With more people looking to start home-bound hobbies because of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in gardening is at an all-time high. Whether you want to grow tomatoes in pots on your balcony or make use of acres of unkempt land in your backyard, gardening is an excellent way to destress and connect with nature. Plus, all your hard work will be rewarded with eye-catching flowers or plenty of fresh produce come harvest time! Follow these key steps to start and maintain a healthy garden, no matter what plants you plan to grow.
Choose the Right Plants
Vegetables, herbs, and flowers have their own growing preferences. Therefore, choosing plants with similar needs to plant in the same space can help make garden maintenance easier. You can find information about ideal growing conditions for each plant on seed packets or online, or you can ask your plant supplier. Check for plant compatibility, and make sure the plants you buy are well-suited for your climate and the length of the growing season. It’s best to plant in early spring, after the last frost, or mid-autumn for cold-resistant plants. In areas with shorter growing seasons, start seedlings indoors before moving them to the garden.
Choose the Right Spot
Look for a spot in your yard that receives between 6 to 8 hours of full sun each day and is well sheltered from the wind. Ideally, choose an area that’s in plain view—you’re much more likely to maintain your garden regularly if it’s not tucked away in a corner somewhere. It’s also handy if your chosen spot is close to a water source to better facilitate watering. If you’re planting taller plants or vines like beans or peas, make sure to include trellises or other support structures for them to grow on.
Keep Your Garden Clear
Once you’ve selected a spot, you can prepare it for planting. Even if the area you want to garden in seems heavily overgrown, a trimmer such as the one from UrbanOrganicYield can make short work of the unruliest of lawns. Once trimmed, you can kill weeds or grass by covering the area you plan to plant with a layer of newspaper and soil the fall before. By planting time in spring, the weeds will have decomposed, leaving a fresh layer of nutrient-rich topsoil. Clear away any stones or large objects that can hinder your garden’s growth.
Once your garden is planted, weed regularly to keep weeds from overtaking your flowers and veggies. Pulled up weeds can be left to decompose elsewhere, such as a compost pile, to discourage them from putting down roots again. Trim back any grass growing at your garden’s edges.
Maintain Your Soil
When it comes to gardening, your number one resource is soil. Most residential soil is inadequate for gardening, and you may need to add compost, grass clippings, manure, or another form of organic fertilizer to enrich your soil. Some areas even offer soil testing services that let you see what key nutrients your soil may lack. Before planting, you can mix any of these additives while turning, or tilling the soil. Earthworms will do the rest by breaking them down into nutrients that your plants can use. Healthy topsoil will help water and nutrients best reach your plants’ roots. If you’re worried about harsh sunlight drying out your topsoil, cover it with mulch. This will protect it from rapid evaporation and prevent the growth of weeds.
Lastly, make sure to keep your soil and plants well hydrated. Seedlings should be watered daily, and older plants less often. If the weather is cold or rainy, hold off on your regular watering schedule. Excessive moisture can encourage the growth of mold and disease. Water in the early morning or after sundown to prevent evaporation and check the moisture level of the soil regularly. If the soil is dry, even a couple of inches below the surface, it’s time to water.
Watch Your Garden Grow
Now that your garden is growing, the time has come to enjoy it! But maintaining your garden will still require some work. Harvest veggies as soon as they’re ready, and regularly trim herbs to encourage further growth. Keep an eye out for pests, picking off any pesky bugs and dropping them into soapy water. Water regularly and fertilize any heavy feeders like tomatoes. Follow the tips above to ensure that your garden remains beautiful and productive for a long time. But most importantly, relish in the fruits of your labor and the pleasure of a job well done.