Perfect time of year to start a gardening blog, right? It’s frigid and gray outside, the ground is frozen, everything is still going to be dead for like another two months, the landscape is a solid mass of brown. Solid planning on my part.
And yet. The Itch is stronger for me in January and February than almost any other time of the year. I can’t actually get out and do anything, so I just plan, obsessively, researching new varieties and scheming ways to fit just one more veggie into my boxes.
I’m Kate, an illustrator/graphic designer, and you might have read some of my plant ramblings on the blog at my portfolio site. These days, I have so much to ramble about, I decided to start a whole separate blog devoted to growing stuff. As a desk denizen by day, I spend a lot of time squinting at a screen, and few things make me happier than going home and digging in the dirt afterward. I’ve been gardening since I was little—look, I grew this pumpkin when I was 12 (please enjoy the exceedingly glamorous ‘90s fashion):
I took a few years off in my teens and college days, when I was first too cool (i.e. not cool at all) and then too busy to worry about plants. In my first post-college apartment, I had the thought one day “what if I grew some tomatoes or something on the back patio?” and like all other endeavors in my life, immediately threw myself into it way over my head. Unlike most other endeavors in my life, I actually stuck with this one. I found that gardening didn’t come naturally to me; I didn’t have a “green thumb.” I had to do a lot of reading, a lot of research, a lot of trial and error, a lot of talking to seasoned retirees on the Internet. It was kinda hard, and I loved it.
Fast forward about 8 years from that little horticultural renaissance of mine, and I’m now an intern with the Iowa Master Gardener program (meaning I’ve completed all my coursework and passed my exam, but still need to finish 40-ish volunteer hours to be a full Master). I’ve bought countless books, transplanted myself (and my plants!) from Missouri to Iowa, taught a handful of workshops on how to grow veggies and build planting boxes, and bought somewhere in the vicinity of 50,000 seeds. I grow food and flowers in my backyard in the heart of Des Moines, sharing it with my collection of critters: one dog, one cat, one husband. After almost three years in this house, I’m determined to start whipping the gardens into shape (instead of ignoring everything but the veggie patch, like I usually do). And I thought you might like to come along for the ride.
In my next post I’ll give you a little tour of my outdoor space, its problem areas, and the plans I have for its future. Since it’s the dead of winter, I’m basically showing you the absolute worst my yard looks—a great first impression! But if I learned anything from repeated viewings of She’s All That in my middle school years, it’s that everyone loves a dramatic makeover. So I’m really doing you a favor by showing you all this ugliness up front.
P.S. Why DON’T SAY DIRT? During my time talking to more seasoned gardeners, and taking classes in the Master Gardener program, two things have become clear to me. First, plants are a lifelong addiction; and second, it really, really makes gardeners mad when you say “dirt” instead of “soil.” Soil is good brown stuff that plants can grow in. Dirt is the crap you track in the house and get stuck under your fingernails. Much like the difference between a plant and a weed, the difference between soil and dirt is, evidently, whether it’s wanted. I named my blog this not just as a reminder to use the right terminology (and avoid the wrath of the more experienced gardeners), but as a reminder that accidents can be happy, mistakes are just learning experiences, and sometimes the difference between a problem and a prize is just a little change in vocabulary.