Written by Maria Cannon
Time to garden.
As the farm-to-table movement thrives, more people are planting gardens. If you’re new to spring gardening, you may not know how to get started when the weather is still too cold to work outside. Our guide includes tips simple enough for people who don’t have green thumbs and who don’t have a lot of money to spend.
1. Don’t Assume You’ve Waited Too Long to Begin
If you’ve searched for spring gardening tips online, you know that many people start working in the fall so they can have some plants and vegetables ready for the spring. You can start seeds for your vegetable garden indoors and then plant them when the weather breaks. Keep in mind that spring vegetable gardens are more limited than summer and fall gardens, but hardy crops like kale and spinach, a few varieties of broccoli, onions, parsnips, cabbage and garlic do well in early spring.
Starting seeds indoors for your early spring vegetables does not have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, seeds are less expensive than vegetable plants, so you may save money by starting your garden indoors. According to American Meadows, it’s a good idea to purchase seed-starting mix because it balances drainage with water-holding capacity, and garden soil does not drain well and often contains plant disease spores.
Opt for growing containers with drainage holes and check your seed packets for planting depth. Keep the mix wet like a damp sponge and then place your containers in a warm location, like on top of your refrigerator or near a radiator.
When your seeds sprout, move your containers to a bright location and consider supplementing with a fluorescent light suspended one to two inches over the tops of plants. At this point, keep your seedlings at a cool room temperature in the high 60s and use half-strength fertilizer when the seedlings have one or two sets of leaves.
2. Prepare Your Seedlings for Transplanting
When you have some sturdy seedlings, prepare them before transplanting in your garden or larger containers. Place them outside for gradually longer stretches of time to expose them to the elements. When the time is nearly right for transplanting – check the planting zones and frost-free dates in your area – give your seedlings organic liquid fertilizer to reduce the shock of transplanting. Then, pick a drizzly or overcast day for transplanting and give your seedlings a large drink of water a few hours ahead of time.
Dig the holes for your plants before removing them from their seedlings containers to minimize transplant shock and avoid exposing their roots to the sun or wind. Take care to remove them from their containers gently and avoid damaging their roots while keeping as much of the original seed-starting mix around the roots as possible. For more tips on transplanting your seedlings, check out this article from Vegetable Gardener.
3. Consider Container Gardening
If you live in an area with deep freezes and hard frosts, you may want to consider container gardening for your first spring garden. You likely will not be able to prepare a plot of land by the time your seedlings are ready to transplant, but you can prepare an area on your patio, porch, or yard for a container garden.
Vegetables that need limited space to grow, including carrots, radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers are ideal for container vegetable gardens. DIY & Crafts offers a comprehensive list of fruits, vegetables and herbs that thrive in containers if you’d like to grow others.
You can use nearly anything for the containers including flower pots, buckets, wooden boxes, window planters, or wooden pallets. Avoid dark containers because they absorb heat and can damage plant roots. Also, be sure to match the container size to each plant; for example, tomatoes and eggplants require large five-gallon containers.
It’s not too late to start a spring garden if you begin by growing your seeds indoors. Take care of your seedlings while preparing for a container or traditional garden outside to transplant them in when the time is right. With a little time, energy, and effort, you’ll soon be enjoying homegrown fruits and vegetables.
Image via Pixabay by Skitterphoto