Did you know that gardening is not only great exercise, but that playing in the dirt can keep you healthy both physically and mentally?
It’s true. Dirt has so many different things growing in it, it actually helps build your immune system by exposing you to these microbes. In fact, the BBC recently did an article all about how it can help.
Here’s just a few reasons why gardening is great for your health:
Good exercise when digging or planting
Exposes you to sunshine for vitamin D (wear sunscreen!)
Dirt microbes can help strengthen your immune system
Peaceful space for a mental health break
Growing your own food is not only an accomplishment but can also be more nutritious
Growing flowers can help the pollinators, which help food production
Great bonding experience with children or friends (unless you prefer alone time)
Depending on where you live, it is either freezing with tons of snow (hi to my family in North Dakota) or you’re in a place that is seeing a warmer than normal winter, like me. Today, in Myrtle Beach, it is 75 and cloudy.
While many North Dakotans might not be thinking of tomatoes and squash just yet, I’m ready to start planning and then, soon, getting seeds started.
If you’re ready to start planning too, I’ve got a list of to-dos you can easily start with and “grow” from there.
1. Do a seed inventory. Not only will you see what you have and what you need, you can also make sure your seeds aren’t expired. Expired seeds will probably still be good, but you risk a lower germination rate. 2. Look at seed catalogues My favorite mail this time of year are seed catalogues. I love to look at new varieties. 3. Order seeds now Once you know what you have and don’t have – order what you’d like to try. The last few years have been tough for seed suppliers, so you don’t want to miss out on a specific variety if they’re sold out. 4. Clean up your garden space Soil health is important. If you prepare your soil properly now, your plants will thrive. Cleaning up can include digging up old plant roots, spreading fresh compost on your beds and adding chopped leaf mulch. 5. Know your space By knowing how much space you have to plant, you can plan properly when ordering seeds. You don’t want to over order and then have any go to waste. 6. Research your seeds and your grow zone If you know your grow zone, you can research or look on the back of seed packets to find out when to start seeds. Many plants benefit from a head start instead of direct sowing in the ground. This includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and some flowers like zinnias, cosmos and strawflowers. 7. Plan out your garden This step is when I decide what will go where and how many of each plant I need to start early. I always plan too much and things end up changing, but that is OK. I feel good going into a season knowing what I want to do. I’ve got an easy and inexpensive planner in my Etsy shop. 8. Start your plants! Many plants benefit from being started 6-8 weeks (and sometimes earlier) before a last frost for your area. A quick google search can tell you when your last frost is expected. Here in Myrtle Beach, that is often near the end of March. The seeds can be started in seed trays and placed on warming mats in a green house. I have a very simple green house set up outside on my porch – but you can also go all out and get a growing station with grow lights, heat mats and a fan. These trays are a great way to start seeds. 9. Watch your garden thrive By planning ahead, you not only get to dream of spring in January, you can easily pivot if things change. Your early-started plants will be fruiting and blooming before you know it – and you can then start the next round of flowers or vegetables to have an even longer growing season.
If you have any questions at all, please reach out. I’d be excited to help. Happy Growing!
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Spring is my favorite season. Everything gradually wakes up from the winter nap and pops of color fill the world. Around this time in South Carolina, some early flowers start to bloom – giving a peek as to what is ahead.
Right now, in my yard, I have calendula, petunias and daffodils.
Soon, there will be tulips, irises and Hyacinth. I can’t wait for them to pop.
I’ve also got some seeds started for late spring/summer flowers including multiple kinds of sunflowers, a variety of zinnias, marigolds, cosmos and strawflowers. This will be my first year with strawflowers and I can’t wait to see how they’ll do. I also have an abundance of lilies and dahlias that I am looking forward to this year.
So, I ask, what are your favorite flowers? Have you had success in growing them? Let me know.
Good Sunday morning!!! I’ve been busy already today potting up tomatoes and eggplant.
But what exactly does potting up mean?
When you start seeds in a smaller seed tray, the plants can only get so big and stay happy for a short time. Just as kids grow and need bigger shoes, plants grow and need a bigger space for their roots.
That’s why gardeners have so many plastic or biodegradable pots around. As the seedlings grow out of their first home, we “pot them up” to the next size.
For tomatoes, this also helps strengthen the stem. If you’ve ever noticed, there are what look like tiny hairs all over the tomato stem/stalk. When put in the dirt, those “hairs” create roots and help make the plant stronger. That’s why when you pot up or plant out tomatoes, you bury them deep, so those hairs help the plant grow strong.
There are some plants, like squash, however that you don’t want to start in a small seed cell. You want to keep the roots in tact until you plant them in the ground. Many people don’t pre-start squash plants because their roots are so finicky but I’m trying to out run the squash vine borer this year, so I started them early and am hoping for the best.
Some plants, you don’t want to start early in cells at all. Those include carrots and, for me, nasturtium. Both like to be direct sown and left alone to flourish.
Got any questions about starting seeds and potting them up? Drop me a note or comment below.
There are only 30 days until the last frost here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
30 days!!! That’s exciting.
I am ready for some warmer weather, growing tomatoes, blooming flowers and bees. I miss the bees. Today, I planted some sunflowers, cabbage and peanuts so they can sprout and be ready to put in the ground when it warms.
Even with all the seedlings on the porch, there are still many things growing, happily, in the garden right now. Here is a short video of just a few of the better-looking winter items.
Today in Myrtle Beach, S.C. it is 39 degrees F and raining.
A typical winter day for us on the coast. It has been a bit rainier than normal, but not by much. Even with the cold and rain, it doesn’t mean that gardening has stopped here. In our zone 8b, gardening is year-round.
Right now, I have lettuces, onions, peas, broccoli, mustard greens, 3 types of kale, cilantro, kohlrabi, pak choy, calendula, swiss chard, carrots, parsley, oregano, fennel, dill, collard greens, and garlic.
Under a cover, I have started radishes and spinach. In the seed starting area, I have tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, zinnias, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli and mustard greens. These, as they grow with heat mats and are moved in and out of the sun, will be ready for spring when the ground has warmed.
It was just last year that I bought the heat mats to start seeds earlier than March. It has helped get a jump start on the season. It also extended my season because the plants are ready to go and then new ones can be put in their place when they’re finished.
Winter garden crops also need less attention. There aren’t as many bugs, it rains so you don’t have to water as much and the plants are hardier than delicate square or tomatoes.
However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be checked and fertilized. Because of the extra rain, nutrients in the soil can be washed away faster – so you’ve got to feed your plants. As Martha Stewart says, you have to eat and your plants have to eat.
So what can you do if you don’t live on the coast like me? Well, you can have a green house. You can have a cold frame or you can plant some herbs or smaller items on a sunny window sill. You can also enjoy a break from digging in the frozen, cold dirt and dream of spring and summer.
Winter is a great time to plan and many gardeners also order their seeds during this time of year. If you’re craving winter vegetables and you’re not growing them – contact your local farmer. See what they’ve got in the fields right now. Because there are not many farmers markets in the fall and winter, buying some of their produce will likely help them out a lot.
Got questions about winter gardening? Send me a note or comment below.
Also, stay tuned this week for some exciting news!
Let me set the scene for you for most gardeners in the northern hemisphere in January.
If you live anywhere not in zone 9 or 10, January is quiet time in the garden. You, of course, can plant kale, collards, cabbage, carrots and other crops under a cover that don’t mind the cold weather, frost and snow, but most gardeners take the winter to regroup and plan.
That planning process, for me, consists of as many seed catalogues as I can get my hands on, a comfy robe and blanket on the couch, my garden notebook and a pencil with a good eraser.
I try to keep good notes every season on where I plant things so that I can practice crop rotation. This practice helps keep the soil healthy by not using all of one type of nutrient. It also helps keep plants healthy as diseases can build up in the soil if you plant the same thing in the same spot all the time.
Because of this, and the excitement of trying new varieties, planning out where things will go is quite a process. I consider the date of the last frost, seed germination time, when to start the seeds indoors or when the soil will be warm enough to direct sow, the time it takes the plant to reach maturity and soil nutrition.
These things are all very important because the last thing you want to do is buy heirloom seeds, plant them and the seed never germinates. That is a waste of time, space and money. I have done that before and it is quite disappointing.
Once I’ve read every page of the catalogues, drawn out what space I have available and referenced what I grew last season, I try to set goals for the season and create a wish list. This helps me fix problems I had before and plan the space, if I want to get a trellis or plant a specific vegetable, herb or flower.
Now, I’ve been gardening since 2009 – as referenced in the post. But, I only started making a detailed plan for the garden in the last few years, not only because I want to garden to succeed, but I really love the planning process.
So, what can you do as a beginner or someone who has a year or two under your belt? Here is my list of things to do:
consider your growing zone. In Horry County, we are in zone 8b. This zone has quite a long season compared to others. I can grow tomatoes into November and start things as early as late January/early February. Don’t waste your time starting a warm season crop if your last frost isn’t until the end of April.
consider your frost dates. This is really important. As I said above, starting a seed too early leads to wasted money and time.
get free seed catalogs. I particularly love Park Seed, Southern Seed Exchange, Burpee, Seed Exchange and Gurneys. The catalogs will expose you to new seed varieties and options you can explore in your own space.
get a notebook. This can be a simple one or one that is more like an artist book. This will be where you keep your notes, ideas, and designs.
buy seeds or started plants. If you’re just starting out, you may want started plants from a local nursery. This takes the guess work out of starting seeds or buying seed starting mix, containers and heat mats. If you’re wanting an adventure, get some seeds and read up on what you can do to help the plant succeed.
get a ruler. I can’t draw a straight line by myself.
find a link to your local agriculture extension. Here is South Carolina, the Clemson Extension is the go to website. There are articles and plans to take some of the guesswork out of when to plant something.
So what questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m here for ya!
My first memory of gardens goes way, way back. My great-grandma had a beautiful flower garden in her backyard. I remember running through, stopping to smell the flowers, and then heading over to my friend’s house for some red hot candies.
My second memory of gardens is also a long-ago memory. My grandma in Wyoming had an amazing garden in her front yard – and raspberry bushes in her backyard. I loved playing near the flowers and pretending I was in a secret garden. Even now, every time I see daisies, I think of her beautiful yard.
Now, fast forward a few decades. I first got the inkling to play in the dirt in 2009. This was the first time I bought a pot, some dirt and a “plant baby” from Lowes. We had moved to Myrtle Beach the year before – we’d gotten Piggy – and now, it was time to start. Little did I know gardening would become a big passion of mine.
That first year, I don’t think I did much more than plant some basil and cilantro in pots. And, as you can see in the picture, I made a few mistakes by leaving flowers outside…when we were expecting SNOW! Yes, snow…at the beach.
But, in the spring of 2010, I got a few more pots and things started to take off. That first year, I planted cucumbers, basil, squash, lettuce, cilantro, strawberries and a few other things that I can’t tell what they are from that picture.
As you can see, I learned that cucumbers need supports to grow – so I made a makeshift trellis.
The next year, in 2011, we moved to our new house. The following spring, I started working in the ground to build our garden. That’s when I learned that pine tree roots are very hard to dig through. Some of the vegetables survived, but many did not.
It took another season of unsuccessful in-ground gardening for me to take the next step and get raised beds. This is when things clicked. If you have poor soil – full of roots – like I do, raised beds are a blessing…if you prepare them properly.
That first year, I got a little TOO excited to get plant and could have done a better job putting down a weed blocker and enhancing the soil. But, you live and you learn.
In 2019, I got a few more raised beds and after reading a book on companion planting flowers with vegetables, everything really took off.
I started growing zinnias, cosmos, sweet peas, black-eyed susans and marigolds. I couldn’t believe how many pollinators came to the garden to help the vegetables grow. That season, I really learned a lot about attracting the right kind of bugs to the garden.
This year, 2020, has been a major learning year. If you’ve been following along on Facebook or Instagram, I had to move four of the raised beds because they were infested with roots and grubs. In their new location, I properly prepared the soil and now the plants are healthy and successful. I also had major issues with a mulch that stunted the plants’ growth.
I also learned to feed your plants. As Martha Stewart says, “you eat, so your plants have to eat, too!” I never really used fertilizer because I am cheap, excuse me…frugal, but now I am using organic fertilizer to give the plants what they need and now they’re are growing so much better.
Below are some photos from my 2020 garden.
I’d love to hear about your garden journey, so send me a note! I might just feature you right here on the blog.
…And, if you get the movie reference for the title of this piece, leave me a note in the comments below.