What I Wish I Knew As A Beginner Gardener

Yasir Allah, Aja Yasir's husband, sits in front of their house and climate victory garden in Gary, Indiana. Photo by Aja Yasir.
Yasir Allah, Aja Yasir's husband, sits in front of their house and climate victory garden in Gary, Indiana. Photo by Aja Yasir.

Starting a garden can seem like a daunting prospect, but like anything, you start with just one step. We asked Climate Victory Gardeners to share what they wish they knew when they started to inspire your journey—their answers are surprisingly simple.

On Taking Care of Soil:

“It’s all about the soil, not just the soil, but the life in the soil. So we’re always cultivating the life in the soil because there’s an ecosystem below ground that supports the ecosystem above ground.”    —Nicky Schauder, Permaculture Gardens {GBN} 

"I wish I had known that keeping the soil covered with dead stuff, especially tree leaves or grass clippings, would feed the earthworms who would drag the material underground to feed the myriad other soil creatures: mites, bacteria, fungi, and more. My organic layer was only four inches deep when I started. Now, 28 years later, it’s more than a foot deep!"    —Ah-li Monahan, Climate Victory Gardener 

"I wish I would have known that the whole city was built on sand. The city of Gary is built on the sand. I wish I would have known what I was dealing with before."    —Aja Yasir, Climate Victory Gardener

"I wish I had understood just how important good soil is! For the last two years, 80 percent of my garden budget is being spent on compost, soil conditioner, beneficial nematodes, etc. It’s making ALL the difference!"    —Holly Chesley Annibale, Climate Victory Gardener

On Listening to Nature:

“I started gardening a while back, so I only learned about the need to preserve heirloom vegetables and plant native plants over the years. It would have saved me from false starts if I had known that at the beginning.”         —Chuck Quigley, Climate Victory Gardener 

"I wish I’d known how important it is to track the sun in your garden spot at different times of the year, not just in the day one plants the garden. Also, gauge how the trees grow around your garden area. I had a perfect spot for my greenhouse. Five years later, it’s in the shadow of my neighbors’ growing trees."         —Kim Kuncl Arellano, Climate Victory Gardener

"I wish I would have taken the personal limitation of [having or not having] a green thumb out of the equation. Food is incredibly easy to grow. And you just have to be patient. The seeds knows what it needs to do without us who over-complicate things."        —Jessika Greendeer, Little Sky’s Farm

On Letting Go of Stress:

“I wish I knew how therapeutic it was. It was surprisingly relieving to be able to work outside and look up at the sun and down at the green grass or the green vegetables that are growing and to touch dirt. It was really good for me mental health-wise.”        —Antoinette Lewis, Lewis Farms 

“Have faith in the process. Just plant the seed, give it some water and sun, and watch it grow and see what happens. And then correct yourself the next year.”                —Linda Black Elk, ethnobotanist

From Green American Magazine Issue