contributed by Carly from Team RESTORE

Growing your own produce is a great way to get free, organic, and nutrient-rich food, but the benefits go far beyond the actual yield. The work you put into your garden is a great way to diversify your microbiome, which yields health benefits beyond count! In fact, one could say that the rewards of gardening are more densely packed in the journey, not the destination. However, managing a fruitful garden is a lot of work. Here are a few simple planning tips to help you get the most out of your gardening journey. 

Don’t Overdo It 

It can be so easy to go overboard with plants when spring hits. The air is invigorating and the prospect of getting outside and starting your garden can be really exciting after months of hibernating. But don’t get ahead of yourself. You need a game plan, and there is a lot involved: pots vs ground, location, types of fertilizer. But we can’t dig into all of that here (pun intended), so we’ll stick to the basics. 

For instance, are you are going to start from seed or buy a transplant? If the latter, it’s ideal to use a local nursery. They often have more experience and knowledge than the large chains, as well as carry the best plants to use for your geographic location. And also, because LOCAL.

If you are starting from seed, use organic seeds. Not only will they thrive better in your organic soil, but you are helping to promote regenerative farming practices. By buying organic seed, just as you buy organic produce, you are ensuring that the people who practice organic farming are supported. 

LEARN MORE: Each purchase of RESTORE helps support regenerative agriculture through Farmer’s Footprint

Once you’ve decided on seed or plant, you can decide how much time you realistically have to devote to your garden. Really think about it. Do you have a lot of commitments throughout your week? Are you going to be able to keep to watering schedules? If you go out of town a lot, do you know someone who can help you with maintaining your garden? These are important questions you want to ask yourself before you start a garden that you can’t keep up with.  

Pick the Right Plants for You

Try to stick to plants that make sense for your garden soil, its sun exposure, and even your recipe tastes. Have a lot of shade? Look into cilantro and parsley. Cook a lot of Italian? Load up on basil and tomatoes. I know it’s easy to find a use for almost any herb, but will you? 

Go with plants that you really enjoy and that will work well in your environment. You will end up devoting more time and attention to keeping them alive and well. Which is important. When I see plants in my garden withering away, I feel bad, and I shouldn’t. Gardening should be enjoyable.  

In fact, studies have shown that gardening can be really beneficial for your overall health, helping to relieve stress, reduce risk of heart attack and stroke, and even alleviate things like psoriasis and allergies. These benefits may be counteracted if you are stressing out over flora failure. If you are going to garden, make sure you are setting yourself up for success so that you can get the most out of it. 

Research, Research, Research

Okay, this one should be obvious in the Information Age. Why wouldn’t you research first? Well, because the instructions are right on the side of the plant or the back of the seed packet: sun, water, spacing, done. Nope, not done. It’s easy to overlook a lot of things that may not necessarily be crammed into the care instructions. 

For instance, I grew a tomatillo plant for the first time last year. I have grown my own tomatoes for years; tomatillos must be just as easy, right? Wrong. Apparently, tomatillos are not so great at self-pollinating. It’s a better idea to get two plants so that they can cross-pollinate. Whoops. Flashforward to September and I got the biggest tomatillo plant you can imagine and exactly one tomatillo. Lesson learned. Research before; reap the rewards later. 

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

I cannot emphasize enough how much stress it causes me when I manage to kill a plant. I feel so defeated, it can truly ruin my whole day. Again, this is counterproductive. And completely unnecessary. Because, in the end, nature corrects and always has ways to use that organic material; you can harvest the seeds for next year and/or chop up the plant and throw it in the compost. 

Either way, don’t sulk, don’t cry, don’t yell at the plant (okay, maybe that last one is just me). Breath, relax, let the gardening journey do its work on your microbiome, and know that any plant losses are not failures. Besides, you can always try again next year!