I’m still a terrible gardener.

Even after a coaching call with Frankie Flowers. Even after waiting until AFTER the Victoria Day long weekend to do my planting, I still failed.

The boys and I started some seedlings indoor. One of those simple domed peat things where you fill it with water, drop in some seeds, and watch them grow.

They grew quickly. In just a few days our lettuces, beats, and cukes were growing up a storm.

Indoor seedlings

I thought they were ready to be hardened outside. One afternoon in the sun on the back deck and they all died.

I had a #gardenfail again. If this is to be the summer Scotts was going to help me say #IGrewIt, I’m going to need a lot professional help. I got on back a call with Frankie Flowers, a father of 2 boys with the same age as mine. He understood my problems and gave it to me easy.

“It takes a lot of guts to do your own seedlings,” he consoled. “Everybody’s killed a plant before. It’s no big deal.”

And with a chuckle and my embarrassment erased, I furiously scribbled notes while Frankie laid out some simple do’s and don’ts.

(First go back and read How To Build Your Own Raised Garden Bed – they make life easy and they’re easy to make. Once you’ve got it built and filled with Scotts Miracle-Gro Garden Soil,  you’re ready to roll)

8 TIPS FOR STARTING YOUR FIRST BACKYARD VEGETABLE GARDEN

1. Plant selection is important. Things like peppers need the soil to be warm. If you plant a sensitive plant like that, and don’t provide the conditions they need, they won’t work. 20 degree soil for plants is hard in a place like Calgary where it snows in May.

So I skipped the peppers this year.

2. Pick plants with short growing cycles. Check your seed packet, and if they have under 100 days to maturity, you’re good to go. Of course if you have a more moderate climate (I’m looking at you Vancouver), you could go longer. But with snow in May and September, I need a quick growing cycle to harvest.

planning my garden box

3. Easy plants to grow with kids are swiss chard and radishes. The chard is especially good because you can harvest it as it grows. Just trim the outside leaves and it will fill out again giving you salads all summer.

Same goes for herbs. Frankie says people’s biggest herb failure is they don’t harvest enough. Keep paring them back and they’ll give you lots of freshness all season long.

4. Where you put your planting box matters. You need at least 6 hours of sun for your plants. My box gets just about that meaning no tomatoes. They’re sun hogs, so we’re putting them in stand-alone containers on the deck.

5. Frankie also advised me to use seed tape. What a life saver. I can’t count out those little slivers of carrot seed to properly space! Seed tape has them already stuffed inside cotton. You dig a little trench, soak it, cover it, and that’s it!

use seed tape in the gardenn

6. After you’ve got your plants in the ground, use Scotts Miracle Gro Shake ‘n Feed Tomato, Fruit and Veg to give the plants some food. The general purpose is fine, and its a slow release compound so it will last.

miracle gro shake n feed

7. Don’t water your plants at night. “Would you like sleeping in wet underwear?,” Frankie asked as he explained it to me. Keeping plants drier at night minimizes pests. Water your plants in the morning and they’ll have something they can use through the heat of the day. Nights are cool enough they don’t need the moisture (and you don’t need the bugs).

8. Once your plants start growing, don’t be afraid to thin them out. Once they’re sturdy and have 3 to 5 leaves on them, they’re good enough to be on their own, so give them some room. Space out your carrots, and cukes, and lettuces so you get good, healthy individual plants instead of big clumps of veg.

So, with that knowledge on board, I dug, covered, watered, and now I wait.

Already I have a few sprouts of shallot poking through from a few pots I dared to plant early. The rest of the box is made up of radishes, beats, chard, carrots, lettuce, and cucumbers.

shallots growing in the garden

So, what do you think.. am I bound for another #gardenfail, or will I get to yell.. #IGrewIt!?

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