Experts provide tips on how to successfully plant a spring garden
Gardening season is here, but where should you begin? You could start by either planting the seeds yourself, or buying an established plant. Which is right for you?
After a cold, dreary winter, planting a bright garden is a great way to start off springtime.
When starting a spring garden, it's best to decide what kind of garden you would like to enjoy first. Next, find out the best time to start the garden as planting seeds properly can make or break your entire growing season.
Dr. Gary Bachman, extension/research professor of horticulture for Mississippi State University, said he always starts by looking at all of the seed catalogs in the spring.
"The seed catalogs let the home gardener select varieties they may want to grow. This is especially true as most garden centers will only have a small sampling of transplants available in the spring," Bachman said.
Experts want to remind gardeners to keep pollinators in mind while deciding what to plant.
(Image via Pixabay/HollyGirl18)
"Everyone knows about the importance of protecting and supporting pollinating species, but a lot of people don't realize that there is a lot they can do. Planting native plants that benefit bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and brings these lovely creatures to your garden. It also provides [a] great habitat that helps them thrive," said Dave Whitinger, executive director of the National Gardening Association.
"For someone new to gardening, I always say start small. Starting too large typically leads to frustration and giving up. I like to see gardeners be successful with a single container on the back porch. This success will build the confidence to enlarge the garden and grow more goodness," Bachman said.
Whitinger said many new gardeners like to start with container gardening, which is easy and a little more foolproof, and doesn't use much space.
"For 'in-ground' gardeners, the most important thing is that you want a spot with plenty of sun. Then you need to remove the grass (if there is any) and possibly amend with some compost. Then cover with a nice layer of wood chips and your garden has a great start," Whitinger said.
(Image via Dr. Gary Bachman)
Whether you should start seeds indoors first depends mostly on what you're growing.
"Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, for example, all should be started in cells and then when they are big enough, you transplant them into the garden. Other plants like corn, sunflowers and beans can be sown directly into the ground," Whitinger said.
Experts said it’s always a good idea to “harden” seedlings being grown indoors before final planting. “Hardening off” is the process in which plants are outdoors for a portion of the day then moved to gradually introduce them to the direct sunlight, dry air and cold nights.
"Putting the trays out when the temperatures start to moderate begins the process. Start in the shade of your porch and gradually move the seedlings out to the full sun. It doesn’t take long, just over the course of two or three days," Bachman said.
According to the experts, seedlings that are started indoors will indeed need to get used to the outdoors. It takes time for the plant to adjust to the new outdoor settings.
(Image via Dr. Gary Bachman)
"Give them an hour outside, then bring them in for the rest of the day. Tomorrow give them a couple hours. Then day three you give them half a day outside. Soon the plant will have strengthened up enough to be outside all day long," Whitinger said.
Starting seeds indoors give the home gardener the opportunity to grow the vegetable varieties they desire. Usually the only limiting factor is light; the light in a room or even sitting on the window sill may not provide the emerging seedling enough light.
(Image via Dr. Gary Bachman)
The result is the seedlings stretch as they seek more light and become unusable. The experts said gardeners don’t need a grow light. A simple 4-foot shop light will provide sufficient light to get the seedlings growing, either T-8 fluorescent tubes or LEDs are available.
"If you’re unsure about starting seeds indoors, the garden centers will have a variety of spring and summer vegetables available at the proper transplanting time for your area," Bachman said.
Timing is very important when planting and starting a new garden, and it varies greatly depending on where you live.
"For tomatoes or peppers, you need to start six to eight weeks before the (last) frost date for you area," Bachman said.
At Garden.org experts have handy tools to help gardeners get zipcode-specific dates on when planting can begin.
"I always recommend that gardeners transplant their tomatoes and peppers outside after the (last) frost date for their area. This date is based on historical spring temperature data for a region," Bachman said.Report a Typo
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