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I know, it’s the middle of winter and there are a few months before we can begin working in the garden, but now is the perfect time to start planning. That way, when the weather allows, we can get moving at top speed. Gardening is great for many reasons — it gets us outside, burns calories, and produces delicious results that can also save us money. Here are a few ideas to ensure that when the weather warms up, you’ll have a sure-fire strategy for a thriving garden:
Pick the Right Spot
It doesn’t matter if you plan to build raised beds or if you’re going create an in-ground garden, the location is key to having success. You’re going to want a sunny spot, as most vegetables and herbs require at least five to six hours of sunlight every day. Keep in mind that each plant needs a decent amount of space in order to thrive and that some plants will grow much taller than others creating shade as they grow. If, for instance, you want to plant tomatoes, each plant requires a two-foot area in order to grow and produce fruit successfully. Your garden will also frequent watering, so think about your water source and the access to it.
Start With Healthy Soil
It’s said that you can tell a really healthy soil if there are earthworms in abundance. And it’s true — a good soil mix contains organic soil, fertilizer, and composted matter like leaves, grass clippings and shredded bark. The composted matter is crucial because it keeps the soil from getting too sandy or too compacted. You’ll know that you have a healthy mixture when it binds together but can also crumble apart.
Seed or Starter
Now that you have the right location and the right soil, it’s time to start planting. You’ll need to decide if you’re starting from seed or if you’re going to use a starter plant. It’s entirely up to you, and there are some pros and cons for each. Starting from seed is beneficial economically, you can purchase multiple seed packets for the cost of one plant or you can save the seeds from your fruits and vegetables and plant those. Some plants simply grow better from seed, carrots, and green beans, for example, are more successful when cultivated from a seedling. And finally, there is something rewarding about managing to grow a plant from seed, it is quite an accomplishment. With all of that said, starting your garden from seed is much more time consuming, seeds need to be cultivated, spread apart once they are large enough and they can have a failure to thrive. Transplants are heartier and ready to go in the ground once you get them home which also means they will produce faster. You may want to use transplants if you are getting started late in the growing season. You can always grow your seeds indoors during the winter months, so they are ready to plant the following spring.
Mulch is a garden and a gardener's best friend. Mulch has so many benefits, not only does it look attractive, but it also retains moisture in the soil, breaks down over time contributing to the soil health, and provides weed control and protects from erosion. Mulch can be purchased at any garden center, or you can make your own using hardwood chips, pine straw, pine needles, grass clippings or crushed leaves. Mulches made from plant material (bark, needles, clippings etc.) will break down over time and can be refreshed with a top layer every couple of years.
You have some options when it comes to watering your garden, watering by hand, drip systems and irrigation hoses, or a sprinkler system. Plants do best when they are watered in the early morning or in the evening, when it is cool enough for the water to sink in and reach the roots before it evaporates from the heat of the sun. You want to avoid showering the leaves and flowers of the plant, instead focusing the flow to the base of the plant. This is why watering by hand or drip systems tend to work best when tending to your garden, the water can be controlled and focused in the areas as needed.
If you’d like to talk more about your spring garden, or if there’s something else we can be of assistance with, please get in touch. We’re always happy to help.