Far too many gardens fail—not because of the gardener’s thumb color but because they were doomed from the start. Beginning gardeners need help choosing the best location for their plots and plenty of practice.

Nathan Ballentine, known as the Man in Overalls, spoke at the Horticulture Corner program on November 5.

“Growing your groceries is like washing the dishes,” Ballentine said. “You need a sink, soap, sponges, running water, and practice to wash your dishes. With the right tools, guidance, and practice, washing dishes is a no-brainer. The same is true for growing your groceries.”

Photos by Brandi Hill

Ballentine gave advice about choosing the right location for a vegetable garden that includes these essentials:

  • The right amount of sunlight: At least four to five hours. He provided some handy tips for measuring the amount of sun that will hit your garden.
  • Easy access to water: The farther away your water source is, the more likely your garden is to fail. “If watering your garden requires lugging a hose across the yard, you’re simply not going to do it as often as necessary.”
  • Convenience and visibility: This will make it easy for you to maintain, observe, and plan for meal preparation. “The real question,” he asked, “is can you harvest in your socks?”

He said it’s amazing how much you can grow in just one square foot. Look at his handout for how much space different vegetables require.

Ballentine also reviewed the growing seasons in Northeast Florida—cool (September through February), warm (March to mid-April), and hot (May through July)—and which plants are in season for each.

“People joke that our winter is July and August,” he said. “However, the truth is we can plant seasonal crops and harvest produce every season of the year.”

His infant son, also dressed in overalls, also provided plenty of entertainment for the audience.

Check out Ballentine’s blog for more tips, and look for the Man in Overalls at future Garden Club events.