We Need Your Gardening and Growing Tips!

February 25, 2016

Nope, it's still not spring. But even though the snow may still be falling where you live (or it's grey and dreary as all get out), the ground is starting to wake up! The seeds are tossing and turning! It's time to start thinking about your garden—and we want to hear about yours.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Whether you're planting in your yard or on your windowsill, a seasoned gardener or a first-timer, tell us: What are your best gardening tips? What do you grow every year? (Vegetables? Flowers? Herbs? More tomatoes than you know what to do with?) What would you recommend for beginners? What do you wish someone had told you when you planted your first garden?

We're on the hunt for the best tips and questions as we plan our spring features—so share yours with us (and your garden plots, terra cotta pots, and growing ambitions) with us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • EL
  • Rose
  • Sheri Silver
    Sheri Silver
  • Catherine
  • Jaclin Gilbert
    Jaclin Gilbert
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


EL February 26, 2016
Another tip: You can grow a ton of veggies on the back porch (fire escape) as long as you have sun.
EL February 26, 2016
I use what I call deli dishes to start seeds. I recycle the square deli containers that salad greens etc come in, put in some seed starting soil and plant rows of seeds. It needs to be fairly moist (not wet) until the seeds sprout, then you should loosen the lid to allow air in and allow things to dry a bit.

Also, I would suggest reading about gardening. Reading is a great pleasure and informative as well. Gardeners write beautifully about gardening and their experiences, just as food writers do.
Rose February 26, 2016
Embrace what grows naturally in your area. I have decided to stop battling the scabiosa that grows between the bushes in my rose garden, and let the Turkish cap take over the corner it wants in my back yard. Both weren't in my plans (I planted neither) but they both survive with little car or water, and they seem to be well suited to their chosen spots.
Sheri S. February 26, 2016
As a landscape designer for over 10 years, the best advice I can give is to think "4-seasons". It can be so tempting to scoop up all the in-your-face blooms at the nursery come springtime (especially if you live in a part of the country with long gray winters!). But take a bit of time before heading out to research perennials and shrubs that bloom in fall - or have interesting bark or berries. You'll be amazed at how a pop of color in January can lift your spirits!
Catherine February 26, 2016
I recycle wooden wine boxes to grow vegetables and herbs in my garden (along with some other containers). I just started seeds indoors the other day and posted my 5 Steps for starting seeds indoors. So excited to kick off gardening season!!
Jaclin G. February 26, 2016
There is no such thing as more tomatoes than you know what to do with them. Heresy!
Sarah February 26, 2016
Don't forget soft fruit if you're starting a garden, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants etc are low maintenance and give off high yields and kids love them too...make sure you are around to pick whatever you are growing, you often end up on holidays when you have your best bounty!
T February 26, 2016
Gardening is such a rewarding experience! My biggest piece of advise to many gardener would be keep a gardening journal for future reference! It's great way to keep all your ideas, pressed flowers, dates you planted, what happened with the weather ect. Gardening is also versatile, sometimes you just gotta wing it! If it grows, great! If not, you tired! It's all a continuous learning experience and that's the beauty in it.
Good luck and happy planting gardeners- it's less than a month to the first day of spring!!
Emily I. February 25, 2016
Winter sowing seeds is a great way to get started gardening, especially if you don't have a lot of space (and a good way to recycle plastic containers and milk cartons). has a lot of good information. You plant seeds (lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, turnips, perennial flowers and herbs etc) in the winter and put them outside in the snow and they naturally stratify and sprout when they are ready. They
acclimatize naturally in their mini greenhouses. Lots of seeds germinate better in cooler temps and the sun is the better than the best indoor grow light, and the rain and snow keep the moisture level just right.
Tiffany R. February 25, 2016
We purchased a home situated in a hillside neighborhood. The previous owners had cut most of the trees on the property, providing a perfectly unobstructed Southern exposure to the backyard. We immediately added terraces and a large, 12 box raised garden. A few years ago, my husband built me a custom greenhouse on this little part of the terrace which was odd-sized and adjacent to the garden. He outfitted this with a system he designed for automatic water, grow lights, heat and ventilation. I am a very lucky girl.

I start my tomato, pepper and some veggies indoors in February. The tomatoes get the royal treatment and are succession planted deeper in larger containers until the ground is ready for them. We typically have fresh tomatoes by May here in Oregon. This year, I planted 12 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and 12 of cherry tomatoes. I also am staggering the start dates of each batch of 6 plants so that I will have tomatoes through fall. I typically plant 4 dozen tomato plants in the garden and containers and we have a party in August to celebrate the harvest.

Another goal this year is to have plants for harvest year round. We succeeded with lettuces, herbs, potatoes and onions but I am hoping for more next winter. My husband "planted" feed buckets in the floor of the greenhouse to the insulation boards so that we could grow ground crops "in the ground."

If all goes well, I will get an automatic watering system installed for the garden boxes and another dozen boxes on the top terrace for succession plantings of corn. We compost everything and last year managed to make 30 huge bags of dirt with a full hold of compost materials to continue to produce.

Right now, though, I just need to figure out a great seed organization system and map the garden for better planning.
GardenStacey February 25, 2016
The produce that most folks buy gives them unrealistic expectations about what will come out of the garden. Case in point: cilantro. Growing cilantro at home won't yield you the giant green bunches you buy, but you can still achieve success. Cilantro naturally has a very short life cycle and will quickly go from fragrant and succulent to pungent and stringy, especially when it is hot. The key is to sow lots of seeds (never buy it as a plant, total waste of money) and sow often; It's not the kind of crop you can plant once and harvest off of all season. Just plan to sow 5-20 seeds (depending on your use) every 7-14 days all season long to keep a consistent supply of soft, tasty leaves. When your plants do start to bolt, let them - the seeds can be harvested and used for a subsequent sowing, or used as the spice coriander. And don't forget the roots - they are traditionally used in Thai curries.
Smaug February 26, 2016
Other plants that tend to bolt immediately when transplanted include dill and chervil. I haven't transplanted parsley within memory (grows like a weed in my area), but I think it falls into that category too.
Valhalla February 25, 2016
The most common mistakes seem to be not preparing the soil and not having enough space for what one is trying to grow. So, find a spot in full sun and make sure it has adequate space for the intended plant. Dig in lots of compost, and you are more than half way there! I like the Espoma line of organic fertilizer. Last, I think everyone should start with herbs and greens.
Nichole February 25, 2016
Avoid the large terracotta pots if container gardening. Once filled with soil and a growing plant they are often too heavy to move around as needed. If you have a very large pot, I recommend skipping the rocks at the bottom and fill the bottom with a couple of clean discarded plastic bottles. It saves on the weight and allows for less soil (i.e. saving you money). I also HIGHLY recommend using compost tea every two-three weeks in the garden in addition to amending the soil prior to planting. I usually plant pretty heavy feeders like corn, tomatoes, and cucumbers so they need all the extra nutrients you can give them and compost tea is quite wonderful for this purpose. If it's your first time growing, make the investment and purchase plants. Seed starting is somewhat a cross between an art and a science. Don't discourage yourself before you plant the first plant! If you are planting tomatoes make sure you bury the tomato deep (about two-thirds of the plant - remove the leaves) and consider trench planting. Tomatoes will grow roots from the steam and it will make the plant sturdier and more healthy.
Smaug February 26, 2016
I use as many large terra cotta pots as I can find. They are better for many plants because they breathe, and look better (there are some very nice plastic pots now, but they tend to be prohibitively expensive). Pots for large vegetable plants and permanent herb plantings need to be large- at least 10 gal. preferably and, like plants in the ground, should really be placed where they can stay. They should contain as much soil as feasible- that's why you're using large pots. Some people do resort to gardening by moving pots around to get sun, but they're generally growing a small number of plants on a patio or deck, and should probably invest in wheels- picking up 10-15 gal. of wet soil in a plastic pot is no fun either. Small, folding hand trucks can also work well. Note that these gallon figures are the nominal numbers used in the trade- a 5 gal. pot is more like 4 gal.
Panfusine February 25, 2016
I tend to scatter spice seeds from my 'Masala Dabba' to get fabulous herbs instead of shopping for seed packets. Coriander for cilantro, mustard seeds for greens, Fenugreek for Methi leaves.