Adventures in Gardening with a Black Thumb- Student Article.

Adventures in Gardening with a Black Thumb

by Erin McVittie

My name is Erin, and I have a confession to make.  I have a black thumb.  This is a hard admission considering I am called to be an herbalist.  I also have the strong desire to grow my own garden.  I’ve never really gardened before, well, my mom and I did a small garden once.  We were overrun by pumpkins.  But, I have never done this in my own yard before.

I mentioned my mom, and it is her I blame for my black thumb.  You see, my grandmother could grow things.   She grew flowers, plants, avocados, everything really.  My mom, on the other hand, is a serial house plant murderer.  As I was growing up, I never really thought about growing things.  As a child, I had to grow the bean sprout in the Styrofoam cup in school, and it failed.  Since then, I have tried on an off to grow things.  I have struggled with mint, basil, aloe (UGH!  Aloe), and an ill advised gift of an orchid.  They all died.  Some instantly, some convalesced for a while before making their goodbyes.  I also have trouble with identification.  I envy people who grew up with mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers who took them on strolls to discover nature’s secrets.  I’m trying to teach myself these things, but it would have been so much easier had someone pointed this stuff out when my mind was young and fertile.  No, I was obsessed with New Kids on the Block.  Grr.


Do I need to test my soil?  When do I start my seedlings?  Will I have enough time to get my compost heap up and running?  When do I add compost to my plants?  How will I know the difference between a plant and a weed?  What do I do about moles????  The questions pile and pile and pile. My tension shows when I talk to people about my plans, and the other person simply shrugs and says it will be fine.  I sure hope so.

So, in preparation for my garden, in October I borrowed a friend’s tiller.  We tilled, removed rocks, tilled, and removed rocks.  Then we slapped a lot of newspapers on top of what we tilled and wetted them down.  Doing it on a windy, cold day was a mistake, but we triumphed.  Then we staked down a tarp with holes in it so I toss my compost bits under it and away we went.  All winter long, I have been sticking my lemon peels, onion bits, etc under the tarp and I am praying for black, lovely soil. 

In a week, I am going to start some seedlings (to try to prevent the “what is a weed? And what is a plant” problem).  Then we begin the tilling process again.  Hopefully, In the coming weeks I will get wooden pallets to make a compost pen, a big vat for rain water, and chicken wire to keep the above ground animals out.  As for below ground, I have heard tiny windmills scare off moles.  Windmills and man wee (that’s my boyfriend’s job). 

So, for this blog, I will be keeping you posted on my progress.  Will the black thumb strike and the whole thing be a bust?  OR will I rise above my handicap and make incredible food from my garden’s bounty?  Join me on this journey, won’t you?  (Oh, and pray for growth, ok?)

Disclaimer: For educational use only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Educational programs are available through Heart of Herbs

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