I remember when I first thought about starting a garden last spring. Since we wanted to be eating more produce, I figured it’d make sense (and cents!) to grow some ourselves. My mom had vegetable gardens for most of my childhood, so at least I had some experience with greenifying my thumb. After doing a little research, I decided that I wanted to try the Square Foot Gardening (SFG) method. The basic ideas of SFG are 1) use less space 2) plant in a grid of squares (as opposed to rows) 3) use weed guard fabric to reduce/eliminate weeds and 4) use a particular mix to encourage good growth.
I was excited to get started, but there was the problem of the start-up costs. We debated whether we could afford to buy lumber to build the boxes (part of the method), the different parts of the mix, any tools we might need, and, of course, the seeds and/or plants themselves. I crunched some numbers and, let me tell you, the numbers weren’t looking good. I was discouraged…maybe we couldn’t do this whole gardening thing after all.
And then something amazing happened. I ran into our landlord outside our house one day (he owns a few houses and properties in the area and lives nearby) and expressed to him my interest in gardening in the lot next to our house (which he also owns). He agreed that this was a great idea, gave permission, and also told me about Keep Growing Detroit and their Garden Resource Program (GRP). For $10 a year, we would receive up to 26 seed packets of ‘easy to sow’ varieties, about 2.5 flats of transplants, an informative newsletter, and be able to attend various gardening classes in the community for an amazing discount (typically free – $5). You know that expression ‘to be good to be true’? This was too good but wound up being totally true.
The icing on the cake was that he also happened to have four wooden squares exactly like I wanted already built and not in use (I don’t know why…now I’m curious and will have to ask, lol). The chocolate shavings on top of the icing was that he told me I could use any of his tools that were around that I might need. And let me just say that our landlord is a serious collector of items…especially tools.
Long gardening story short, I had my first garden last summer and it was a huge source of joy (and veggies!). All we ended up having to buy were the materials for the mix and a few trellises. I tell you this story for two reasons. One, I’m super excited to start gardening again oh so soon! Two, if you are uncertain if you can afford to accomplish something you want to do, I suggest trying to get creative with your resources. For those of you who cannot find a landlord who collects exactly what you need and likes to bestow magical gifts, here are a few other ideas:
- Talk to people. Maybe a nearby friend or neighbor has tools you can use, extra seeds, etc. Maybe someone who lives close has also been thinking of starting a garden but is concerned about the costs, and the two of you can share a garden (and the costs) with one another! The worst thing that could happen is that you get nothing (with, I’m assuming, is what you’re starting with); the best possibilities include making new friends and tapping into resources you didn’t even know existed.
- Search the internet. Perhaps this is an obvious statement to fellow blog writers and readers, but I still think it is important. The resources we need often exist and are within reach – we just don’t realize they are there! I never would have guessed that there was a program in place to help people garden, but there is. Maybe your community has something in place to help you, too.
- Do not give up prematurely. When something seems too difficult at first glance, it can be so tempting to just let it go before you really give it a good try. If I had accepted defeat after my number crunching time and had never mentioned my hope to my landlord, my garden may never have come into existence. Allowing ourselves to hope opens up the doors to possibilities we never could have imagined.
How have some of your discouraging moments turned into something beautiful?