Spring is in the air and that means it is time to get your garden ready! Whether you are working with a backyard garden, a container garden, raised beds, or just want to know how to start the process, we have some helpful information for you. Recently, our in-house expert Tim Mountz, Sustainable Agriculture Teacher at Westtown School, shared his thoughts on gardening. Farmer Tim, as he is known to our students, reminds us that gardening is a great activity for the whole family AND can get kids excited to eat fruits and vegetables. So step away for the screen, grab your shovel, and let’s get to it!
If you do not already have a garden or set area, here are some suggestions for choosing a location.
It is best for your garden or container to be in an area that receives direct sunlight for the majority of the day. An area close to the kitchen makes it fun and easy for transport. Remember to plant some of our aromatic friends such as lavender, rosemary, and sage. Don’t worry if you do not have land, containers are great for smaller, portable gardens!
When should garden prepping begin?
If you are interested in prepping for a vegetable bed, now (March/April) is a great time to start raking and weeding the area. Be sure to dig and rake to loosen all the soil below. Roots like loose soil and will grow better in this environment. Once you clean out the area, let it soak up the sun and dry out. If you are more interested in perennials, now is the time to cut them back. You can do the pruning and have your little one help gather the cuttings. The cuttings are a great addition to your compost, too!
Speaking of compost, is compost helpful, important? What if I do not have my own?
Yes, Compost is helpful for planting and putting a layer of compost in the garden area is a great way to prep your soil for your plantings. It adds nutrients to the soil creating a lush environment for seeds or young plantings. It is best to add about 2 inches of compost to your existing soil. The compost slowly feeds the plants and will help them flourish. If you do not have your own compost, you can find it at your local garden center or farm stand. It is worth the investment and will pay off in the end.
When should planting start?
Most people aim to have vegetables planted by or close to Mothers’ Day weekend because it is normally a safe time of year when morning frost is no longer an issue. You can start lettuce, greens, radishes, and carrots in April and then follow with tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Fun Fact: Traditionally, potatoes and peas were planted on or near St Patrick’s Day.
If you are using seeds, begin the process in March/April by planting seeds in small containers, and keep them inside as they begin to grow. Be sure to keep the seeds in a moist humid container and in direct sunlight. This is a fun project for you to enjoy with your kids and helps them become invested early in your garden.
What are the best vegetables to grow?
Just plant what you LOVE! You and the kids are going to be much more invested in growing and nurturing vegetables and plants that you enjoy. And a huge added bonus is that kids are much more likely to to eat or at least try anything they have a hand in growing!
How much space do I need between plants?
It is best to usually allow about 18’ per plant. Don’t forget if you do not need to walk in your garden you do not need to plant in rows. It is a fun activity to draw a plan up before planting and make stake signs for each item you are planting.
Do I need to use those plastic or wood cages for my tomato plants.
Yes, you do need to cage your tomato plants and be sure to do it when they are young. Although they may not look pretty they do help keep the plant stable and growing upright. If you want to extend the time of your plant later in the season you can shrink wrap around the cage to protect it and keep it warm from the elements.
Is there anything we can do to control pests and bugs.
Planting marigolds and other fragrant plants can help keep bugs and pest way. Otherwise, look to your local garden center for organic items to help.
How often do I need to water my garden? Is there a preferred time of day?
It is best to water vegetables in the morning to allow time for the water to be absorbed and not increase the chance of bacteria or disease. If it is not raining, every three days is normally sufficient once the garden is going. Be sure to water more often when you first plant.
Do you have any other advice?
Get out there and just have fun with gardening! It is the perfect family event for children of all ages. You can start by making a list of your favorite vegetables and remember it is always fun to include a few that you have not tried in the past. Then you can deicide the design or containers and take it from there. Do not stress. Like anything in life you are going to have some successes and some failures but I promise you will have fun on the journey!