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.
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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.