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Frugal Families Simple Gardening

Spring brings new opportunities to get your family to try gardening.

Like many residents of Healdsburg, I have been recently bitten by the gardening bug.  Now that spring is upon us, I have been yearning to put some seeds in the ground and have my very first vegetable garden to keep us nourished through the summer and fall months. 

Not only does gardening claim to promote health and wellness, but it can also be affordable and easy to accomplish.  Your kids will love helping with the garden and may even become a little more excited about eating their vegetables, if they had something to do with the process.

Last month, iGrow Sonoma launched their website, which is a valuable resource for anyone with all ranges of experience in gardening.  The purpose of this site and the iGrow initiative is to get Sonoma citizens involved in gardening to propel better health as well as their communities. 

The website lists dozens of instructional documents on gardening as well as ongoing events and gardening classes.  Start here and get lost in possibilities and ideas for your garden.

Get started-

To get started with your very own simple, easy garden first consider your space.  If you are in an apartment or have very limited space, consider buying some planters to host your produce.  A popular planter in Healdsburg is the halved wine barrel, which can be found at area wineries.  also sells barrels for $16.99 per half and drills drainage holes in the bottom for free.  If you have a little bit of yard space, many gardeners recommend creating a raised garden bed using wooden planks or railroad ties to create a protected edge for your garden.  The raised bed creates a more even temperature, although it can be more succeptable to weeds or pests.

Get your hands dirty-

Once you have your area set up, find some affordable dirt.  If you don’t have any soil at your garden site, you can create a mix using manure found at area farms, compost, and dirt.  Many people say that Healdsburg soil has a high clay content which requires extra nutrients and mixing, but plants are still able to grow.  If you have additional questions about soil visit your local nursery or Mix Garden materials section, and you will have all the help you need with   The company also has , and sections.

Choose your veggies-

For a novice gardener, it’s best to start planting a simple variety of easy plants well-suited to this area.  Local residents and experienced gardeners, Jim and Sandie Mitchel have gardened in Healdsburg for the past 31 years.  They say that the easiest and most forgiving plants include zucchini, tomatoes, summer squash, and lemon cucumbers.  It’s important to choose vegetables that you like and are willing to eat for a while.  

On iGrow Sonoma’s website, there is a chart of tips for how and when to grow your plants and whether to start them from seeds or seedlings.  It also has advice on how to lay out your garden to prevent cross-pollination or over crowding. 

Put on the defense-

Once the plants are safely in the ground, you get to worry about defense.  We are so lucky to live in an area that has nature all around it, yet challenged with the variety of critters and predators, hungry for a nice big salad.  Fortunately, defense is said to be a live and learn technique, and as soon as you see what ails your plants, you can find ways to battle and keep your veggies healthy.  Kids might love to put their investigation skills to the test in finding out what critter is eating their plants.

Show some neighborly love- 

Once you have an ample supply of produce, share with your neighbors and especially with your community.  Farm to Pantry, founded by Melita Love, takes overstocked farms and gardens and shares the extras with people in need.  Farm to Pantry can be contacted for a pickup or found at Healdsburg’s weekly Farmers Market

If you have caught the gardening bug, you can continue on your quest by attending gardening classes through Healdsburg Parks & Recreation, volunteering at a community garden, or joining Healdsburg Garden Club

My little tomato, green bean and swiss chard seedlings are growing fast and I am constantly seeking gardening and growing advice from people who know what they are doing.   I am going to jump into gardening this season by starting small, but I am thrilled with all the encouragement that I have received about this age-old tradition. 

As Sandie Mitchel says, “The biggest thing is you need to do to garden is to just get started.  Start small and learn as you go.  It’s cool to see all the stuff that you planted grow!”  

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