This is the time every year when gardening season kicks into full gear. The diehards (like me) have already been at it for months (I started my seeds in January), but with spring time here and good weather, even non-green thumbs might feel inclined to tackle a gardening project. This year, gardening feels even more important. While we are locked down to our homes, it can be a mental challenge. To get through, some people meditate, some people workout, while I love to garden. That’s why, even during these hard times, I’m trying to encourage as many people as possible to start gardening. The great thing about gardening is how inexpensive you can get started with it. There’s no reason why you can’t start for less than $50.
To get you on your way, I decided to layout this post into small project ideas and then how to plant, setup watering and tend your garden.
If this year is your first year gardening, I’d suggest you start small. This is a great beginners guide to gardening tools. Here’s a short list of small projects you could knockout in a day or less.
Front Door spruce up – I love this project because it can be as big or small as you want. Two ornamental trees on either side of your front door add an extra special touch.
Window box – Charleston is known for the immaculate flower window boxes. They add so much character and you can change them every month or season. Consider playing off the colors of your house or shutters (if you have them).
Small raised bed garden – A single small raised bed or elevated raised bed such as a 4×4, 2×4 or 2×8 is perfect for growing herbs and vegetables that you can use all year. I love the look of wood raised beds but there are also great metal and plastic options out there. The raised beds I have are these.
Container flower Garden – An organized collection of pots filled with flowers can really bring life to a space. One of my favorite things is to plant our plant stand with flower pots. I typically will ask Julia what 3 colors she’s looking to see and then head off to the nursery to see what I can find. Make sure to watch my IGTV on how to plant pots if you haven’t already. For ideas on pots and vases view our post here.
Container vegetable garden – If you don’t have space or don’t want to build or invest in something more permanent, there are still options for you if you want to grow vegetables. Look for container variety versions of your favorite veggies like cherry tomatoes, peppers and lettuces.
Soil – While I love to build my own soil, I use Mel’s Mix from Square Foot Gardening, I know that’s highly impractical for most people. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to find soil to meet your project needs. If sticking to containers, make sure you use a container or potting mix. These are specifically formulated to properly drain and aerate. If planting in ground or raised beds, I’ll use an organic mix specifically saying on the bag, “Great with Raised Beds”.
Where to plant – There are two ways to approach the challenge of where to plant. You can start with the area you are looking to plant and choose the appropriate plant(s) based on sun requirements. Or you can start with the plant you want to grow and then find the right spot for it. Regardless, the first thing I do is take pictures at 2 hour increments in my planned location, that way I can get an idea of what light I’m working with. Most full sun plants need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight. I’ve always taken that meaning very literally. Basically only distinguishing between full sun and full shade. But I’m rethinking that this year. Unless a large solid structure such as a building, fence or very dense trees/hedges are shading your space, chances are your outdoor plants should be getting more light than just the number of hours they are in direct sunlight. So while my zucchini and tomatoes will thrive in our very full sun front yard, our dappled shade backyard should still provide 3-4 hours of direct sunlight, 3-4 hours of dappled shade and 3-4 hours of darker shade which should be plenty to grow these same vegetables (although they might not reach the colossal height they would in all day full sun).
Arranging auto watering
Unless you find watering therapeutic or your plants require very special maintenance, I always suggest you set up automatic watering for your plants or garden. There are a few ways you can do this but the basic components are a faucet timer, hose or mainline tubing, emitters, connections and adapters. It took me hours to plan out and install my drip watering system, but if you’re starting fresh I highly recommend Dripworks Pre-Arranged packages. If you’re planting raised beds and short on time, I’d suggest soaker hoses or drip lines. Small to medium containers such as terracotta pots are best watered with adjustable pot drippers that are on stakes so they can more easily stay inside their pots without moving around, and the drip can be adjusted to accommodate seasonal and plant specific needs.
Tending and feeding
Plan to spend at least an hour a week with your garden. While certain weeks will require heavier workloads, like building raised beds, planting and arranging irrigation once everything is planted, maintenance and harvesting really don’t take long. It’s important to make it a habit. I try to spend at least 10 minutes a day checking in on plants, you’ll learn to pick up on any health issues quickly and adjust in time to save your plants. If you’re planting in containers it’s important that you pay attention to fertilizers, most container or potting mix doesn’t contain any actual soil. Every time we water we are washing away some of the fertilizer being used so it’s important to feed them frequently. At the time of planting add some slow-release fertilizer and then add again 3-4 months later.
I’m excited to see what you create in your gardens. Make sure to tag us to show us what projects you’re tackling this spring. If there’s a topic you think we missed leave a comment and will try to get to it.