Planting your own garden is fun and will give you an abundance of fresh produce all season long. Getting started can be overwhelming, but I’m here to share with you my tips and tricks for making the process less stressful!
If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you know I love gardening. I grew up with a garden, but never had any interest in being involved in the whole process. Eventually my dad stopped doing it because it’s a lot of work for one person, so grass was planted and the garden was history.
Fast forward a few years…
When I graduated from college and moved home I decided I really wanted a garden. So, the following summer my dad agreed to do a garden again. Luckily, he has been gardening most of his life, so I have the advantage of a great teacher. I’m still learning, of course, but I feel pretty confident in the basics.
We started small and then every year it just got bigger! Unfortunately now that I moved to Delaware, I don’t have the luxury of being able to enjoy the garden as much. I still go home about 1-2 times per month to plant and be involved as much as I can.
Today’s post is meant to give you some basic information and tips and tricks if you’re just getting started with a garden.
*The above photo was taken on July 19, 2012 – so about midway through the growing season in the northeast.
1. Make A Plan!
Planning is really important when it comes to gardening – especially if you’re just getting started. If you have no experience when it comes to gardening, I recommend starting out simple.
Before you go and dig up your yard you might want to try your hand some container gardening and see how you do. There are plenty of crops out there that do well in containers – herbs, lettuces, peppers, and tomatoes to name a few. You won’t get a large yield with container gardening, but it’s a good way to get started and see if you enjoy gardening.
Another option is to install raised beds. This type of gardening is ideal for growing a variety of crops with an average yield. Things like herbs, lettuces, leafy greens, beets, kohlrabi, radishes, etc. do exceptionally well in beds. Another advantage to raised beds is a clean appearance that’s easy to navigate and keep weeds under control.
If you have access to the proper equipment (i.e. rototiller) you can dig up a section of your yard and have whatever size garden you can manage. If you go this route you’ll be able to achieve impressive yields and grow a lot! Just remember if you choose to go this route, you don’t just dig up the ground and plant. You’ll need ample time to break up the sod and get the soil ready for planting. Also, you may want to get your soil tested at this point and see what you need to add to it.
2. Planting: Don’t Go Overboard
If you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get carried away and want to plant everything and anything. However, gardening is a lot of work! Start out small and work your way up each year. Pick your favorites and crops that are easy to grow. Things like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and squash, potatoes, and onions are all pretty easy-to-grow crops that preform pretty consistently each year.
Decide how much time you want to devote to your garden and go from there. If you don’t plan on putting work into it, you won’t get much out of it. The planting takes time and depending on what you’re planting, you’ll need to set aside time throughout the season to plant.
For example, if you are planting onions, lettuce, and peas you’ll want to start them in the early spring months. Where as, crops like tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, etc. need to wait until there is no longer a threat for frost. In northeast PA, that is around Memorial Day.
If you plant too much right off the bat you’re going to be very overwhelmed. Once you get a little experience under your belt then it’s fun to experiment and see what you can grow. Not everything grows perfect in every garden. Some years are better than others and some crops grow well in certain soils and others don’t. That’s all part of having a garden, so don’t get discouraged!
Weeds are every gardeners biggest gripe. No one wants to spend their days weeding, but unfortunately it’s something that needs to be done in order to have a successful garden. There are plenty of methods out there to cut back on weeds, but the cheapest and most effective way is to simply remove them yourself.
Take a few minutes each day and walk through with a garden hoe (or your hands) and remove the weeds. The more weeds you have the less your plants will grow because the weeds will be taking away important nutrients that your crops need. This means that your plants won’t have enough strength to thrive and the weeds will take over. So, just remember: a weed-free garden is a happy garden!
Once your plants get big enough and are blooming and producing, you won’t have to pull weeds nearly as much, if at all.
Probably everyone’s favorite part of the garden is the harvesting. Unless you’re like my mom who hates anything and everything to do with the garden – she loves getting to enjoy all the produce though, just as long as she doesn’t have to pick it!
There is nothing better than biting into the first tomato of the season, grabbing a green bean to snack on while you’re working in the garden, or the excitement of the harvesting potatoes. You’ll be thankful for all of your hard work once you see what you get out of it. If you grow a nice variety of produce, you’ll be able to cut your grocery store bill down significantly. It’s truly amazing what you can get out of a few plants and it’s so exciting and rewarding to eat what you’ve grown!
I hope this post was helpful and you can look forward to more in the future. I plan on doing posts periodically throughout the growing season and showing you what I’m planting and some tips and tricks for specific crops. Plus, you’ll find a lot of recipes this summer using common summer vegetables!
I’d also like to mention that if you don’t want to plant a garden, or can’t because you’re in a city or an apartment, there are still options for you. If you have a friend or family member that plants a garden you might be able to share the responsibilities and in turn get some experience and produce!
You can also hit up local farmers markets for fresh, locally grown produce or join a CSA (Community Share Agriculture) in your area. I don’t have experience with CSA yet, but I plan on joining this year since I’m over 2 hours away from my garden now. Check out this site for more information and to find a CSA in your area. Basically, you buy a share and then each week you get to pick up a variety of whatever crops they have grown. It’s a great way to support your local farms and many will allow you to tour their farm or even volunteer, so you can learn and have a hands on approach!