This is it. The year you stop wasting time and energy on inedible grass, and plant a garden instead.
Growing your own food is a powerful, revolutionary action. It reduces your dependence on an agricultural system that’s more concerned with profit than nutrition or food safety. It also gets you outside, hands in the dirt, appreciating Mother Nature’s glorious ability to turn a tiny seed into a delicious supper.
But we’re not as good as gardening as we once were. We’re out of practice. Those of us who’ve never tried gardening (or tried and failed) have lots of doubts. You’ve heard the saying “failure to plan is a plan to fail”? Although Spring has yet to officially arrive, now is the time to start planning your garden, and gathering the tools you’ll need to make it thrive. That’s why we’ve put together this simple to-do list. And if you’ve got any tips or suggestions that can help turn brown thumbs green, please share them in the comments!
The Simple To-Do List For a Successful Spring Garden
1. Pick a place – The first thing to do is determine where you garden will grow. You’ll want an area that is fully exposed to the sun for as many hours a day as possible. Don’t worry if you don’t have a big yard; gardens can also be grown in raised beds (if you can’t or don’t want to dig) and containers on porches, balconies and fire escapes. But the sunlight is key. Once you’ve identified your space, you can start planning the number and type of plants you want to grow. And if your home is shrouded in shade, consider using a yard sharing service to connect with someone who has the space, but isn’t keen on gardening.
2. Start the seeds – If this is your first time planting a spring garden, it’s a good idea to start small, and focus on forgiving plants. Things like summer squash, Swiss chard, radishes and herbs are ideal. Although it may still be cold outside, you can save a lot of money by sprouting your chosen organic seeds indoors right now. Check out 6 Tips for Starting Your Own Vegetable Seeds Indoors for more info.
3. Prepare the soil – Soil preparation is the single most important factor in creating a successful spring garden, and it involves lots of patience. The key is holding off until the soil is dry enough to be worked. This post on How to Prepare the Soil in Spring will show you how to test the dirt for optimal moisture. Once you’ve “opened up” the soil (by turning it over with a spade, fork or tiller, it’s important to add large amounts of organic material such as compost, leaf mold, well rotted sawdust or decomposed animal manure. See: Maintaining Healthy Soil: A Gardener’s Duty for more.
4. Make your own fertilizer – If you want to keep things organic, chemical fertilizers are out. However it’s easier than you think to make your own fertilizer and keep those veggies safe to eat. If you’ve already got a home compost pile, you’re ahead of the game, but even those who don’t compost can get in on the action. Check out these 10 Natural Fertilizer Recipes for some easy and economical ideas.
5. Build beds – Depending on the size of your garden, you’re going to want to build a series of beds and walkways to protect the soil and encourage root growth. Walking on a vegetable bed compacts the soil and makes it harder for plants to grow. Ideally, you want to create vegetable beds that are separated by walkways. The beds should be mounded rows made from loosely piled soil. The walkways will be tamped down to a lower elevation, making it possible to access each plant without stepping on the mounds. Of course you can eliminate this work by using raised beds instead.
6. Time it right – Once the soil and beds are ready, the only thing left to do is plant. The key is planting at the optimal time for each plant you’ve chosen, which could mean planting in shifts. For instance, broccoli is generally planted between Feb. 15 and March 15, while tomatoes have to wait until the danger of frost has passed (usually around April or May, depending on the region). Check out the USDA’s planting schedules for more info on when to plant what.
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