Spring has officially sprung! This means a lot of things – opening windows, going on picnics, breaking out your favorite sun dress – and then promptly regretting the decision since it’s not actually that warm yet. Still, one of the most fun parts of spring is getting the chance to work in your garden. Whether you’re returning to a tried-and-true plot or getting ready to dig in for the first time, spring is the perfect season to get started.
If you’re a novice, you might be unsure what to plant during this time of year. Many people look at the time during which plants thrive and assume that’s the right time to plant them. However, you’ll want to get a jump start on seasons. This means most of the things you’re planting now will be lush and gorgeous come late spring and summer.
A Strong Start
To get started, make sure you have a good set of gardening tools. Some tasks, like digging a hole, you’d probably never consider doing without some kind of tool. Other activities, like weeding, are just made way easier by having something there to give you a hand. One thing you might want to consider getting if you don’t have it already is a kneeling pad. You’ll spend a lot of your time gardening in fairly uncomfortable positions – a little bit of extra padding is sure to make the hobby gentler on your knees.
If you’ve never worked in a garden before, you’re probably going to have to put in a fair bit of effort to get the space ready for plants. Untended plots are the perfect environment for weeds, so the first thing you’re going to want to do is clear the area of any squatters in the soil. Use a weeder to pull the unwanted pests out – the closer you can get to the root, the better. A tool like this puts leverage on your side and makes it significantly easier to reach the plants’ roots. While you’re weeding, keep your eye out for poison oak and ivy. These irritating plants can sneak into plots, particularly if they’re in relatively unvisited areas in the yard.
Once you have all the weeds out of the way, give your soil a boost. You can find gardening soil at your local hardware supplies store, and you want something filled with plenty of nutrients – the dirt beneath your plot may not have all the good stuff your plants will need to survive. Use a cultivator to break up the existing dirt and mix in the new soil. Once you’ve got your soil settled, all you need to do is figure out what you’re going to plant!
Established gardeners might have already started their spring plots last fall. Tulip bulbs, for example, have to be planted well in advance for them to begin blooming come spring. If you didn’t have this jump start, however, you can still have a lush garden in time for the season. Hardware stores and greenhouses offer plenty of plants that have already flowered – you can simply transplant these items into your plot and help them thrive.
The kind of flowers you plant in your garden depends on a couple of different factors, including how much time you’re willing to dedicate to tending them, the environment in your yard, and the overall look you’re hoping for. Your yard’s environment is likely to be the most limiting factor in the decision – after all, there’s only so much you can do if your favorite flowers require full sunlight and your space receives constant shade. Aside from that, it’s mostly up to what you like and are able to care for.
When you’re picking out flowers, pay attention to the little note card or tab included with the seeds or in the soil. This should give you a guideline for how frequently you should water them, what kind of light and soil they need, and whether they’re perennials or annuals. Perennials are usually a good bet, because they’ll grow back year after year. Annuals can require more work each season, but it’s totally worth it for your favorite blossoms.
Whether you’re hoping for a specific pattern or just want your garden to look neat and well-planned, you should come up with some kind of outline for what you’ll plant and where. This is based mainly on your tastes, but here are some guidelines if you’re not sure where to start:
- If your garden is up against a building or wall, place taller plants further back in the display. If it doesn’t have any adjacent surfaces, keep the tallest plants in the middle.
- Low, leafy foliage like ivy or certain types of grass can give your garden a more natural, casual look. Visible mulch or soil will, if neatly attended, give your garden a formal, manicured look.
- Group your flowers in lines rather than clumps. Pairing a bunch of the same flower in the same place will make your garden look choppy. Focusing on lines of flowers will guide viewers’ eyes across the entire spread.
Of course, you may not want to have flowers in your garden at all. Growing your own herbs, fruits, and veggies is not only a great way to cultivate your green thumb, but it also gives you the chance to have a firsthand relationship with your food. The biggest adjustment you’ll have to make when growing food in your garden is checking to ensure all of the soil nutrients and pesticides you’re using are food-safe. Weed killers might leave your flower bed looking nice, but they should stay far away from your tomatoes.
Here are some of the edible plants you can start growing in spring, along with information about when they’ll be ready for your table:
- Carrots, potatoes, onions, and turnips – Plant some root vegetables in early spring, and you’ll be digging them out for soups and salads come fall. They require attention early on, as they’re slow to grow and won’t be able to compete with weeds. Keep your weeder on hand and get rid of any upcoming usurpers before they can steal your carrots’ garden space.
- Kale, cilantro, lettuce, and spinach – Early spring is the perfect time to plant leafy veggies. They’ll grow rapidly until the weather starts to get warm. You can plant them again in early fall and enjoy them until the frost comes. These are ready to eat as soon as they’ve grown big enough for your liking.
- Tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers – These veggies can’t handle the cold, so you’ll want to wait until you’re certain the last frost has passed. You can start tomatoes and peppers indoors a month or two in advance of moving them outside.
- Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries – Full disclosure: These are a long-term investment. Plants take a fairly long time to bear fruit, and while you won’t have to wait many years the way you would for apples or peaches, it can take up to a year for berries to grow. This means you may not get to harvest what you plant now until next spring. However, it will be worth the wait. Choose the berries you grow based on whatever is best at your nearest farmer’s market: If those farmers can grow them in your region, you can, too.
- Basil, parsley, mint, and other herbs – Start these delicate plants inside so they’re safe from the elements and wildlife. After a month or two (and once the final frost has passed) you can move them into your outdoor garden. Take clippings as needed.