Spring is right around the corner, and, although we are currently battling through the harsh winter weather, now is the time to start planning for spring! If this is your first year gardening, there are a ton of factors to consider, from what grows best in your area, to when you should start planting. Here are just a few tips to help you get started!
Find Out What Zone You’re In
Depending on where you live, determines your zone. For instance, I’m in Zone 5. I’m located in Colorado and have a very short growing season. I can’t plant anything into the ground until after Mother’s Day. For some reason, every Mother’s Day we get snow, or hail or frost. After that, we can start planting. Because of this, I have a start some seeds inside so that they come to maturity before the first frost, in October. Check out this guide to zones and figure out what zone you’re in based off this guide. This will also tell you how long your growing season is and what plants grow well in it.
Decide What Kind of Planting You Want to Do
Ok, this is kind of a broad statement, but what I mean is, are you planning on doing the no till method of planting? Maybe you want to do raised garden beds. There are also container gardens, or even planting right into the ground. Think about how much sun or shade you have in those areas. Is the area windy? Try to keep in mind things like: container garden plants cannot have deep roots, carrots need soft soil in order for their roots to grow large and deep, cabbage does well in colder shaded areas and tomatoes thrive in lots of sunlight.
- Here is a great guide to container planting: Container Gardening with Vegetables
- If you’re looking into raised garden beds, I’d suggest this post: The Ultimate Guide to Raised Garden Beds
- Gardening in the shade can be difficult, here’s a post to help you out here: Vegetables and Herbs for Growing in the Shade
- Want to know more about no till gardening? Look into it here: 3 No Till Gardening Methods
Start Picking Out Your Seeds
This is the best part! I absolutely love picking out seeds for my garden. It’s best to consider where you’re planting and what kind of veggies you like. Also consider: how long it takes to grow to maturity, if you’re willing to start seeds indoors, what area you’re planting in, and what zone you’re planting. Take into consideration from where you would like to get your seeds. There are usually local seed companies, and that’s a good place to start because they will have seeds specific to your zone. Ordering heirloom seeds is also a great option. I ordered my seeds this year from Baker Creek. I cannot wait for them to arrive.
Your Soil Tested
Plants can be finicky. If you’re looking for your plants to thrive, it’s best to make sure they are planted into the absolute best environment possible. For instance, if you’re interested in planting blueberries, it’s important to note that blueberries love acidic soil. If the soil isn’t acidic, they won’t thrive. Therefore, testing the soil and adding whatever nutrients needed will give you the best fruits and vegetables possible.
Consider Companion Planting
Companion planting is awesome. It allows you to plant two or three plants together that help support one another. For example, if you plant marigolds near your garden, they can help repel nematodes, beetles and some animal pests.
A quick suggestion, make a list of all the plants you’re interested in growing in your garden. Then, check out this blog post, and see what companion plant would help you selected vegetable thrive! Many companion plants improve soil for your selected plants, repel pests and provide shade! It also provides a ton of diversity for your garden!
Start Seeds Indoors
I live in zone 5 which equates to a short, dry, cold growing season. Most of the vegetables I have grown in the past have done best already started. These include zucchini, tomatoes, herbs and cucumbers. I have tried planting them from seed when the weather warms, but there is just not enough time for them to come to maturity before the first frost comes around. In fact, last year I planted watermelons. We planted them the first week of June, right into the ground. By October, we had four watermelons, about halfway to maturity. But, alas, the frost came and killed off my beautiful watermelon vines. The kids were devastated. I now know that this year I’ll be planting them inside, a month earlier, and transplanting them into garden beds.
Here are a couple links to great products to start your seeds indoors:
One tidbit to remember is that not all seeds can be started indoors and transplanted outdoors. Carrots do much better planted directly into the soil, lettuce and cabbage also seems to do better planted directly into the soil. Most plant packets will have general instructions. Make sure to look up online the best seed starting strategy for each plant you choose!
There is so much more to gardening, this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Most of what happens in gardening is trial and error. Soil changes from region to region, zones are general guidelines but not necessarily going to tell you everything about what you should plant and when. Make sure to look at the seed packets for information on the plant. And, most importantly, have fun! Gardening will soon become and addiction, and you’ll be like me, waiting on the edge of your seat for winter to pass so you can begin planting!