One thing that goes hand in hand with spring is gardening. I’m getting excited to get started with my daughters. We bought the seeds. Not only is it satisfying to see the plants growing, but gardening is also super beneficial for your health as it helps reduce stress, strengthen your joints and muscles, and being around flowers can have a lasting impact on your mood.
Gardening is one of America’s top hobbies and with increased interest in nutrition, healthy eating, and saving money, growing a garden is gaining in popularity. Small urban gardens can be fun, educational, and productive, particularly with new methods of season extension, drip irrigation, and varieties especially suited to the garden. Here are a few tips on successful gardening.
1. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office. They are part of the land-grant university system all across the country. They have expertise on growing in your specific area and have experts and publications suited to your climate.
2. Start small and plant easy-to-grow-crops. Many nutrient-packed vegetables grow quickly and easily and are less subject to weather-related problems than difficult-to-grow crops. Lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, Asian greens, and similar crops take up little space, don’t mind cold weather, and grow quickly.
3. Don’t overlook the root crops. There is nothing tastier than a home-grown fresh carrot, Asian sweet turnip, or fresh-picked beets.
4. Almost all vegetable crops love the sun. Sunshine helps plants get off to a good start and helps develop those sugars that make vine-ripened products so delicious. Walk around your yard and check for sunny spots and shady areas. Most likely, the area that gets the most sun will grow the best vegetables.
5. If you have a yard with a fence, use the fence area to grow perennial crops such as raspberries and blackberries. They don’t mind a little shade and you can let them use the fence line for support.
6. Consider getting your garden off the ground by adding compost and forming raised beds. Shaping and raising beds lets you protect crops from wind and frost with row covers to extend your season.
7. Invest in drip irrigation with an inexpensive timer. You use less water (good for the environment and your wallet) and are less likely to water too much and/or too little. Small garden timers are inexpensive and easy to program. Many yards already have a sprinkler system— it’s easy to add a line for your veggies.
8. Know when to plant and when to harvest. Most extension offices have guidelines for the areas they serve. I like to follow what I call the “Grandpa/Grandma System” of gardening. Look around your neighborhood—find the grandmas and grandpas with the best gardens. They probably know more than anybody in town about what to plant, when to plant, watering, harvesting, controlling bugs, etc., than anybody, including the experts. The other trait they usually have is that they love to share what they have learned with friends and neighbors.
If you really want to get into serious gardening, I can recommend three national organizations that serve both professional growers and home gardeners. They sell seeds and supplies and give free advice.