As a second-year gardener I feel much more confident going into this growing season. And yet, I have already learned a few things to do differently next year. I have a feeling that it will always be like that. Each go-round bringing a new set of lessons learned.

Last year I started with nothing. No beds. No idea how to get the right soil or chose the right plants. How much should I plant? And when? What about bugs and deer and ground hogs? But with each workshop we were equipped and educated. Now I have my beds established and have a good sense of how the season will flow. Planning was much easier because I had a real feel for the space that the plants needed and how much they would produce. I also knew what crops we had wished we had more of and what was enough. The thing that was new for me this round was dealing with the cover crops that I had planted in the Fall. Because I didn’t even have a garden bed last Spring, I definitely did not have cover crops. In one of the last workshops last year we had learned about the benefits of using the cover crops to put nutrients back in the soil and to protect it from weeds, etc. We also learned that before planting the next year (uh, that would be now) we would need to kill them off by tarping them, making sure they didn’t go to flower. But what I didn’t account for is just how long that would take. And, as time will do, it got away from me. Suddenly I’m getting an email saying it is time to pickup my Spring starts/seeds and I still have my lovely green cover crop happily doing its thing. So, not wanting to pull them out and completely destroy all the benefits for which they were purposed, I had to try and expedite their death. I cut them low and then tried to break them up a bit with that awesome, sharp triangle tool we were given. Then I tarped. It worked out okay but it’s definitely not ideal. So, there’s lesson one. Tarp in March.

Lesson two? I think I need to soak my snap pea seeds. Last year I think I planted them too late and they never did well. This year I was determined to get them into the ground early (which is why I was so annoyed that I hadn’t planned ahead with my tarping) so they would have the cooler weather they like. I planted about 30 seeds and only 9 have germinated so far. It could be the seeds but I wish I had soaked them before planting just to give them an extra leg up. With the seeds I have left, I plan to do that this week.

And “lesson” three, if it can be called that. I do not like planting! I find it tedious and back aching and I only have a 20’x4’ garden. And they are raised! It truly makes me appreciate just how hard local growers work to bring all of that beautiful produce to our Farmers Markets. But, it is really cool when you see those little green shoots staring to push up through the earth. My radishes have all popped up and you can see the tiniest hints of green starting to show where I planted beets. Makes it worth the backache.

I’m trying some new things this year: eggplant, jalapenos, Roma tomatoes and pickling cucumbers. I’m really looking forward to some of the new classes this year as well- especially the fermentation class! My daughter and I attend the classes together and it has been so bonding for us. I am just amazed at what the Build it Up program offers. The availability of the staff to answer questions, along with the physical resources we are provided with, make what would feel like an otherwise daunting task seem doable. There is no way I would have been as successful in my first year without this program. I’m so excited to see what grows this year – both in produce and in knowledge.