As the snow begins to melt and the days get a little longer, our thoughts turn to spring. Everyone talks about New Year’s resolutions, but how many of us acknowledge that we plan big projects every spring? And how many of us never get around to those projects?
Let’s make this year different. This is the year to turn your yard into the garden you always imagined. Don’t worry. You aren’t required to be a master gardener. You don’t even need a particularly green thumb.
We’re going to focus on tips for the beginning gardener. Let’s get planning!
Start at the Beginning
It may seem obvious, but you need to start your planning with what you have. That may be with a couple of containers or with an entire yard filled with dandelions.
Don’t skip the beginning stages. Sit down, look at your space, and make a plan. Take your Rossie Home Easel Lap Desk with you. It has space inside for journals, sketchbooks, pens, and pencils. And it has a nice sturdy surface for you to write down your ideas.
Nothing you do at this stage is set in stone. As you learn about your yard, soil, and other factors, your plans will probably change many times over. But you have to start somewhere!
Bonus Gardening Tip #1
Remember to include time for cleaning up your outdoor space. As a beginner, don’t try and pull weeds from an entire yard in one weekend. That’s a good way to burn out before you’ve even begun.
If your yard is badly overgrown, you may choose to work on just one area per year. Sketch out a plan for the full yard, then pull weeds and clear any debris in just the area for this year.
If you’re starting with a clean slate, like empty containers, you get to skip this step!
Let the Sun Shine
How sunny is your space? Figure out which parts of your yard receive the most sunlight. Shade gardening can be fun, but planting in the sun is a better way for beginners to succeed.
Spend a few days watching how the sun moves across your outdoor space and keep track of which areas get the most light throughout the day. Keep a journal in your lap desk to write down your observations.
You should also try to plant your garden in a spot that’s visible from the rooms where you spend your time. After all, you’re going to be doing the work, you should enjoy the results!
Bonus Gardening Tip #2
Try a container garden. If you’ve never done any gardening at all, you may enjoy starting with containers. Make them small enough that you can move them if you’ve misjudged your sunny spots.
Make sure your containers are deep enough to accommodate the roots of your plants.
Containers are an excellent choice if you live in an apartment. You can grow flowers or vegetables in containers. As you become a more confident gardener, you can get larger, heavier containers that don’t get moved.
What’s Your Zone?
Before you plant a single thing, figure out your hardiness zone. Yes, we’re going to tell you what a hardiness zone is!
Hardiness zones are based on how cold it gets where you live. The lower the zone number, the lower the average minimum temperature (Alaska is a resounding zone 1).
Knowing your zone helps you buy plants that can survive your winters. You can find more information about hardiness zones, as well as an interactive map to find your zone, at Gilmour.
Bonus Gardening Tip #3
Once you know your hardiness zone, you can find your frost dates. These are the average times of the first and last frost in your area. This will tell you when you can start planting each year and avoid having your seedlings nipped by the cold.
A frost date doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be an errant late frost in the spring, but it’s a helpful guideline. You can find your frost dates by zip code or hardiness zone at Morning Chores.
Once you know your zone and frost dates, write them down! Your journal is right there in your gardening lap desk.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Next up, soil! Once you’ve chosen the spot (or containers) for your garden, make sure you have soil with good drainage and lots of nutrients. You can have your soil tested at a local garden center if you like. They will let you know if it has a good nutrient balance.
If you’re growing anything you plan to eat, you might want to have your soil tested for lead. It is an unfortunately common soil contaminant. Contact one of the EPA’s accredited labs to find out how to send in a soil sample.
If your soil is contaminated, you can still have a garden. Use containers with fresh, uncontaminated soil.
Bonus Gardening Tip #4
Would you like to boost the health of your soil? When you turn your soil before planting, add some compost. If you don’t compost at home, check and see if your town or city has compost available for home use.
Compost is great fertilizer without harmful chemicals that can end up in your veggies or harm your soil.
You’re ready to plant! Choose flowers or veggies that work well in your zone and get your seeds or seedlings into your freshly turned soil. Use biodegradable sticks to mark the rows you’ve planted so you know what’s growing.
You’ll find that some things grow better in your garden than others. Keep track in your journal so that you remember what succeeded and what you don’t want to try again.
Now it’s time to sit back and watch your new garden grow. Don’t forget to keep your plants watered according to the directions on the seeds or seedlings. Watering sounds like a chore, but it is a lovely quiet time to spend enjoying your new garden.