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Apr 2024

How To Start a Garden From Scratch This Spring




How to start a garden


Choosing what to plant


Tips to tend your new garden




How to start a garden


Choosing what to plant


Tips to tend your new garden

Spring is the season of new beginnings, and there's no better way to celebrate than by bringing new life to your own backyard. Have you ever dreamt of enjoying fresh, homegrown vegetables on your dinner table? Or what about decorating your living spaces with vibrant, eye-popping flowers? Well, this spring is the perfect time to transform that dream into reality!  

Spring is the Perfect Time to Start a Garden 

Spring generally offers ideal conditions for starting a garden. As the days lengthen and temperatures rise, the soil warms up, creating the best environment for seeds to germinate and young plants to thrive. Threats of frost have typically passed (at least in most parts of the United States), minimizing the risk of damage to delicate seedlings. Not sure if you’re in the clear? Seed packets have maps on the back showing your region’s “frost-free” months. 

Spring's gentle showers provide natural irrigation, giving your plants a healthy head start.

Planning Your New Garden  

But before you grab your gardening gloves and embrace the great outdoors, a little planning goes a long way in ensuring your new garden's success. 

Choosing What to Plant 

The first step in starting a garden from scratch is to decide what you want to grow. Are you craving crisp lettuce and juicy tomatoes for your colorful summer salads? Or perhaps you envision a fragrant herb garden to elevate your cooking through every season. Or maybe a burst of eye-catching flowers is your heart’s desire. Consider your family's preferences, pets included, and the plants you realistically have time to maintain.

Quick tip: If flowers are your choice, remember the following. Annuals bloom throughout most of the summer but require replanting every spring. Perennials offer a shorter bloom period but return annually without replanting. 

Plant Hardiness Zones  

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases a topographical categorization of regions based on their average minimum winter temperatures every year. The Plant Hardiness Zone Map is, by their account, “the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which perennial plants are most likely to thrive at a location.”

This information is crucial for selecting plants for your unique climate. Knowing your hardiness zone will help you avoid planting vegetables or flowers that may not survive the harsh winter months ahead.  

Picking the Perfect Spot for Your Garden  

Choosing the right location for your garden sets the stage for its success. Here are two quick key factors to consider: 

Sunlight Availability  

Most vegetables and flowers require a healthy dose of sunshine. Aim for a spot that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct and reliable sunlight each day. Throughout the next 24 hours, observe your yard to identify areas consistently bathed in sunlight. Morning sun is particularly beneficial, as it helps dry dew and prevent fungal diseases like anthracnose.  

Some plants prefer the shade, so refer to plant tags and spend some time online to find suitable plants that will develop best in your garden’s environment.

Accessibility and Convenience  

Think about how easy it should be to access your garden on a regular basis. Ideally, it should be close to your house or a frequently used pathway and away from your deck or outdoor living space. This’ll make it convenient for watering, weeding, checking for pests, and of course, harvesting once the time comes. 

A readily accessible location might even encourage you to spend more time tending to your garden. Hey, if you’re going to do it, you might as well go all the way, right?  

Making Your Garden’s Bed  

Ever since we were kids, nobody really enjoys making their bed each morning. But a well-prepared garden bed is a hallmark of happy, healthy plants. Here are a few ways to create a strong foundation for your garden: 

Testing and Amending Soil  

Hearty soil is the bedrock of a garden (you heard it here first). Before you plant anything, it's wise to know your soil's composition.

Having a grasp of its makeup allows you to make amendments for optimal plant growth. Head to your local garden center or online vendor and pick up a soil test kit. 

The good news? You don’t have to be Walter White to understand the test’s findings. They’re easy to read and will reveal the pH level (acidity or alkalinity) and nutrient content in your soil. 

Most vegetables and flowers prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. If your soil is too acidic, you can add lime to raise the pH. Conversely, if your soil is too alkaline, adding sulfur or organic matter like composted pine needles can help bring the pH down. 

And most gardens can benefit from a dose of organic matter like compost. Compost adds essential nutrients to the soil, improves drainage, and fosters beneficial microorganisms. Mix a few inches of finished compost into your existing soil for the best results. 

Aim for a ratio of about 1/3 compost to 2/3 existing soil.

Planting Seeds and Seedlings 

Here’s the big one – it's time to plant your seeds and seedlings. It’s crazy to think how those tiny seeds can transform into such a beautiful bounty of vegetation. But as Dr. John Hammond taught us in “Jurassic Park,” life finds a way. 

Direct Seeding vs. Indoor Sowing 

Let’s discuss two major approaches to planting: direct seeding and indoor sowing.  

  • Direct Seeding: This method involves sowing seeds directly into your garden bed. It's a great option for fast-growing veggies like lettuce, beans, and peas. 

  • Indoor Sowing: For vegetables and flowers with longer germination periods or those sensitive to cold temperatures, starting seeds indoors several weeks before the last frost gives them a head start on the growing season. Tomatoes, peppers, and African violets are prime candidates for this two-step method. 

No matter which method you choose, always refer to your seed packets’ instructions. They’ll provide valuable details on seed depth, spacing requirements, and germination times.  

Planting Depth and Spacing 

Planting seeds at the correct depth is necessary for a successful germination. Seeds planted too deeply can struggle to break through the soil surface, while those planted too shallow may dry out or be exposed to harsh sunlight. 

But generally, most seeds should be planted two to three times their own width. 

And spacing is equally important. Overcrowding plants restricts airflow, hinders root development, and may lead to stunted growth. 

Watering Techniques  

Newly planted seeds and young seedlings have delicate root systems that are easily damaged by a forceful spray. Use the gentler watering can with a rose attachment or mister to provide a light, evenly distributed shower. The goal is to moisten the soil without creating puddles.  

Tending Your Garden 

This nature needs nurturing. Tend to your garden all season long with...

Regular Watering and Weeding  

Consistent moisture is vital for healthy plant growth, especially during the warm and potentially dry spring months. The frequency of watering will depend on various factors like soil type, sunlight exposure, and weather conditions. 

But if you’re looking for an immediate answer, water deeply when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Avoid shallow watering, which encourages roots to grow near the surface, making them more susceptible to drying out. 

Meanwhile, those pesky weeds will be competing with your plants for nutrients. Regular weeding is the key to maintaining a healthy and productive garden. The best time to weed is when the soil is moist, as the weeds will be easier to remove. Pull weeds gently to avoid disturbing the nearby root systems of your desired plants.  

Pest Protection  

Speaking of things that are pesky, pests like aphids and worms can devastate any garden. A few nibbles here and there might not be anything to write home about, but a full-scale outbreak is hard to come back from. 

There are several organic solutions you can try to protect your plants. Insecticidal soap sprays or neem oil can be effective against various soft-bodied insects. For fungal diseases, a baking soda solution or a copper fungicide can help keep problems at bay.  

Harvest the Rewards of Your Labor, Homeowners! 

As the days get longer and summer approaches, your garden will come alive. Literally.  

Knowing when to harvest your vegetables and herbs is an essential skill for any gardener. Many vegetables will give you clues, like tomatoes turning bright red or lettuce forming full heads. Some herbs, like basil, will have a robust fragrance when they're ready to be picked. 

And for those who opted for a flower garden, try cutting some fresh blooms to bring the beauty indoors. Either way, there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of harvesting your own homegrown produce or enjoying the view of blossoming flowers in your garden. But you know what’s a close second? Having a mortgage that aligns with your current and future goals.  

For a mortgage that’ll bloom with your finances, choose Atlantic Bay.