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Poof! You Are a Scientist: Or Adventures in Beginning Gardening

4/3/2014 11:14:00 AM

Tags: beginning gardening, stewardship, fruit growing, Raintree Nursery, Washington

Young blossoms on a treeThe first thing you need to do to succeed in fruit gardening is to narrow down what you are going to attempt. Start small. What should you grow when you are starting out?

The trick is to ask the right questions. We have learned that the best way to help people is not to answer their questions if they are asking the wrong questions but instead suggest the right question. Here is the most commonly asked wrong question:

“My favorite fruit is <fruit>. What variety of <fruit> has the best flavor?” The better question to ask is: ”Which fruits are the easiest for a beginner in my area to grow and fruit successfully?” The answer, of course, will vary depending on what part of the country you are in and upon your specific conditions.

Now, gentle readers, please know that by next week I am going to start giving you useful info about what to do in your fruit garden. Don't be too put off that I am starting with what not to do and what not to expect.

When you read a gardening catalog, you see wonderful pictures of fruits and vegetables, and you are told that they are “disease resistant” and “easy to grow” and “delicious.” You are led to believe that if you buy these things, you will succeed and that in fact what you purchase is guaranteed to grow. Forget all that. It is not true. Buying plants is not like buying other consumer goods like appliances or clothing. In fact the only thing that is really guaranteed is that you will fail. A lot.

The important thing to understand is that when you plant something you are planting a living thing and all living things die sooner or later, and the less you know when you start, the sooner more things will die. Conversely (fortunately) the more you know, the longer plants will live and the more they will thrive.

So here's the most important thing for a beginning gardener. Understand that you have signed up to be part of a science experiment - which in fact you have always been apart of but have not known it. The experiment is called "life on Earth." The good thing is the more people who participate in the experiment trying to make their small part of the planet work more harmoniously with nature, the better chance we all will have as a species of sustaining a healthy life giving planet.

As a starter scientist you will assemble your basic tools for your little lab - often called a garden. One of your most basic tools will be a little book where you will write down what you did and when you did it. Because later you are going to repeat what worked and alter the experiment for what failed. As a beginning scientist, you will understand that a lot of stuff will die.

If you viewed gardening as a hobby, this would be the time where you gave up and faulted yourself for being incompetent and you would try another hobby. But gardening is not a hobby. Gardening is skill that is very important to learn. When you learn to be a reasonably good gardener, it is a skill you can pass on to your children and to your neighbors. It's a series of skills that most humans had for thousands of years until recent generations. Knowing how to grow your own local, healthy organic food will help you and your family and your neighbors live a happy, healthy, self-fulfilled life.

But understand that you will succeed by trial and error and retrial using what you learned from the first go around. Ask your neighbors for information. Go help your neighbors in their gardens or in a community garden so that you are trading your hard work for information so that others can accomplish needed work while educating you. So, sign up to be a student scientist. Sign up for failure and frustration along with success. Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together and none of us will get out of this alive, but what gives life meaning is that we can help make more sustainable for the future a little part of the earth, and we can pass on a little hard earned knowledge to our family and friends of how to live harmoniously here on Earth.

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