It’s getting to be that lovely, magical, heart-skipping-a-beat time of year for anyone who loves to be barefoot, garden, and/or simply bask in the sunshine. Can you tell I’m slightly excited!?
I thought I’d kick things off by sharing some of my favorite resources for beginning gardeners.
Gardening can seem quite a daunting task to the newby, or at times, even the most callous-handed, weed-grabbing gardener. Thankfully, there are plenty of incredible resources out there.
I’ll share some of these with you as I walk you through a few of the initial steps to consider in starting your garden!
1.) Plant Hardiness Zone
One of the first things that’s important to know is what plant hardiness zone you are in. The USDA has a zone map (see below or visit it in more detail) that is used as the standard by which growers determine which plants are most likely to do well in their given location. For example, I’m in Zone 4, and it is helpful for me to know this when buying seeds. I would want to avoid certain plants that say they only grow well in Zones 6-10, which would be plants that enjoy warmer climates.
2.) First & Last Frost Dates
In addition to your plant hardiness zone, you also want to identify what your zone’s first and last frost dates are.
This will help you to determine when you can start your garden and how long your season will last – which in term helps you determine what types of plants you can grow in your zone, and the variety of the specific plant. For example, my season isn’t very long here in Minnesota (Zone 4), so I tend to go for varieties of veggies that need a shorter growing season. I do grow tomatoes, which take several months of growth to mature, so I start them indoors under a grow light in March.
I’ve put together this handy chart showing average first and last frost dates by zone.
3.) Picking out Seeds
Deciding what crops you’d like to grow is another beginning step.
In order to pick out seeds (and start your garden in general) consider the following:
What do I like to eat?
Only grow foods you are interested in eating, but of course . . . take healthy risks and experiment with new foods! Check out my cooking & recipes section for some helpful hints cooking with whole foods.
How much space do I have to grow in?
This includes outdoor garden space, containers of all shapes and sizes – get creative! Lots of plant varieties can thrive in pots – outside or inside.
How long is my growing season?
See First & Last Frost Date chart above
What is my budget?
While it takes some initial investment to get a garden going, you can save hundreds by growing your own produce! A study by the National Gardening Association showed that the average family with a vegetable garden spends about $70/year on their garden and grows an estimated $600 worth of vegetables!
What is my access to sun, water, fertile soil/compost?
Some plants don’t need or like much sun or too much warmth. Other plants loooove warm weather and delight in the sunshine. Getting to know what type of growing condition plants prefer can help you plan where and what to plant. Cornell University offers a great resource that shows growing conditions for a variety of vegetables.
How much do I need to grow to feed myself/my family?
How much does your family eat? How much can you preserve if you can’t keep up with everything? This article is a start in helping configure how much to grow.
What kind of seed company(ies) would I like to support?
As for seed companies, I would recommend purchasing organic varieties to ensure the plants you are growing are non-GMO. The following companies have served me well over the years.
So, you’ve got your seeds…Now it is time to get going. A simple, lovely, convenient way to determine when to start your seeds, when to transplant outside, and so forth is via this seed starting chart