Moved into a new home and need some tips for starting your new garden? The last of what felt like an eternal winter is finally good and gone (crossing our fingers) and that can only mean one thing – spring has sprung! This is quite literally a time for new beginnings. You have already braved the hunt for a new home and suffered through all of the rigamarole to move from your old place, including the absolute worst of the worst; packing and unpacking. Up next? Getting ready to grow your very own, real garden for the first time!
Yes, there will undoubtedly be a learning curve(s), but with the right guide, anyone can hone their green thumb! Here are five simple steps to turn seeds into scenery in your new backyard.
#1 – Do Your Homework
Nothing will squash gardening dreams faster (before they can even bloom), than the cruel realization you have gone to the trouble of planting something completely unsuited for the climate you live in. Or that you have chosen incompatible plants to be neighbours with one another. Devastating! A little bit of research can go a long way while saving you time, effort and money. Learning the length of your area’s frost-free growing season, most importantly what time of year exactly it starts and finishes, is paramount. Running a close second will be understanding what seeds can be planted when, what different items can grow well together, and what combinations to avoid. Make the most of the resources available to you close to home and pick the brains of the staff at your local greenhouse. Alternatively, Google and online gardening fanatics are your friends here. People who love to garden tend to also be passionate about sharing their wisdom. Still have questions? Check out The National Gardening Association, enter your city of choice, and a wealth of knowledge appears.
#2 – Location, Location, Location
Before you buy new gloves or load up on goodies from the garden center, take some time to survey your outdoor space. Which section gets the most sun? Decide how you are going to make the most of this area. If you are considering dabbling in vegetables, the majority of them will need an average of 6 hours of sunshine a day, while many varieties of plants need considerably less. Creating a basic map of where you will be planting what can keep all of this organized. How is the quality of the soil? Are there rocks and/or weeds to spend some time removing before you get started? When the foundation you are working with is in great shape, you will give your plants the best opportunity to thrive and there will be substantially less need for fertilizer and pesticides. Consider how much leisure room you would like to keep in your backyard as well. Before you get digging, set out your lawn chairs, BBQ, and blow up pool, etc. so you know exactly how much space you need to fit everything in comfortably.
#3 – Less Is More
The phrase ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ specifically applies here! Like acquiring any new skill, learning to successfully grow a new garden is going to take time. New garden tip number 3 – It isn’t rocket science, but you will ultimately fare far better if you start small. It might be tempting to go a little crazy when you are feeling yourself as a landscaper and seed shopping for the first time, but it is definitely not necessary to plant every fruit and vegetable known to man during your rookie season. You will make a ridiculous amount of work for yourself and if things don’t go sideways, could potentially end up with more produce than you will know what to do with, or have the ability to store! Heed The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s sage advice; “It’s better to be proud of a small garden than be frustrated by a big one!”
#4 – No Ground Soil, No Space? NO Problem
Is your new home’s soil game struggling hard? Don’t stress. Even if you are working with a straight up rock garden, you can still get your grow on. Planter boxes to the rescue! First and foremost, going this route can eliminate a ton of work. Instead of having to wait for the ground to thaw, dig up last year’s dirt and break your back while doing it; you can start with a clean slate and much less trouble. Typically you can just throw new fertilizer on top and go. This no muss, no fuss approach can actually result in a richer, more nutrient dense dirt for your plant babies. Other benefits include:
Aesthetics and comfortability – If you are working with limited space and don’t want it overcrowded, a raised bed can help keep things neat and compact.
More efficient and easily accessed drainage – Have no fear! Where once an unfortunately sloped backyard brought fears of flooding and/or drowning your garden, a planter box now safely resides above it all.
No need to commit – This may be the biggest pro of them all. Particularly when you are starting out, you may not know what you are going to enjoy growing and what you are not. Some things will really be in your wheelhouse while others make you want to pull your hair out. A planter box removes all commitment! If you have a go at something this summer that bombs, dump it out and start fresh in 2021, without having to tear up your entire backyard.
#5 – Don’t Sleep On Grass
Just because vegetables, fruit and flowers are not your thing, doesn’t mean that you don’t still have the heart of a gardener. Growing grass and maintaining it is a science and art. And no, you are certainly not beholden to only using the boring, green short stuff that can make your home feel like a fairway. Did you know there are over 9,000 species of grass on Earth? This makes it part of one of our largest plant families aka there is a lot of variety to choose from. Read about some of your options here. If you are feeling moved to give your grass a glow up for summer 2020, unsurprisingly you are going to want to start in the same place as your other garden items – the soil! The experts say, “When it comes to turf, what happens above ground reflects what’s going on underneath.” Grab a pH test kit (most garden outlets will have them) to find out what you are working with and prepare your base accordingly. You can have some serious fun with backyard toys here. Leaf blowers, lawn mowers, tillers/cultivators and fertilizer spreaders – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Concerned about water consumption blowing up your bill and overuse as we head into fire season? Although not as readily available, there are grass options that will demand less upkeep and water intake. You can try microclover, white clover, creeping red fescue, ryegrasses or sedges.
There is nothing more exciting than seeing your house turn into a home before your eyes, because of your hard, yard work! Stay the course and resist the temptation to become overwhelmed or scared off. You have it in you to tackle taking on this whole new, green world and many seasoned garden club members once stood where you do today. The reward of digging up your first crisp vegetable, smelling your freshly cut grass or watching a new flower bloom, will be an experience unlike any other. Good luck and get going asap – the snow will be back again before we know it!