Growing a vegetable garden from seed is difficult — much more challenging than I expected.

This year I decided to grow a vegetable garden from scratch — starting with seed packets and potting soil.  I’ve never had my own vegetable garden. But I have some limited gardening experience from watching and helping my parents and grandmothers in their gardens.

Two months ago, I went to the local hardware store and loaded up on more than a dozen packets that promised a bountiful garden with pictures of red ripe cherry tomatoes on strong fuzzy vines, bulging beefeater tomatoes nearly touching the ground, big green garden pea pods, yellow-veined chard, slender Asian cucumbers and shiny green bell peppers, plus a few varieties of flowers.  My purchase also included potting soil, starter seed containers, fertilizer and various shiny tools.

With permission from the landlord to use a plot of land in the backyard, I started growing seedlings indoors. I figured I could get to digging the garden later because it would be a breeze, right? Wrong. But more on that later.

My first set of seedlings  was an utter failure. I did all of the things a rookie grower would do.

I over watered the plants which caused them to get moldy and drown. I didn’t make sure that the seedlings stayed warm all of the time or had consistent sunlight. Sometimes I even forgot to water the plants.

It probably didn’t help that I live in a basement apartment with limited sunlight.

So I scrapped the first batch (there was nothing really to toss out but soil because all of the plants shriveled up and died) and tried again. But this time I was aided with a sunlamp and an indoor grow lightbulb.

The plants did much better in my second attempt. The cucumbers grew strong and became viny, the tomato plants sprouted leaves that had that wonderful earthy ripe tomato smell when you pinch them. And my green pepper plants produced shiny waxy leaves.

But my busy schedule, time away from home and random cold weather kept me from tilling the backyard soil.

When I did finally put my shovel in the ground (or at least tried to), I found the earth was packed tight thanks to years of people walking on it combined with a thick network of grass and roots from nearby bushes. I had to jump on the shovel to get it in the ground each time.

Forty-five minutes later, covered in red dots of mosquito bites; with dark brown and grey smudges of dirt on my clothes, hands and face; I had only created a garden plot the size of a truck tire — if tires were square. In other words, it was tiny. *sigh*

But I persisted and mixed the slightly sandy soil with organic fertilizer and placed my little green metal garden fence around the border. The plot sat untouched for nearly a month.

Then my wonderful mother came to the rescue. Last night she helped me reshape the soil and plant the remaining seedlings (only a few tomato and bell pepper plants remained alive by then), plus a wonderful LARGE tomato plant she bought at the store.  It will probably be the only thing that survives.

Now all I have to do is water the plants consistently, keep bugs and other pests away as much as I can, and keep my fingers crossed that I will get to sample at least one vegetable from all of the work I put in this year.

Hopefully, it will be uphill from here.