It may not be tanktop weather yet, but the harshness of winter is wearing off and the sun is starting to make a comeback. And you know what? This could this be the year you finally plant your dream garden — if you only knew where to start! If this is your first time gardening, read one to take your first step toward a better (and greener) backyard. If you’ve had some experience, you still might learn a thing or two about gardening and how it’s actually good for your health.
Step 1: How long do you want to grow your garden?
First things first — are you looking to fill your garden with short-term or long-term plants? You can choose to plant “annuals” in the spring, but as you may have guessed from the name, you’ll have to replant them next year. Zinnias, morning glories, watermelon, petunias and begonias are a few examples of annuals. There are also “biennials” which live for two years and “perennials” which will last for more than two years. A lot of different types of fruit are perennials, like apples, grapes, pears, kiwi and blueberries. OK, now that we’ve got basics out of the way, let’s go a bit deeper.
Step 2: What types of plants will actually grow in your area?
Some plants grow better in certain areas — that’s just the way biology works. And since gardening isn’t a new trend, people have created a system to identify “climate zones” to get a better idea of what they can successfully grow in their area. Here’s a convenient government-run website to plug in your zip code and get a personalized planting calendar and a full plant database.
Step 3: What do you want to get out of your garden?
This might seem like a philosophical question, and it is. But it also has practical applications. For example, let’s say you want a garden where you can enjoy the presence of pretty birds and butterflies. Well there are flowers for that! Echinacea is a great way to draw in butterflies and columbine has been known to attract hummingbirds. These are only a couple examples of flowers you could plant to get pretty critters in your yard. A little internet search goes a long way.
Maybe you’re more interested in an ornamental garden focused on beauty. Or perhaps you’re a utilitarian who wants their garden to be a useful source of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. The great thing is there’s a garden out there for everyone.
Step 4: Time to prepare your agricultural canvas.
Before you can plant your garden, you’ll need to set up your space. You can choose to plant straight in the ground or build up some raised beds, but either way you’ll probably have to amend the soil to get it ready for your garden. That means working in peat, compost, manure or a combination of them all to add nutrients and organic matter for a better structured soil. If you have any questions about what type of amendments you should add to successfully grow specific plants, your local garden center should be able to steer you in the right direction. Who knew dirt could be so complicated, right?
Step 5: Protect what you plant.
Once you’ve got your garden all planted, it’s time to make sure your little plant babies make it through their life cycle. You don’t want some lucky pest to reap the benefits of your hard work, so here are a few tips to protect what you planted:
- Plant marigolds to protect against microscopic, soil- dwelling bugs called nematodes that like to eat tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries.
- Fill your garden with ladybugs and praying mantises to have a little bug army always defending your plants from aphids.
- Sprinkle coffee beans or eggshells around the plants you want to protect against snails.
- Mix up your own DIY deer repellent spray using ingredients from around your house.
Step 6: Enjoy all the health benefits of growing your own garden!
If you end up growing fruits or vegetables in your garden, you’ll get to experience the joy of homegrown food straight from your backyard. Aside from the rewarding feeling you get when you eat what you grow, you’ll also notice a big difference in taste from a lot of store-bought produce. But your tummy won’t be the only thing benefiting from your newfound habit. Studies show that gardening can improve physical, psychological and social health. That alone is enough reason to grab your sunhat and trowel and get gardening!
This should give you a good foundation to get started and turn your backyard into a place for growth and relaxation. We want to hear all about your garden this year, so keep us posted in the comments and let us know what you’re growing this year.