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)
Greens like kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, swiss chard and collards are great to grow in the cooler weather. Once established, almost all of those greens will survive a freeze. Kale can even be harvested while covered in snow.
Here are some tips to start your own greens:
Choose the right spot to grow them – they need a good amount sun, especially in the winter
Starting a garden can seem hard, but it doesn’t have to be.
Do you have containers? Dirt? Do you have the seeds or plants you want to grow? These are just a few questions to answer first, but don’t get overwhelmed. I’ve got you.
I’ve been gardening since 2009. It started simply with containers on my front porch and, once we moved to our house with a back yard, it’s grown into a mini-farm. But, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and killed a lot of plants, so don’t give up if that happens to you.
Here are 7 easy tips to start gardening in any space:
To start simply, get some containers. Cloth containers, like these from Amazon, are very helpful and durable. The have handles for easy mobility, they aren’t plastic (which can break) or heavy terracotta. I’ve got at least 30 of these in my garden right now.
Choose the right soil I suggest starting with Black Kow compost (or a local bagged compost) and soil with a built in fertilizer. You can choose between regular or organic.
Choose the right *amount of soil There’s nothing worse than buying a few bags of dirt and compost, lugging it home and then finding out you don’t have enough. Find out about how many cubic feet (which is listed on the bag of dirt) you need based on the volume of your cloth bags. One 10 gallon bag needs 1.3 cubic feet to fill it to the top. But, one good thing about these bags, they don’t need to be filled to the top. You can fold down the sides and put in enough dirt for the roots of the plant.
Pick the right seeds or starter plants *at the right time Where you live in the country will dictate what you can grow at any time of the year. The USDA has an easy map to show your grow zone. On the back of most seed packets there will be a map that shows the zones and when you can start that seed. It also shows how deep to plant the seed and how long it will take to germinate and grow to maturity. If you local hardware store has baby plants available, they’re likely ready to be transplanted outside into your grow bags. Just watch out for a late/early frost.
Protect your plants When cold temperatures come with the possibility of frost or freeze, protecting your hard work withfrost cloths, like these from Amazon, is important. You can use the cloths and some supports like a tomato cage or some bent PVC pipes to keep the cloth off the plants.. During the spring and summer when pests can be a big deal, you can protect your plants withinsect netting, like this one here. The netting does help, but make sure if it is a plant that needs to be pollinated that you’re letting bees in OR* you’re pollinating by hand (more on that in a later blog post). If you plan on growing tomatoes or any plant that needs support, I recommend these support cages to help.
Feed your plants As the great Martha Stewart says, “Your plants get hungry just like you, feed them!” My favorite organic fertilizer for newly-started plants is theEspoma Organic Bio-Tone Starter, which you can get on Amazon. It has always done well for me and helped my plants grow bigger and stronger. I feed my plants every 6-8 weeks.
I hope these 7 tips help you start your gardening journey. As your plants grow and you learn more, you’ll find endless things to research and try. If you have more specific questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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!
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases
Success! You're on the list.
Whoops! There was an error and we couldn't process your subscription. Please reload the page and try again.
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.
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!