My one regret in life is that I am not someone else*

*A quote by Woody Allen

I know some of you have been growing for decades.

But I also know some of you haven’t jumped into gardening yet because you don’t have that perfect piece of land – the one with the meandering creek and the little stand of pine trees in the back and the roaring fire in the wood stove.

Maybe right now your ‘piece of land’ is just a 100 square foot balcony, the closest thing to a creek being an occasional dripping from the neighbor’s balcony above, the only pine being fastened together tightly in your fold up chairs, the only fire from the propane grill.

Maybe you already have the land, but have never gardened before and have no idea how to start.

Maybe you have the land and the know how, but other things always seem to get in the way of that next project you’ve been thinking about for years.

We can always think of reasons to wait before starting something new.

But there are often better reasons to find a way to do it now.

Have you ever heard that when we get older, we don’t regret so much the things we did, but the things we didn’t do?

I’m not sure if anyone has ever spent their final days regretting that they didn’t start that organic garden, but I do get occasional emails from people who want to start a garden, yet are 1) anxious because they don’t have the knowledge, or 2) disappointed that they don’t have the land.

But knowledge can only truly come from trying it out, and the perfect piece of land may not come for awhile, so I encourage you to work with what you have:

1) If you don’t have the knowledge, make a list of things you think you need to learn, and plan to learn them as you go this year. It takes some expertise to grow a really successful organic garden, but it doesn’t take much to get it started, have some success, and learn a whole lot. Here’s a short list of what you might want to learn a little bit about as you go this year:

  • How to improve soil quality
  • How to design and create a garden bed
  • Which seeds and plants to buy, and how to plant them
  • How to maintain a garden organically
  • How to control pests and weeds organically

In fact, I think I’ll write about all of the above next Saturday to give you a little primer, so stay tuned for that.

2) If you don’t have the land, you can find a community garden plot, or use that 100 square foot balcony, or a windowsill, or even the top of a clothes dresser.

I recently moved into a new apartment. This balcony in this photo will be my garden this year, in addition to a couple of trays of plants I’ll keep going inside on my dresser, the reflection of which you can see in the glass here. My balcony

I actually started writing this today because I was thinking about regret and how I hope to get to the end of my life having done most of the things I wanted to do, even when I was scared to do some of them.

With that, I encourage you – and myself – to say we’re sorry, tell him thank you, tell her how much you love her, and go after those impossible dreams.

While we won’t always get the results we want, we will sit in our gardens as the sun goes down – wrinkled… aching… dirty fingernails reminding us that we did our best.

I don’t have a specific question for you today, so feel free to ask below whatever is on your mind.

Phil

P.S. Whether you’ve been gardening for decades or are just starting this year, there is one product I recommend as being the most benefical for almost everyone, and that is effective microorganisms. I just got in a fresh batch, which reminded me to remind you to check it out here if you want to learn more about it.

32 Comments

  1. Lee on March 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks for your good energy…we appreciate it. Have faith that your life-path is taking you where you need to go.

    • Phil on March 8, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      Thanks for the pics!

  2. Traci on March 7, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, very inspiring. I too live in an apartment but I’m in LA. I’ve tried to grow some things in pots in front of my door but everything burned in so much direct sunlight and heat. I’m going to try again on my shadier, cooler balcony. Will you share some ideas on how I can make my very limited space work?

    • Phil on March 8, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      Yes, I’ll be in a limited space too 🙂

  3. Lars Karlsson on March 7, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    I like you and you´re style of gardening, which is similar to mine. I´m a bit lazy, but I tend to dig a lot in the spring and autumn… I still have some lawns left to convert to something better. I feel that I know enough to just use what I got around me and that my biggest goal right now is to extend my season and to get more water into my garden. I bought a polytunnel last fall and I think I will get started about 6-8 weeks earlier this year.I really don´t have any regrets, but I´ve made a lot of mistakes in life. The hardest thing is usually not to forgive someone, but to forgive yourself. Usually good enough should be your goal. I hope you find your ways in life. It´s quite often not what you expect it to be.

    • Phil on March 8, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Well said.

  4. Fae Perry on March 7, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Phil, I’m looking forward to starting a garden at my new home in Cleveland, OH but I’ve noticed that Bambi lives in my neighborhood and saw hoof prints in the snow and some nibbles taken out of a young pine tree in the backyard. Any ideas of how my garden can co-exist with Bambi?

    • Farrelly on March 7, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Fence.

      • Phil on March 8, 2015 at 1:33 pm

        Fence is right. Can be a fence of any material, including plants (i.e. a hedge or hedgerow), as long as it’s 8 feet tall.

    • Bethany on March 10, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      Allot if fatmers here plant a deer garden on the border if their property.This is a mix of deep plot mix and garden veggies.They tent to just stop there.Its much cheaper than deer fencing and acre garden

      • Carrie Goelitz on March 12, 2015 at 7:11 pm

        LOVE it, sharing with the critters instead of fighting them! Just wonder, has anyone tried a motion-detecting system, like the one that sprays a jet of water? Harmless but no one wants to stick around! And maybe set it to only activate during dawn and dusk when the lovelies appear… There are several brands, Comtech Scarecrow, Havahart Spray-Away– do you know if they work? My issue is big flocks of quail that come out of the nearby desert mountain preserve to munch our little bit of lacinto kale– they think it is the finest delicacy in the world! I used portable dog runs to fence the areas but would love to know if the water works

  5. Jeff on March 7, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    I have two container gardens. A small one at the end of my driveway, and a larger one on a cement path between my house and my neighbor, house

    • Phil on March 8, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      Nice trellises you have there.

  6. Sandy from San Antonio on March 7, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    I am very excited to hear you have moved into an apartment! We’ve lived on 3 acres with a 30×50′ fenced garden to keep the deer out since 1988 and, with our youngest graduating from high school, are going to move into a tiny apartment on the beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk in May with only a north-facing balcony. I hope you’ll consider some articles on hydroponics and vertical gardening. I’d even be happy to buy systems from you if they are attractive at all stages of growth. Looking forward to watching and learning from your experiences at apartment gardening!

    • Phil on March 8, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      Thanks Sandy 🙂

  7. Louis Overs on March 7, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    Hi Phil. I grow my own in England. We have allotments, and you rent a plot from Local Councils The sites are all over the country and contain from 50/100 plots.Do you have these in Canada?Bye, Louis

    • Phil on March 8, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      Yes, we call them community gardens. In some places, they’re so popular that it’s difficult to get a plot.

  8. Linda on March 8, 2015 at 1:29 am

    An apartment! Will you leave your previous garden behind? I have gardened in pots when that was the only option and now with half an acre I still plant many things in pots. This winter I began growing micro greens on a shelf unit I built that has a foot print of 4 sq feet but grows 8 trays. The micro greens turned out to be a great idea and has given me a great salad every day. It takes less to give the same nutrition so one can be harvesting in about two weeks. Soon I will be back outside but plant to keep the micros going. Tiny scissors to harvest!

    • Phil on March 8, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      I’ll still garden in the other garden as well. I’ve been gradually moving to more perennial food plants there.Your microgreens unit sounds great. I’d love to see a photo…

      • Phil on March 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm

        Update: Linda emailed me a photo. Looks great…

  9. Lynda on March 8, 2015 at 2:36 am

    Wow, Phil, I hope you still have access to where you did some of your gardening blogs from. I left my ex-landlady a veggie garden and garden, which she was happy to have, and I put a lot of work into it, but I did stay there for 6 years. I’m now in Mt Dora with my daughter in an apartment she rents, and thinking very seriously about whether i will spend my small inheritance building an energy-efficient earthbag house in the USA or do what my heart tells me to and return to South Africa and settle in Jeffreys Bay- but either way I will start my veggie garden/combined garden from scratch in raised beds again, and in the meantime will be very frustrated because I can’t grow anything! I believe everyone should grow at least basil on a windowsill because if we do we know what we’re eating, whether it’s been sprayed, and with what. We also know whether the soil was built up to sustain healthy plants and what nutrients were used when the plants need extra nutrients. Very, VERY important, and growing in importance every day.

    • Phil on March 8, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      Well said Lynda. I agree that it’s nice to have even just 1 or 2 containers of some type of food growing at all times to keep us connected to our food. Yes, I’ll still garden in the other garden as well.

  10. Dee on March 8, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve been doing container gardening for 8 years now. This year and next year, I’ll have to replace many of my cedar planters due to rotting, but O what they have produced! I look forward to learning more about the soil so I can produce better plants and food. A concern of mine is that in container gardening, just like many of us, the plants aren’t connected physically with the earth so they are drawing the minerals and energy for balance. Any suggestions? I just found you recently, so thank you for what you do. 🙂

    • Phil on March 10, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      Good question. Some people have experimented with ‘grounding’ containers, or sometimes even running a small current of electricity into them, apparently with some success. I’ve yet to try that though.

  11. Valerie on March 8, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    You and your guidance have always been a bright spot in my garden, Phil. I wish I had acres to play with but I only have 3 raised beds (1 of which is dedicated to flowers). Living in the Tampa Bay, FL area, gardening is a little different but I always learn something new from you to incorporate. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Phil on March 10, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks Valerie!

  12. Patricia Keene on March 9, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Phil,I garden at my daughter’s large expanse of land surrounding her home which is about 20 minutes away. I help take care of my youngest granddaughter 2 or 3 days a week, care for the menagerie and some of the house/cooking and tend 5 raised beds and several flower beds. It isn’t ideal not to be there every day to garden but we make it work. At my apartment, I have a balcony deck and have a nice deck garden each growing season!Patricia

    • Phil on March 10, 2015 at 1:52 pm

      Sounds like a nice mix of gardens. I agree – my main garden is far away and it makes it a challenge.

  13. Bethany on March 10, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Phil the frogs are singing and birds coming in here in TN!I’ve had a challenging winter after an exhausting summer and have yet to complete my garden plans this year.I need a kick in the right direction.Luckily we have a 50×50 plot a couple seasons in that had a nice hay mulch last year.won’t take much to get going.The other half of the garden aka “the wild side is just getting a cover crop and I’ll cage in a few “tamed” herb beds and let the chickens and goat keep it trimmed down.Learning every year to do things easier.More dry storage stuff(potatoes,dry corn,butternut squash ) this year and less prossessing (tomatoes).If we are up to it we may get a late crop of bush beans on the “wild side” late summer. We have 2acres to play with.going to let some friends work a few plots this year to help me tame the feild for NEXT YEAR (hoping to open a pick your own garden to the public!)Life is never set in stone and I have strayed from my dreams a bit as the land we have is commercial and I have no idea what the future holds for it of our family.We want a farm but this is what we have now SO its going to be a mini farm wich may turn into a Pick Your Own Patch/petting zoo/farm stand for sprouts ,starts, seeds and maybe even educational work shops.It may eventually be sold to the highest bidder to fund our forever home.Until then I am going to RELAX and ACCEPT HELP from friends who are renting and itching to get their hands dirty. I’ve been weary of accepting help for fear of crop flops and having to split yields BUT I’m over it.What we do as a team we will share be it taters or tears lol.It beats doing nothing!

    • Phil on March 13, 2015 at 6:33 pm

      Well said Bethany. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like an exciting and challenging project. If you can stay mindful and accept the ups and downs, it sounds like you’ll have a blast 🙂

  14. rtj1211 on March 22, 2015 at 6:50 am

    I started teaching myself to grow tomatoes in pots – learned that ‘breaking a few of the ‘rules’ makes them grow better’. After nailing that, I”ve started to branch out and focussed on potatoes last year and am focussing this year on onions, carrots and parsnips as well as ‘cut and come again’ approaches to lettuce.The reality is that there’s so much advice out there and so much conflicting advice at that that you need to get your hands dirty before you can understand how things fit together and, hence, how to manage conflicting advice successfully. Usually something works for an advisor because they garden the way they do, where they do on the soil they garden on. It may be that the way you garden, where you garden and the soil you garden on needs a slightly different approach. So advice from California isn’t much use for growing in the SE of England, since over there it’s much hotter, drier and sunnier than over here. Even growers in the SW of England will do it very differently to the SE, as they have milder winters, twice as much rainfall in the main and slightly less hot summers.To me, the questions everyone has to answer are the same, but the answers may be different:1. How do I create the best soil structure, with the healthiest mix of micro-organisms in that soil, for growing in my situation?2. How do I manage whatever pests exist in my area?3. How do I manage water availability in the soil during the growing season?From that, you have questions like:1. What’s the best way of making compost in my situation?2. Which organic ‘teas’ work best for which crops and how do I go about preparing them?3. What mulching strategies balance soil health and pest control?4. How many gallons of water should I try to collect from the roof during the rainy season?There’s an element of ‘finding the right guru’ and there’s also an element of suck it and see in there.But even in one growing season you can learn things like (in my case):1. Asparagus loves having horse manure overlaid during the winter. So do raspberries.2. Broad beans respond incredibly well to freshly made nettle tea in early spring.3. Not digging can mostly eliminate weeds within one growing season, although poorly prepared compost can return plenty of seeds to the top soil once growing begins in the spring.4. Potato yields per tuber can still remain high with higher planting densities than those used by farmers ploughing with horses a century ago.5. Yarrow, rock dust and comfrey can accelerate compost creation incredibly during the summer warmth.6. A mixture of comfrey leaves, grass cuttings and a small amount of soil can serve as the ‘hilling up material’ when growing potatoes.7. A winter without frosts causes slug populations to explode.8. Chard grows very well with limited sunshine, but beetroot doesn’t.

    • Phil on March 24, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      All excellent advice. Thanks very much for sharing your experiences.

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