Spring into Garden Planning

By: Taylor Napolitan     

     If you’re wanting to start a garden in your yard, spring is the best time of year to tap into nature and seek out the best gardening tips for beginners. Whether you’re looking to make the most of your outdoor space with a vegetable plot or want to grow your favorite flowers, gardening is for you. 

     Planning out your garden before you make it is the key to a successful garden. It can be easy to take to the project of creating your garden without the proper planning. Thinking about what plants you want to have, the layout of your garden, and the time you are willing to commit are major things to consider before you start. Having a plan will help you with time and money in the long run. Researching the plants you want to plant is also an important step to do before creating your garden. Climate, soil, and hours of sunlight are major factors in the plants you can grow regionally. Don’t be discouraged if your region does not work for the plant you had in mind, there are still many options of plants and vegetables from which to choose.  

    After creating your garden layout and planting list, try to identify the best growing positions and garden plants for the space you’re working with. The key to gardening is to start smaller. You can always expand later. After identifying the climate and the growing conditions of your area and your plant options, make sure that they have similar conditions, or the plants might not grow. Figuring out your yard’s sun exposure will help with this. If you have plants that need a lot of sunlight to grow, try placing your garden in a sunny part of your yard, rather than a shaded part. Plants like ferns enjoy the shade, whereas zucchini and green bean plants thrive off sunlight. When you buy plants, check the labels: Some love sun and some thrive in shadier spots. If there’s no information, as a rule of thumb, keep in mind that most flowering plants, as well as fruit and vegetables, need to be positioned in full sun, although some will tolerate semi-shade. Select plants based on what you will enjoy eating and what will grow in your microclimate. 

     The most important thing about gardening is understanding that, like people, all plants are different. Certain plants need more attention than others. Understanding the needs of the different plants and vegetables in your garden will help you tend to them. The labels on your plants will tell you how much water they need, how much sun they need to take in, and if they need fertilizer. Flooding your plants with too much water occasionally will stress them and allow the disease to set in. Watering around the roots of your plants, avoiding leaves and stems, is also important. The best times to water your plants are early morning or late in the evening. Depending on the area you live, you’ll need to change watering schedules slightly in cases of extreme heat. Look for drought-tolerant plants that won’t mind being ignored during hot spells.  

     As a new gardener, make sure to plant beginner-level plants. Tropical plants won’t grow in Pennsylvania because the climate and humidity levels aren’t similar. Picking plants that are native to your area will make life easier. Planting decent-sized shrubs are generally trouble-free if you follow the directions on the label. Choosing low-maintenance plants, that can look after themselves, is often best for a beginning gardener. Provided your garden gets plenty of sun, even a complete beginner will find sunflowers, poppies, nigella, and pansies easy to grow. If you want to grow flowering plants from seed, most will need to be sown after all risk of ground frost has passed, usually after mid-April. This will mean that you get later flowers. If you want the flowers earlier in the summer, you’ll need to raise seedlings in containers indoors, planting them outside from May onwards. The Squire interviewed Mrs. Richardson for an inside view on her garden. Richardson told The Squire, “Gardens are a lot of work and I usually tend to it daily all summer long. Some days it needs water, other days weeds need to be pulled, tomatoes and beans often need staked/tied up. The plants sometimes need snipped/trimmed back to keep the growth going.” Gardening can come in many different ways, and container gardening is just one of the many ways to start your garden. 

    Container gardening is an easy way to start growing plants on a small patio or for those in more urban areas, with smaller backyards and planting spaces. Richardson shared, “I usually start seeds inside in April and then plant the starters outside in late May.  I don’t start everything inside. Radishes and carrots are easy and quick to start outside. I plant them from seeds. I usually start cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, and squash inside and then transplant them into the garden. I try to keep herbs going all year long, bringing the containers inside during the fall/winter to keep them alive.” You will need to water your containers more often than bedding plants, though, because the soil dries out quicker in pots. Don’t forget that plants need drainage. If you must plant in a pot without a drainage hole, line the bottom with gravel to prevent waterlogging in the soil, which will lead to root rot. Another option for this is to plant out window boxes.  

     Fruits, vegetables, perennials, and annuals create beautiful displays outside our windows. Richardson shared that she started to garden because she grew up helping her ‘pap’ in his garden. Richardson mentioned, “He is my inspiration for keeping the garden alive.”  When asked how long she has had her garden, Richardson shared, “I have one garden outside and several ‘container’ gardens.  I usually stick to herbs and tomatoes in the container gardens.” She later added that her garden is in her upper yard, “It’s a raised bed garden. I placed it there because it gets the most sun.  I also install a plastic fence around it each year to keep my dog and other yard critters OUT.  My containers are on my porch. I like to easily be able to go out and get the herbs I need while cooking, etc.” Richardson added that one of her favorite snacks is a cherry tomato, with a basil leaf and a ball of mozzarella.  

     Even if you have a small yard, gardening is still a possibility. Ask yourself the question, “How much time can I put into my garden?” and create your landscape plan from there. Gardening takes time. An hour a week is generally the amount of time used to tend to a smaller garden, keeping it neat, fed, and watered. However, if your answer is, “rarely,” you’d be better off with low-maintenance garden plants, like grasses and vegetables, that you can leave to do their own thing. Vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, and zucchinis are perfect plants for beginners. Richardson shared that the easiest plant in her garden is radishes. Richardson stated, “Nobody actually likes to eat them, but they are easy to grow, sprout up quickly, and my kids feel successful at their easy growth. They stay in a nice straight row, turn bright pink/red, and have cute stems.  They don’t taste that great, but they are easy to grow.” 

      Gardening is a form of art. Starting slow and working your way up until you master the skill is important. Everything in gardening can be altered and changed according to your lifestyle choices. Tending and watering your garden according to the plant type is crucial. The Squire would like to thank Mrs. Richardson for her gardening tips. The Squire hopes you will share photos of your garden and tag us on your Instagram story using @ehssquire. 

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