This series is authored by Jamie Seger, Ohio State University Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant.
I love this time of the year! Spring is full of new beginnings, the color GREEN, and that wonderful sense of “hey, it’s time to get out there and get your hands in the dirt again!” For me, spring = gardening. My husband and I purchased our first house in 2008 and one of the selling points of the place was the fenced-in garden behind the garage. We both grew up enjoying fresh veggies from our mothers’ gardens and I had always dreamed of having my own someday – our new home made that a reality! So, we’ve planted vegetables in our garden each summer since 2008. Some summers consisted of more planting than others (one year I only had the motivation to throw tomato seeds directly into the dirt and hope that something sprouted), but I’ve come to have a deeper appreciation for gardening that goes beyond enjoying the fruits of my labor. As you’ll find out, gardening can offer physical activity and even stress relief! Nothing calms me more after a hard day at work or hearing “Mommy!!!!!!” screamed a million times in my direction than going out into the quiet, peaceful garden and pulling the heck out of some weeds!
I had great intentions with my garden last summer. I spent a lot of time planning and planting – filling the garden to capacity. And then I stepped outside one night to water the tomato plants and discovered that my neighbor had accidentally sprayed weed killer through our fence, killing everything that was planted along the west side – sugar snap peas (my husband and son’s garden favorites), corn, cucumbers, and half of our green beans. It goes without saying that we had a pretty pathetic harvest by the end of the summer! This year, I’m going full throttle. I was armed with a garden diagram (only necessary for severe control-freaks like myself), an armful of seed packets, and potting soil in early March – about the time that us Ohians were still under the “oh my goodness summer came in February!” guise. Then, Mother Nature gave us a reality check and has sternly reminded us the past few weeks of April that we’re still technically in “Spring” and that Old Man Winter hasn’t yet decided if he is satisfied with his underwhelming appearance from December to March!
So I was probably in the same boat as many other garden enthusiasts who prematurely wanted to start their seeds without thinking they would have to constantly bring the containers inside each night to preserve them from frost’s root-killing wrath! After reality struck, I decided to wait to start my seeds. Depending on where you live in the country, the best time to start seeds is about 4 to 12 weeks before they will be transplanted into your garden. This typically means that you should start seeds indoors during the months of March or April. Take a look on the back of the seed packets you purchase to find out when they can be safely planted in garden soil. Note:The next post in the series will focus on how to start seeds indoors and prep them for transplanting into your garden.
While I was waiting to start the seeds, I had to think of what to plant and where to plant it. Which in my opinion is half the fun of gardening – planning! Listed below are the steps in the planning process
- Find your hardiness zone on the USDA map to find out which fruits, vegetables, and other plants will grow best in your garden.
- Choose from these plants which ones you and your family will enjoy – and which ones you may be willing to “try out.”
- Go to a store to pick out your seeds (or you can also purchase plants that have already been started for you). Carefully look at the back of the seed packets or plant info stick to see how much space the plant will need, if it vines (requires a lattice or fence to “climb up”), and if there should be concerns about what type of critters or insects it might attract. (My husband loves raspberries but won’t allow me to plant them because of the amount of bees they attract!)
- Select and purchase your seeds/plants based on how much space you have in your garden and if you have a fence available to either keep pests out or allow certain plants to climb up (you can also purchase a lattice for this purpose if you don’t have a fence).
- Take the time to actually draw a diagram (in your mind or on paper) of what you will plant where in your garden. Knowing this ahead of time comes in handy on the days that you’re hot, sweaty, and tired in May or June when you’re planting the garden!
- If you’re starting seeds, also pick up a bag of seed starting or potting soil and some biodegradable little pots (they can be directly planted into the garden soil – pretty nifty!)
Sounds easy enough, right? It is – and it’s fun! I hope you will join me in planting a vegetable garden for you and your family to enjoy this summer.
Happy seed/plant picking! On Friday, I’ll share how to properly start your seeds for indoor growth before planting in the garden – and how you can even get your kids involved.