Spring is the perfect season to start a new garden. It’s a fun and satisfying activity for the entire family, a great way to get some exercise, and you can even eat the results. Here are a few tips to get you going.
Survey Your Space
No place is too small for a garden; you can even grow food in containers. You also need to consider the conditions. Some plants prefer a mix of sun and shade, while others require several hours of sunlight. Examine your soil–if it contains a lot of clay you will want to open it up and neutralize the pH. Your local garden or home store employees will know what products are best for your particular conditions.
Work out your water source. For a small garden a watering can is fine, but if you are planting some serious acreage you will need a hose and ideally an underground drip line system (this is also a good way to keep slugs and snails out because they are attracted to the surface water).
Choose Your Plants
Spring is a good time to plant herbs, which are easy to grow anywhere. Strawberries and blueberries are delicious super foods that you can grow in your own back yard as well. Tomatoes should go in the ground now, but don’t expect to enjoy that harvest until late summer. Peas are a great garden addition─you can eat them right off the vine in late spring and early summer or throw them into a salad. Kids love planting and eating them, too.
If this is your first time gardening, you may want to buy young plants instead of seeds. If you choose seeds, germinate them in a wet paper towel, put the sprouted seeds in some potting soil in small containers (yogurt cups with a hole punched in the bottom for drainage or a cardboard egg box) and keep them in a sunny area indoors until you see sturdy little seedlings.
Collect Your Tools and Supplies
These include fertilizer, garden soil (unless you’re fortunate enough to have lush, loamy dirt already) a shovel, a few trowels, work gloves, pest repellant, and possibly some lumber if you’re building a fence or raised bed. Some communities offer free compost or garden mulch to residents—check your city’s website and go early to pick it up.
You can also keep away pests without toxic chemicals. Neem oil mixed with detergent is a safe and effective bug killer. Mix crushed eggshells into the soil around your plants to deter snails and slugs. Marigolds not only attract bees and butterflies to your plants but they keep away pests, too.
Break Some Ground
If you are planting in an untouched space, you are going to need a good supply of elbow grease to prepare the soil. Strong teenagers are great for this, but anyone can do it. Even toddlers can help pick rocks out or pull weeds. Take it in stages and start early. Water the soil before you start, or do your digging after light rain. Pull all weeds out completely. If you leave the roots or just plow the weeds under, they’ll come back to compete with your chosen plants, and they will most definitely win. When your soil is soft, crumbly, and free of debris, you can add in garden soil, fertilizer, or any soil conditioners. Dig, turn, and turn again. The hard work really does pay off later.
Plant a Seed (or a Seedling)
Here’s another activity in which all members of the family can join in. Small children do better with large seeds, such as the aforementioned peas, or nursery plants, which have their roots protected in a ball. Homegrown seedlings can be very delicate, so save those for older fingers. Dig a hole, put the plant or seed in, cover loosely, water daily as needed, and pull any weeds. Then watch them grow!
Gardening has a learning curve and sometimes a green thumb must be grown through experience, so don’t be discouraged if not everything bears fruit, or even comes up. Your next garden endeavor will be that much easier. Enjoy your harvest and your new garden expertise. You are now a pioneer.