Two Pieces of Advice for Gardeners (but Especially Those in the Southwest!)


Once you’ve tried a home-grown carrot, you’ll never want to go back to store-bought.Jacqueline Soule, author of Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening, gives you a sort of call-to-arms for the garden.

1. Give Yourself Permission To Get It Wrong

Some of my first memories are of “helping” in the gardens of my grandparents from both sides. My first scientific experiment was encouraged by my father who taught me about control groups (“Let’s put cow patties on only half of the plants, honey”) and I have been learning about gardening ever since. A garden buddy who is now 92 years old claims that he too learns new things from his garden each year. This is to encourage you. Gardening is both an art and a science, and Mother Nature keeps changing the playing field with variables such as late frosts and fierce windstorms. I have learned that plants die, and you may never know why, but you need to just keep on experimenting and trying. Did you forget to get your onions in in January in the Middle Desert? Experiment. Try planting them in February. You may have less of a crop, but you should get something.

2. Gardening Is Part Of Nature, Not A Sterile Environment
You are going to get dirty and your food is going to have dirt on it and have some damage from garden pests. A few holes in the leaves or spots on the fruit do not render food inedible and does not mean you need to get out the toxic chemicals and spray for pests. Your garden (especially in our arid environment) will not look like those lovely photo-shopped magazine covers. Real life is not a Hollywood runway, or a supermarket produce aisle. There are many actors that don’t make the red carpet and tons and tons of produce that is fed to livestock. When it comes to food you grow, if it tastes good and is healthy for you and your family, a few blemishes do not matter.

My all-time hero is Ms. Frizzle, from the Magic Schoolbus. In her immortal words, “Get messy, take chances, make mistakes!” I think Ms. Frizzle had to be a gardener in her off-duty hours. Now go forth and garden!