How to Have a Thriving Garden on Beginner’s Dumb Luck

I am about to reveal another secret about myself (besides the fact that I am a klutz).  I used to have a black thumb.  I couldn’t keep any plants alive.  But ever since we moved to this house on the lake, I figured out how to have a thriving garden on beginner’s dumb luck.

I was known as the plant killer to family and friends.  Someone once gave me a cactus, thinking that was hard to kill.  This is true, if you don’t leave the cactus on an open window sill when there is an overnight frost.  I woke up to a frozen cactus.  Cacti do not like to be frozen.

When we moved here, Jim and I were determined to grow a vegetable garden, despite our past failings (he too had a black thumb).  We wanted to grow and eat our own organic produce.  What’s better than walking into your backyard and picking a juicy sweet cherry tomato and popping it in your mouth?

So we headed to a local nursery, told them we had no idea what we were doing, and came home with a bunch of stuff and vegetables.  Turns out all you have to do is prepare the soil, dig a hole and put the plant in.  I’m sure a real gardener has a better technique but this was what we did.

And to our surprise, the garden started growing.  And growing.  And growing.  I didn’t know you were supposed to stake the tomatoes, so last year (our first year), we ended up with a tomato jungle.

The vegetable garden became my project.  I grew some weirdly shaped zucchini and some ginormous heirloom tomatoes, Brandywine.

I grew giant cucumbers as long as Lokie.

And Pinot.

I grew beautiful lettuces, arugula and kale.  I don’t have a picture of them because I woke up one morning and something had eaten them all.  I suspect a rabbit.  Pinot suspects a squirrel.

This is not the rabbit that ate my lettuce.  This is a stone rabbit that my dad placed in the garden and scared the crap out of me when I found it staring up at me one day.

I grew tasty red, yellow and green peppers.  Lokie found one.

I grew beautiful herbs.  I potted the basil, parsley, rosemary and thyme from last year and brought them inside.  I was told they would probably die but lo and behold, they all survived the winter and I replanted them outside this summer.

My dad planted Japanese pumpkins and I took care of them.  Aren’t they cute?

Dachshunds are great gardeners too.  Pinot likes to dig holes for me.  Problem is, she digs them in places I don’t need holes.

Lokie guards my peppers and red chili peppers.

She is on the lookout for rabbits, but likes to take breaks and sniff the peppers.  Glad she didn’t try to eat the hot peppers, otherwise I would have one hot dog on hand.

Sorry, bad joke.

Pinot likes to patrol in the squash and keep an eye on the scallions.  See the cucumber growing in the back?

Lokie checks the strawberries for me and lets me know when they are ripe.

Hmm …  did she just eat one?

Both Pinot and Lokie like to inspect the heirloom tomatoes for me once I pick them.

Lokie just took a selfie.

Pinot tried too.

So what’s my secret?  I have no idea.  I know I do more things wrong than right, and yet everything is thriving.  I chalk it up to great sun (the garden faces south so we get sun all day long), great soil and pure beginner’s dumb luck.

Oh, and I talk to the plants and I stroke their leaves and the vegetables as they are growing.  Yes, I do.

Whatever it is, I am enjoying the garden very much.  I don’t need to be an expert.  I like that I am learning as I go, and I enjoy the mistakes that happen.  The fact that I have a thriving garden on beginner’s dumb luck is just a bonus.  It seems this black thumb is turning into a green thumb.  Or maybe it really is all beginner’s luck.  Stay tuned.


  1. Donna on August 21, 2014 at 11:17 am

    You are in tune with your garden (and so are Pinot and Lokie!), and it’s good you talk your plants. Great story, thanks

    • pinotbylyn on August 21, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      I’m glad you think it is good that I talk to my plants and not crazy 😉 I caught myself talking out loud to them and then looked around to see if anyone heard. And yes, Pinot and Lokie are in tune with the garden too!

  2. Liz on August 21, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Your thumb has certainly evolved from being black to brown to green. Don’t worry there are so many of us out here who have even more black thumbs than your previously had. You have inspired me…maybe one day I’ll follow suit!

    • pinotbylyn on August 24, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      I hope you do – I love being able to grow things and not kill them 🙂

  3. Elaine on August 24, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Since living in our house – we have grown exactly one tomato! But this post gives me hope, maybe I will try again – 🙂

    • pinotbylyn on August 24, 2014 at 8:28 pm

      Lol Elaine! If I can do it, you can too!

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