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Plant a Garden

Enjoy the outdoors without leaving your back yard

This broccoli in flats is ready to go in the ground. Photo by Mary Reed.

Spring is right around the corner, and if thoughts of blossoming flowers and fresh produce have ever inspired you to create a garden of your own, now is the perfect time to give it a try.

“It’s better to start small and then add from there, because you need to see if you like it,” advises Barbara Shepard, president of the Westerville Garden Club near Columbus. Here are some steps to take before diving into the dirt:

Manage your time. Budget how much time you can dedicate to your garden. “You may be a person who just goes for it, but it can quickly become more than you think it might be,” Barbara warns.

A smaller garden takes less time, as does using plants native to your state because they don’t need as much water or fertilizer. You can contact a local extension office (see below) to check which plants are native to our region.

Survey the area. Observe how much sunlight is in the area where you want your garden. Certain wildflowers (hostas, impatiens) and leafy salad greens are shade tolerant plants; tomatoes, peppers and squash need full sun. Temperature, humidity and water – one inch per week as a general rule of thumb (do you have a spigot nearby?) – are other important factors to consider.

A yard isn’t a prerequisite for growing plants, though. Tomatoes, nasturtium and herbs grow well in pots, but you have to water potted plants frequently since they dry out quickly.

Prep the soil. Take a sample of your soil to a soil testing facility or local extension office to get feedback about what soil amendments to use and what nutrients your soil needs. Barbara suggests using compost or organic fertilizer as a soil amendment.

Next, loosen the soil with a shovel, or purchase or rent a tiller. Till at least 16 inches deep to ensure the soil is loosened. Also, to prevent against uninvited garden guests, surround your garden with a mesh fence.

Choose what you like. Do you want to plant annuals (which only last for one year), perennials (which last for multiple years), vegetables, herbs or a combination? Tomatoes, green beans and peppers are easy vegetables to grow, but grow what you enjoy eating. “There’s no comparison to what you buy to what you grow fresh off the vine,” Barbara says. Herbs like oregano, thyme, dill, basil and catnip grow well in our region.

Ask questions and take care. While plants and seed packets come with directions for care, you should anticipate lots of weeding and watering. Local nurseries, garden clubs, garden centers and the web are great informational resources, as are gardeners themselves. “Gardeners love to share information and their plants,” Barbara says. “Anybody that is a true gardener will love to help you.”

State Extension Offices
Indiana: Purdue University Extension
Kentucky: University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension
Ohio: Ohio State University Extension
Pennsylvania: Penn State Cooperative Extension
West Virginia: West Virginia University Extension Service