Seeking to get an early jump on the growing season? March is the time to consider growing cool weather plants such as potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and lettuce. In the time it will take to await warm soil and kinder outdoor temperatures, your harvest will be just about ready – approximately 10 to 16 weeks. Onions, on the other hand, take 25 to 34 weeks until harvested. If you need a few inspirational tips to help aid in growing a greener garden, consider the following strategies.
Preparing the Soil
Every garden needs aeration and nutrition. If you found your fruits and vegetables lacking in size last year, it is time to boost the soil’s quality:
- Begin tilling early. If you notice earthworms, count yourself fortunate. They seek healthy soil and will assist your tilling efforts by creating tunnels and fertilizing.
- Start tossing compostable items such as vegetable or banana peels, crushed eggshells, and coffee grounds directly into your garden as you till. To boost a plant’s nutrients, lay compostable items around the established plant.
- Containing moisture can be achieved by simply laying a piece of newspaper around the base of your plants.
- In the form of rain, snow, and falling leaves, nature is providing you a gift to encourage healthy plant growth. Collecting rainwater in barrels or containers can be used during months of drought, or help plants flourish as a slow drip irrigation. Autumn leaves can be contained in bags or wire, or added directly to boost your garden’s mineral content. Why spend money on resources that arrive at your doorstep, free of charge?
Keep a Calendar of Planting
Every gardening year has its successes and downfalls. One year, you may discover peppers and squash thrived, and the following year, those same fruits did not produce a viable crop. As gardeners, our thought process changes, as well as our solutions to problems. The solution is to journal. A simple chart naming each vegetable and fruit, the planting and harvest dates, and a description of successes or flops. Sketching the placement of your crops will help in rotating between the seasons.
Interesting Ways to Save Space
Just imagine your squash, cucumbers, and even small melons hanging from a vertical or bowed source. This method will bathe all sides of your crop in sunlight, eliminating the white underbelly. While tomato plants consume gardening space, why not try planting them in five-gallon buckets or the inversion method? If you have an old shoe organizer, use it to grow herbs. A variety of pots, buckets, and barrels can help contain your crops. (Remember, shallow containers will require daily watering. Always check for healthy leaves, and move your pots if the plants show signs of stress.) There are plenty of ways to save space. It begins with creative “planting” and versatile containers.
While it is good to know some plants thrive when planted together, such as beans, celery, and cucumbers, the bigger question is how can you protect your plants from insects and pests. There are wonderful herbs and flowers that serve as “plant superheroes.” Did you know lavender will prevent against maggots, slugs, moth, and deer, and sage will keep the ants away?
The following facts can be used to keep your garden thriving without worry of villainous insects.
- Rosemary, sage and thyme repel cabbage moths and slugs.
- While sage repels ticks, rosemary also controls fleas.
- Spearmint, basil, and garlic control aphids.
- Calendula repels a wide range of insects, including asparagus beetles and tomato worms.
- Fennel and basil will deter flies and mosquitoes; sprigs can be placed near doorways. (Basil will enhance the growth and flavor of tomatoes.)
- Plant marigolds throughout the garden to deter several types of pests.
Become a Helper!
Children as young as two will throw themselves bodily into the act of helping in the garden. While they may not have the fine motor skills to handle delicate plants, young children will aide you in watering and especially collecting the harvest. Dub your sidekick as “the gardener,” and you, “the helper.” After teaching your passion of gardening, you may have a child who may learn to make healthier food choices, and enjoy exchanging ideas with other “gardening helpers.” All the discussions about healthy living and great nutritious foods can begin with a backyard garden.