How to start gardening today (in Central Texas)
I’ve been dabbling in gardening for 3 years and it has been a blast. Every season, I try my hand at something new and feel wicked pride while watching the garden grow. It's an opportunity to get closer to the world around me, the food I eat, and the air I breathe... And my evolving garden makes it feel as if the space around me is transforming. Every day something new happens. The lavender blooms or the peppers swing down. Sometimes it’s something smaller, but the small stuff feels significant also.
Since we are all spending a lot more time at home, I thought that a few of you might find value in this content! Gardening is intimidating for a lot of people, but it doesn’t need to be. The most basic form of gardening involves only 3 things - a plant, some good soil, and a container to put it all in. Down below, I’m going to outline a few different ways to get started and I’ll also sprinkle in some advice about where to purchase everything in post-pandemic times.
Start out by heading over to your local plant nursery. A good nursery sources locally, has organic options, and offers cultivars that are well suited for the climate in your area. Guys, that is so important!! I don’t have any statistics, but I would venture to guess that a lot of first time gardeners fail because they are growing plants that are not suitable for their climate or home. Here are some nurseries I like here in Austin, Texas:
- Lone Star Nursery - offering free delivery to Austin residents in the post-COVID universe
- Tillery Street Plant Co - available for curbside pickup every Sunday
- Shoal Creek Nursery - open seven days a week with social distancing measures in place
My suggestion is to opt for a small seedling vs trying to plant seeds. It’s easier for your first time out and we’re a little late in the season to plant seeds here in Central Texas anyway. Rosemary, mint, peppers, & tomatoes are all good ideas for your first try. Seedling plants are pretty cheap too, they should only be around $2 per plant.
Next up is soil, and again the nursery is your best friend. Not all dirt is created equal. There's no point in buying an organic plant if the dirt is filled with chemicals and poor nutrition. I usually buy Happy Frog brand because it has worked well in my garden. Just look for something organic and ask around at the nursery for some recommendations - you’ll be alright! Also consider buying a small bag of organic compost and some organic plant food. I like to mix in a handful of compost during planting and I also feed my plants every month or so. This is more important for vegetables and less so for herbs. Feel free to DM if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help out. Don’t overthink this part.
And finally, the container. All you really need is a pot that is at least a foot in diameter, with drainage holes at the bottom. I would hold off on the nursery for this one (sorry!). These pots by Bloem are great because they are lightweight, colorful, and made of recycled material.
To save a few bucks, consider buying second-hand. There are plenty of freebies out there too. I got these planter boxes for free from the previous owners of the house I moved into.
The last piece of advice I have for you is to find a local community to support your journey. The Austin Organic Gardeners Facebook group has been such a powerful resource for me. Bad bug? Fun fungus? No problem! I post a picture and usually get feedback from a few people within hours. Everyone is also sharing updates on their own crops which is inspiring to see. Try to find something similar in your own community.
I could go on forever but this feels like a good stopping point. I wish you well on your gardening journey. When you’re out there in the garden with dirt on your hands, the sun on your back, and a smile on your face - I hope you look up at the sky and remember your favorite candle co!
PS: Here are a few more pics from my garden so that you can see how quickly change happens. This is about 5 weeks of growth. I built this bed with only a few 12 foot cedar planks and some deck screws.