Family Gardening Made Easy


It’s that time of year when I’m tired of grey skies and I look forward to getting my hands dirty in the soil.  I come from a long line of farmers in southern Indiana and though I now live in the city, I still get the itch to plant and grow.  I have had a garden of some kind every year since owning a home but now that I’m a mom, it carries even more importance to me.

I want my boys to know where food comes from. That you can take this tiny little seed and in a few months, like magic, you have something that never existed before your time and effort made it grow.

 Another plus is that my oldest son lives for tomatoes.  He has been known to eat a 2 lb container of cherry tomatoes in two days.  HE CAN NOT GET ENOUGH! So, it also makes financial sense for us to grow several tomato plants to feed our tomato monster.  It’s one of summer’s greatest joys, to see him run out to the back yard and just snack his way through the garden.

       Using garden fabric as a weed barrier.
 My 2017 garden layout recommended by
            Visual calendar of tasks for each plant.

Creating a garden can seem daunting so I here are some tips to make the process as easy and as much fun as possible.

  1. You can grow from seeds or purchase your plants. Growing from plants is more expensive per plant but growing from seed is more time consuming and nuanced but also can be more fun with the kids.  I love showing them the gardening process from the beginning.
  2. If you choose to grow your plants from seeds, you can purchase an inexpensive shop light to help your seeds grow indoors. We’re talking like $12 cheap. Add another $10 for two bulbs and you have a great resource to grow your plants indoors for a little over $20.  I don’t have a great place to set my seedlings near a window so I created a little grow station by mounting a florescent light under my laundry folding table in the basement. I set my seedlings under the light and set a timer for 12 hours a day. My seedlings love it!
  3. Not sure what you want to plant, when, where and how to plant it? Look into an online garden planning tool like  There are many sites out there but this one is completely free and it has amazing offerings. This site blew my mind when I found it 2 summers ago. It has made my gardening life so much easier and fool-proof.
    • You pick what kinds of plants you want in your garden (I go based on what we like to eat)
    • Enter in your zip code so it knows your climate and estimated freeze dates.
    • You enter in how big your garden bed is. (just go out and roughly measure out how much space you want to dedicate to it)
    • (This is my favorite part!) Click on “Recommend a plan”. From there, the site will take the plants you have selected and place them where they recommend they go based on space needed between plants and what plants thrive together. 
    • It also gives you a schedule of tasks for each plant and send you email reminders of what to do and when to do it. You note if you plan on growing your seeds indoors or sowing the seeds directly in the soil.  If you are purchasing your plants, you just purchase them when the schedule suggests you transplant your seedlings to the garden.
  4. Use weed barrier landscape fabric to deter weeds. I believe one of the most intimidating aspects of growing a garden is the upkeep of the weeding. I HATE WEEDING my garden! I have used garden fabric for years in my garden.  Then a neighbor told me she just loves to pull weeds and finds it therapeutic to pull them so I took a summer off from the fabric.  Uh…no.  Weeding is in no way therapeutic to me.  It was my least favorite gardening experience because the weeds took over.
    • To use garden fabric, be sure to get your garden soil in the condition you want. Add any soil enhancers, compost, garden soil, etc. and mix up the soil well.  Then roll out the garden fabric and secure it to the soil with metal stakes (or I have used sticks from the yard in a pinch)
    • To plant through the fabric, I cut an X in the fabric wherever I want to plant. I dig a hole in the soil under the X and put the plant in and water it thoroughly. You can mulch on top of the fabric if you would like, though it’s not necessary.
    • I have found the best deal on garden fabric at Big Lots. It’s the same grade as you can find at the gardening stores for half the price.
  5. Join an online gardening group for additional tips. My neighborhood has a gardening Facebook group of novices and gardening experts.  Any time I find myself in a bind, I ask the group what I should do and I always get wonderful advice.  It’s a great way to learn.

Now is the time to consider if you want to take the plunge into domestic farming!  I find it to be a stress reliever and I love harvesting the fruits of my labor with my family. If you haven’t tried it before, you might find your newest hobby is right in your back yard.

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Tara Elder
Tara grew up in Jasper, IN, graduated from Indiana University with a degree in psychology and moved to Indianapolis where she met her husband, John. Over the next several years, Tara worked from sun up to sun down, racing toward professional burnout before realizing that there had to be another way. The chaos was maddening. In 2011 She hired a career consultant that told her she would be an excellent entrepreneur. Within the year and with the help of that career consultant, she started her own company, Simply Helpful. Tara’s goal with Simply Helpful is to reduce stress and minimize chaos for others in their businesses and organizations. Visit to learn more. In April of 2013, Tara and John had their first son, Jack and in January of 2016, Tara and John welcomed a second son, Wesley to the family. Tara has found the work/life balance she was craving for all of those years and loves helping others discover ways to ease their crazy. For the last 10 years, John and Tara have lived on the east side of Indianapolis in the neighborhood of Irvington, which is not just a community; it’s a state of mind.