If you’re looking to start a garden this year, now is the time to start planning. Whether you’re looking to grow some herbs on your windowsill or are hoping to turn your backyard into a food paradise, there are a few things to consider before digging into the dirt.
How to Start Gardening in your Home Garden
1. Determine Your Climate Zone
Success in gardening starts with putting the right plant in the ground at the right time. The USDA has a plant hardiness zone map searchable by ZIP code, which divides the country into 13 zones based on average annual minimum temperature. Once you know your climate zone, look up the estimated first and last frost dates and familiarize yourself with the plants that thrive there.
2. What Plants Do You Want to Grow?
Now that you know your climate zone and what plants you can grow, you can pick the ones you want to grow. Space is a huge factor here. Make sure you know how much space the plants you are looking to grow need. If you only have room for a small garden, it’s wise to avoid large plants.
Sunlight is key in garden success. Most flowers and vegetables require several hours of direct sunlight a day, so look for an area that receives enough full sun for what you’re growing.
Each plant will have its own personality and requirements. Researching the plants you want to grow beforehand and knowing their preferences will make it more likely that your plants will thrive.
3. Growing From Seed or Transplant?
Next, decide whether to grow from seed or transplant seedlings. Starting from seed might save money, but it’s a long process with potential bumps in the road. Some seeds are stubborn and some plants are extra sensitive as sprouts. As an alternative option, you can also go to your local nursery to buy young plants grown in a commercial greenhouse.
If you are starting from seeds, plant with care. Each one has different soil, water, and sunlight requirements. When planting seeds, make sure to sow them at the proper depth indicated on the seed packet, tamp the soil firmly over them with the palm of your hand, and water them whenever the surface of the soil dries out.
When transplanting seedlings, carefully turn the pot over while putting your hand on top of the soil with the stem between your fingers. Gently squeeze the pot on all sides and shimmy it off. Grasp the mass of soil in your hands and massage it lightly until the roots are no longer stuck in the shape of the pot.
Finally, use your hands or a small trowel to create a hole in the soil no bigger than the root mass. Position the plant, cover the roots with soil (making sure not to cover any part of the stem in the process, which is a death sentence for many types of plants) and press it firmly into the earth.
Starting a garden is exciting. If researched well and started correctly, a garden can provide a good dose of vitamin D and some tasty food fresh from the Earth. Some good ideas to research before you get started are learning what climate zone you’re in, deciding what plants you want to grow, and if you want to start them from seeds or seedlings.