Adriana M. Chávez
LAS CRUCES – Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have been interested in starting their own vegetable garden, and sometimes they have realized that it is not as easy as it seems.
Fortunately, there is the Seed to Supper online program, offered by Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition (ICAN), which operates within the Cooperative Expansion Service of the State University of New Mexico and is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Seed to Supper program was introduced in 2019 in three counties in New Mexico to provide a comprehensive guide for adults to start gardening with vegetables.
The program, which includes both personal and online components, was immediately successful and announced in early 2020 that it intends to expand to four more counties. However, the epidemic has generated greater demand for online courses across the country.
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Seed to Supper now offers a new spring online course that guides attendees from garden design to harvest. Participants can enroll in a weekly course or take a self-paced course.
“There’s definitely an interest in gardening, but I don’t know if our program is better known today, or because people are still thinking about what happened last year and still want to grow their own food,” Sally said. Cassady, ICAN food systems specialist.
Cassady said that since the online version of the program launched in February 2020, more than 200 people have completed the course. This year, 558 people signed up for the program. So far, there has been positive feedback on the online courses.
“I think people really appreciate being able to connect with others online,” Cassady said. “I’m trying to focus on where people are coming from so they can potentially build a network in their community to exchange seed, harvest or supplies.”
Cassady said the Seed to Supper program also has a private Facebook group for attendees where they can share photos of their garden and offer objects to others in their area.
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“Someone ordered a mulch en masse and asked if others wanted to split it up, so it’s good to see people sharing it with each other,” he said.
While many new gardeners dream of creating lush garden beds full of different vegetables, Cassady says it takes a lot of trial and error to succeed.
“I started building a container garden in 2012 and didn’t grow anything successfully until 2017,” Cassady said. “Hopefully, with the resources we offer, it won’t take five years to succeed.”
Cassady said people make a common mistake when trying to create container gardens by using normal garden soil instead of potting soil. Another mistake he sees is that people are not fertilizing their container garden enough.
“The soil in the garden isn’t broken down enough to retain moisture well, and nutrients are hard to come by in containers,” Cassady said. “I suggest you start really small. Grow something in a small pot, get creative and start doing things around the house. ”
Cassady also recommends starting to grow lettuce, an easy-to-grow vegetable for beginners. Even novice gardeners should take the time to research their potential new hobby.
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“We encourage people to look for resources to learn gardening because it takes a while to understand what ingredients plants need,” Cassady said. “It’s going to be a problem at first, and that’s okay. It’s a learning experience and you’ll know better next time.
For more information on starting a vegetable garden, visit https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_circulars/CR457/welcome.html. For more information about the Seed to Supper program or to register for the free nationwide course, visit https://ican.nmsu.edu/seedtosupper.html.
Adriana M. Chávez writes for the Department of Marketing and Communications at New Mexico State University and is available at 575-646-1957 or firstname.lastname@example.org.