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Lovely grey on grey outfit complete with rain boots. (Image: Jake George)

A Beginner's (no really, we mean BEGINNER'S) Guide to Gardening

Being a die-hard city girl, I have always preferred a meal at the newest restaurant and craft cocktails over grocery shopping and cooking. However, now that I’m "grazing" 30 years old, I’m coming to the realization that my bank account and especially my physique, can’t quite handle that lifestyle like it used to. I’ve started making healthy meals at home and hitting the market way more. After a recent move, I've traded in my concrete parking stall for a driveway and a yard, complete with a 2 1/2 ft. by 10 ft. planter box. In the spirit of not just eating organic, but toying with the idea of actually growing some food of my own, I knew I’d need a lot of help considering my knowledge of such things is completely non-existent.

I decided to enlist the help of a local beloved gardener guru Ciscoe to walk me through the basics of how to garden. Creating sort of my own “dummies guide to gardening” or “what is impossible to screw up?” experiment.

I met Ciscoe at the Wells Medina Nursery in Bellevue to get the necessary supplies. Between the countless “Hola's!” accompanied by an exuberant wave and point to everyone who walked by, Ciscoe broke down what I’d need to get started.

I decided to plant Spinach, Broccoli, Lettuce, Kale, (basically green smoothie ingredients) Snap Peas, Rosemary, and Spearmint.

I will be doing some follow up articles if you’re interested in joining me with your own garden, or just curious about how this will pan out. Considering the only plants I've owned have been decorative fake flowers, failure is a real possibility. Even still, I’ve collected the best words of wisdom, tips, and tricks, from Ciscoe to start this endeavor.

Start with the fool-proof Ciscoe Soil Test: Make a square hole in the soil you want to plant in 1 ft wide, and 1 ft deep. Fill it with water, go away and let it drain. Then, fill it up again, set a timer for an hour, then come back to check on it. If the water has drained an inch, you’re good to go. If the water hasn’t drained, make a raised planter or raised bed. Fill it with top soil and compost, and work those together until the soil passes the test.

Organic Soil is the only way to go. Apparently regular fertilizer is made out of petroleum and can burn plants. Organic fertilizer is by far the best. It releases slow and is a much better way to go.

You can always add compost because it aggregates the soil and leaves lots of air space for plants to breathe. However, never add potting soil to soil.

When growing snap peas, add a cup of organic tomato food as a sure-fire way to make them come out well.

When growing Spearmint, this plant needs it’s own pot - make sure not to plant with any veggies.

Stay on top of watering! Make sure to water every day. A great test to check if your plants have enough water is to put your finger in the soil. If you feel moisture to around your knuckle, you’re good!

The best time to plant things…

  • Lettuce, Kale, Spinach, greens in general: These guys germinate at 45 degrees so in this never-ending winter, now is actually a good time to get your greens and veggies in the ground! One perk of this incessant rain is that it will save you watering time.
  • Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts: Mid-April is a good time to plant these greens.
  • Tomatoes: The general rule with tomatoes is to plant around Mother’s Day. If the weather still isn’t cooperating by then, you can leave them out during the day, then move them into a dry garage at night, then move them back outside during the day. That way they get used to the cold and it won’t affect them as much.
  • Peppers, Eggplants, Squash: These you want to plant later, about two weeks after Mother’s Day. Note that with squash, they are both male and female plants that need cross-pollination. If bees aren’t buzzing around your garden, you can pick the male anther and touch it to the female pistol to make sure they flourish. You can pollinate about five female plants with one male squash.
  • Beans: Any type of beans you want to wait until June to plant.

Here are the important pieces of knowledge I have learned thus far:

  1. If you garden on a hill, you will get a great booty and thigh workout.
  2. Gardening gloves are a necessity, not a suggestion.
  3. Do not wear any clothing you care about, no matter how ridiculous the outfit (see gallery photos for example).
  4. You need to purchase gardening tools.
  5. Any kind of manure, compost, or dirt you will be working with will smell gross.
  6. Do not wear an Apple watch.
  7. Attempt not to have your garden too close to rose bushes. It can prove to be unsafe and painful.
  8. And the most important piece of wisdom from Ciscoe: "True garden experts are the ones that have murdered the most plants.” If that’s true, I’m sure I’ll be an expert in no time!
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