Millennial Gardener Feature Month 2020 – Tara

Another glorious Tuesday, another fabulous feature! This radiant soul not only cultivated a thriving kitchen garden but she repurposed an old fence to build her own beautiful raised bed. Tara’s can-do attitude set her up for a successful first year of gardening here in the Mid-Atlantic; let’s see what she has growing!

Name: Tara Jensen

State: Maryland

Grow Zone: 7a

Gardening style (container, raised bed, tilled plot, etc.): I have a raised bed in the backyard and a tilled plot in our neighborhood’s community’s garden. I’m having success in both areas, but I prefer the raised garden bed.

How long have you been gardening: This is my first season gardening. I was inspired to give gardening a shot by the great gardening master, Megan Rice. I am hooked and have big goals for years to come.

Why do you garden: I garden for many reasons. First, to supplement our food, I grow what we eat. Secondly, because I built an amazing garden bed and would’ve looked really silly not growing anything in it. And ultimately to build skills to become more self-sustaining.

Do you typically garden alone or with friends/family/pets: Mostly, I keep up with the daily maintenance myself but my husband and daughter have come to help with the very exciting times of planting and building plot fences. Working alongside them invigorates me more and ultimately them too. Happy and enthusiastic gardeners encourage and invigorate novices… so I guess I should give a shout to Megan for invigorating me! Thank you, Megan.

Biggest success of 2020 season: The biggest success I have had in 2020 was going from couch to harvest during COVID. In 2020, I built a 6’x3’ 3 foot raised bed and have harvested green beans, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, spaghetti squash, and butterleaf lettuce. Beginner’s luck, I guess you could say  because every blind squirrel gets a nut. Ask me next year and we’ll hope I have the same success!

Most unfortunate failure of 2020 season: I had so much success in my backyard raised bed that I was forced to transplant mature plants into the newly acquired tilled community plot. Some were successful and are appreciative for the space to sprawl. Unfortunately, some were not as excited to move from their cozy, rich-soiled bed. Lesson learned…. Timing is everything and I’ll have to perfect the transplant timing for each plant.

What is your most used gardening tool: Hands down a trowel. It makes small, calculated maneuvers in the tight raised bed spaces without disturbing the neighboring plants. I value this because I have first-hand seen the unfortunate consequences of disturbing a mature and rooted plant. I keep it close by as you can see in my pictures.

Favorite plant that you’ve ever grown: Thus far, Spaghetti squash, mostly because I played fertility doctor and hand pollinated the squash flower with much success. We have had an intimate relationship and developed a bond that I don’t have with the other self-pollinating plants. Plus, their flower petals are great on salads!

What are you most looking forward to growing in the future: With the success I had this year, I am looking to expand the garden to include growing multiple types of lettuce, peppers, and strawberries.

One last piece of advice for our readers: Ask questions before you start. Plan your plot with friendly plants and use the space wisely. Don’t overcrowd when they are seedlings because they are small and cute… give them space to flourish and meet their maximum potential! 😉

Are we taking bets on how many new raised beds Tara builds next spring?? She shared some valuable lessons here; crowding is something that gardeners of all experience levels struggle with, but it can make a critical difference in the productivity of your plants so it’s worth the effort to improve a little each year. Many thanks to Tara for sharing her journey and photos of that stellar raised bed! If you have any questions for Tara or me, feel free to comment below. Cheers, friends!

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