent on so many factors out of your control. So, let your kids choose the seeds and see what happens. My four-year-old loves seed shopping and picking out the varieties; not only does this engage him but also lets me spend a little quality time with him as well. Another great option is to use plant starts if you don’t have the time or ability to start from seed. These are great, especially for beginners and for those who don’t want the stress. You can get starts from most home improvement stores and even major grocers in the area. If you want to go this route, it makes container growing much easier and more accessible.

Know your soil and know your climate.

Indiana is a fickle state in that our soil is so mixed, and our climate is varied (I’m looking at you, fake spring). There are some crops that just will not grow, or they will take years in just the right soil with the right amount of fairy dust sprinkled on them. I do not mess with these picky plants because I don’t have the mental space to house that frustration. A quick Google search can help determine options should you want to plant directly into the soil.

Reach out to your community.

So many communities have co-op programs in place to help budding gardeners. Some of the best resources I personally have used are my local library, garden/seed exchanges, and Growing Places Indy. Not only do these resources help you get started, but they also serve as a wealth of knowledge for growing in your community. If you are hesitant to start your own garden, Growing Places Indy is always looking for volunteers! This is an amazing way to get your feet wet! You get your hands dirty and help our community at the same time.

Don’t be afraid to mess up and to get dirty.

You will have bugs. I promise, there are few things more comforting than feeling the dirt under your hands. There will be failures. It is okay. This doesn’t mean you have a bad garden. I got four peppers my first season. Last year, six years later? I had an overabundance of tomatoes and peppers to the point that I handed them out to our families. It also can be a great teaching moment for our little ones; seeing failure and how to respond is a crucial childhood lesson. I also use our garden to teach my littles not only about plants and insects but life cycles and how to be kinder to our planet. 

Grow what you will eat.

I know that my little family isn’t big on tomatoes, but we love peppers. So, I plant more peppers than I do tomatoes. When it comes to tomatoes, we enjoy the cherry variety, so I only plant a few beefsteak varieties. I don’t waste my time growing things I know we won’t eat fast enough or at all. 

Dig in, pick a couple of options, and just try it! You never know; you could catch the garden bug too!