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A few gardening tips from a newbie backyard farmer

As a novice gardener I've learned a few things that are essential to starting, growing and keeping a happy garden. Most importantly, I've learned that gardening is good for my...

Like many Americans, I started a garden this year for the first time in my adult life.

It's been lovely. I'm growing two types of tomato, yellow squash, cucumber, basil, mint, lemon thyme, rosemary, lavender, celery and a few other things I can't remember right now. We planted in raised beds in full sun in our back yard. I can share a few essential things I've learned to make your garden a successful one; after all, it's preferable to learn from others' mistakes.  The first thing I learned is to water deeply. When I first started my garden, my plants struggled with looking dry. I was watering them but not enough. What you want is a real good drenching. Since the sun is just relentless here, the plants needed more than just a quick sprinkle. They need the water to keep the soil cool during the heat of the day.  I never water in the evenings because the leaves shouldn't go to be wet. It's best to water early in the day. So, in the morning, grab a coffee cup and head out to the garden. I water almost every day we don't have rain. Drench your plants and give them lots of hydration, love, and consideration. I usually try to drink a big glass of water too when I water. It's a great way to start the day. There's something beautiful about being outside in the early morning light. When the sun hits the dew on the grass, this part is for you. I didn't think I was a morning person, but the garden has changed my mind. Getting the day going earlier has helped accomplished more in less time. My day feels extended, and my stress level is much lower if I have time in the dirt. The garden doesn't care about twitter or politics, and neither do the butterflies and bees. It's the haven I didn't know I needed. 

Since my garden has given so much to me, I've learned it's crucial to reciprocate that support.

Recently, one of my tomato plants was full of fruit. It wasn't very tall and didn't seem to be off-balance, but as I was watering the other morning, one of the arms just split right off the plant. I hadn't tied it up, and it couldn't support the big green tomatoes' weight.
Sticks and strings are essential things! So now, all my plants are tied up with care. I'm working on a trellis for my cucumbers to climb too, which brings me to my next point. It's probably the biggest thing I have learned about gardening this Summer.

Do not overcrowd your beds

You see, I did a wild thing out of ignorance and enthusiasm. I planted 16 cucumber plants. When I first planted them, this seemed very reasonable. They were so tiny with only a few leaves each. But now I see that this was a terrible decision. Now I will be forced to give my family and friends pickles for Birthdays and Christmas, but I may have to set up a veggie stand at the end of my driveway. If you have a good pickle recipe, then please send it my way.
So, in short, water well, build a support system for your plant babies and don't plant too many cucumber plants because they will explode and take over your entire yard. Your neighbors will start talking about you strangely since you'll be handing out homemade pickles on Halloween for years to come. I'm looking forward to learning more and improving my garden each season. It's endlessly fulfilling and certainly refuels my soul. What's growing in your yard this Summer, and what tips do you have to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

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