Along my gardening journey, I have heard the felonious fable of a “green thumb” countless times. I can honestly say that every time anyone told me they didn’t have one, I had to agree. Their thumb really wasn’t green. I have seen a few different colored thumbs, but never a green one.
Usually when someone has failed at growing something, many times not having a green thumb is used for the reason. Well for the record, let me just say that the color of our thumbs is not a requirement for growing plants.
What “is” required, is that we provide what the plant needs to make it grow and produce. If the seed is good, it will do exactly what it was designed to do. If it has the basic requirements to sprout into a full-fledged plant, it will grow roots, stems and leaves, and it will produce buds, flowers, fruits, nuts, veggies and seed – whatever the species is meant to produce. Simple as that.
So that puts the pressure on us as growers to make it all happen, regardless of the color of our thumbs. Now that we know the truth about not having a green thumb, we can be confident and free to start growing.
The first ingredient needed to grow plants, is education. All seeds need the same common elements to germinate and sprout, i.e. correct temperature and moisture. After that, they need water, light and a growing medium to develop into a plant. I personally prefer growing in organic soil but there are a number of other options. For example, hydroponics and aquaponics do not require soil.
Knowing what a particular species of plant needs to be productive is part of the education. Some plants like more water and light than others. Too much or too little and game over. The same goes with each plant species’ nutrition requirements. Take for instance, legumes. Legumes are nitrogen “fixers”. They work in conjunction with certain bacteria to pull nitrogen from the atmosphere and inject it into the soil. Legumes are excellent cover crops for building healthy soil. However, they do not need additional nitrogen fertilizer added to them. Leafy greens on the other hand need added nitrogen, typically ammonia nitrate, to give them a rich healthy green color. Blood meal and fish emulsion are excellent sources of organic nitrogen fertilizer.
The Native Americans planted corn, beans and squash in the same hill to compliment one another’s growth. The beans, being legumes fixed nitrogen in the soil for the corn and squash. The corn provided a stalk for the beans to run on, and the large leaves of the squash shaded the ground to preserve moisture. This combination was called the Three Sisters. Today, companion planting is used to increase yields, deter insects and pests, promote the growth of good bacteria and build healthy soil.
There is a myriad of excellent books for every growing method under the sun, from beginner to expert. Don’t let a brown thumb prevent you from learning to grow some of your own food. Even if you only want to try one variety of an edible vegetable, pick one you like to eat and get started in a small manageable space, maybe even a container on your patio.
Experience is the best teacher and practice makes perfect. As you continue, you will gain valuable knowledge that lasts a lifetime and you’ll become more self-reliant along the way. Plus, you get to eat the fruits of your labor – fresh healthy food that you have personally grown.