For The Big Spring Spruce-Up, we’re throwing our windows wide open and letting in all that fresh air. Follow along for handy tips and game-changing tricks—cleaning and organizing to-dos, home decorating projects, and more.
Will this be the year you finally plant the vegetable garden of your dreams? Some people are intimidated by gardening, but as long as you do a little bit of research (which you’re doing right now—give yourself a pat on the back!) and keep a can-do attitude, you can easily grow your own produce at home. I’ve even grown herbs and tomatoes out of my little apartment.
Gardening isn’t as easy as throwing some seeds in the ground and hoping for the best; but it doesn't have to be that complicated, either. Here are a few key tips to growing a garden—follow them, and you’ll be enjoying homegrown produce all season long.
Even if you don’t have a large yard, you’ll want to consider the lighting and conditions of the spot where you’re going to plant. The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains that vegetables need around six hours of direct sunlight each day, so you’ll want to pick an area away from trees or the shade of your house.
Further, you’ll want to choose a space that doesn’t get overly wet or dry during the summer, as either of these conditions can hurt your plants.
Just like with houseplants, some vegetables are more forgiving and easier to grow than others. The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists squash, beans, kale, cucumbers, and carrots among some of the easiest plants to grow from seed. Tomatoes are also rather easy to care for, but you’ll have better luck if you purchase young plants from a local nursery and transplant them into your garden.
If possible, you should plant your garden in raised beds. Why? You’ll be able to fit more plants, since you don’t need rows, and you can also fill the beds with rich, organic soil that will help your plants thrive. Plus, when your plants are closer together, there’s less room for weeds, which means less work for you.
If you’re pressed for space, you can fit more plants into your garden by encouraging them to grow up, not out. Most vining crops, such as tomatoes, beans, peas, squash, and cucumbers, will happily grow up trellises or cages, allowing you to maximize your planting area.
Raised beds allow you to plant closer together, but your vegetables still need space to grow—otherwise, they’ll end up competing for water, nutrients, and sunlight. Most vegetable and herb seeds come with spacing guidelines on the packet, so take these into account as you plan your garden. Also, be sure not to plant tall crops where they might block the sunlight for shorter plants.
Weeds aren’t just unsightly to look at. They can hinder the growth of your precious vegetables, which is why weeding is an essential task for any gardener. A set of high-quality garden tools will help you keep them at bay—take caution with weed killer or pesticides in your vegetable garden, or else you might contaminate your produce.
Debris such as fallen leaves can also be harmful to your plants, as it can spread diseases. For this reason, you’ll want to remove anything that’s covering the ground around your plants, especially during the fall.
Most people who claim to have a “brown (or black) thumb” simply haven’t figured out how much to water their plants. If you water them too much, the roots may rot, but if you don’t water them enough, they’ll wilt and die.
To remedy your plant-killing ways, stop guessing at when plants need water. The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains you’ll want to feel the soil before you water—if it sticks to your hand and holds together when pressed into a ball, it’s still moist enough and doesn’t need more water.
In general, you’ll also want to water earlier in the day so excess moisture has time to evaporate off leaves. Further, if you invest in equipment to help water your garden, a soaker hose is generally preferable to a sprinkler, as these deliver water closer to the root of the plant.
If a full-size garden isn’t going to work in your yard, you can always create an abridged indoor garden instead. For instance, there are lots of herb kits that you can easily grow in a windowsill, and they’ll provide you with fresh garnishes for all of your meals. You can also grow salad greens like arugula and baby kale in hydroponic indoor gardens. Just be sure to put your indoor plants in a spot where they’ll get adequate light so they can grow big and strong.