Happy New Year! Are you making any resolutions this year? I am still pondering ways that I will make changes this year. One thing I do know is that I want to be outside as much as possible, preferably with my hands in the dirt.
Along the same lines, some of you may have decided that you want to start your own garden this year. You may want to grow flowers, vegetables, or herbs. My hope is that this blog post will serve as a foundation from which you can jump, ready to get started on your garden plans.
One of the first things you need to think about is where you will place your garden. Find a place that gets plenty of sun; that is well-draining; and that is near a water source, in case you need to water your plants. Don't have sun? Check out these plants that like to grow in the shade.
Consider what you want to grow
Are you going to be growing annuals (plants that will need to be replanted every year) or perennials (plants that will continue to grow year after year). Will you be growing cucumbers and squash that grow on vines and spread out or peppers that will grow in a more compact space? Also consider the quantity of plants you are wanting to grow and the dimensions of the space you have available. Do you want to plant 50 different dahlia varieties or grow a small herb garden? A small seed can yield a big plant, so consider your space limitations as you decide what to put in it.
Perennials: Pick a place with good sun and well-draining soil where you will be happy with the plant staying there for many years. Good and easy perennials to grow include rhubarb, asparagus, peonies, roses, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sage, thyme, and oregano.
Annuals: For annuals, I like to divide up a space where I can rotate my annuals to different parts of my farm each year. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, zinnias, sunflowers, squash, and basil are great annuals to start with. Make sure you have some structure to attach tomatoes, peas, cucumber vines, and squash vines to. This could be a string they climb up or a teepee made out of bamboo.
Prepare your soil
Begin to prepare your soil as soon as you are able. If you have snow where you live, it may be awhile before you have access to bare ground. If you do not have snow, you will prepare your soil by laying cardboard down over the area where you want to begin your garden. Take all those cardboard boxes you got over the last few weeks, break them apart, and lay them down in a single layer over the ground, completely covering your designated area. If you live in a very dry area, wet the boxes with water from your nearby hose. If you get plenty of rain or snow, you can skip that step. Dump compost over the cardboard in a 3-5" layer to hold it in place. Over the next few months, worms will begin to move through the cardboard and into the compost, mixing it all together and breaking down the cardboard. By the time you are able to plant, the soil should be ready to receive your flowers and vegetables.
If the only sunny spot you have is on your deck, plant in containers! A container garden is a lovely way to grow herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Choose containers with a hole in the bottom so that water can drain through and fill with soil specific to pots and containers.
Start your seeds or buy your plants
The fun part! Will you be starting your veggies, flowers, and herbs from seed or will you be buying them as small plants? I encourage you to try to start many of your plants from seeds, if possible. However, if you can't start them from seed, try to find a local farm that is selling plants. Check out your local online message boards for listings.
Many plants can be direct-seeded by planting the seeds directly into the soil. This includes squash, basil, sunflowers, zinnias, peas, and many more. Make sure to read the back of the seed packet with information on when and how to plant the seeds. Check out this post with ideas of where to order seeds and supplies.
If you are looking for potted plants for flowers, fruit, or vegetables, look for healthy leaves and a strong root system.
If you are starting seeds indoors, you will need to have grow lights set up so that your seedlings receive light as soon as they sprout from their seeds. Starting tomatoes indoors is much more reliable and gives them a head start growing in order to maximize fruit production during the summer.
Once your seeds or baby plants are planted, make sure they get regular water. This could be rainfall, a watering can, or your hose. Watering your plants regularly will help them get established and off to a strong start.
Be on the lookout for more details about starting and planting seeds over the next few weeks. We want to make sure you all begin your year with all the information you need to get your hands in the soil and start your own garden! Cheers to a new year full of new possibilities!