It’s the time of year when home gardeners begin to set a game plan for the season. Their excitement begins to build, as they know that what starts out as small seeds and plants will turn into a backyard bounty of edible goodness over the course of a few short months. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a horticulture newbie, use these tips to get off to a fruitful start.
- Find the right space.
The best place to start digging is one with lots of sunshine and plenty of soil. If you have a designated garden spot, try to rotate the main area every couple of years to help prevent depleting nutrients from the soil. If a new spot isn’t an option, plant items in different spots than the year before — tomatoes on the opposite side of the garden and so on. Also, consider using a combo of raised containers and in-ground beds so you don’t take up your entire lawn. If you live in a wooded area, consider how to set up protection from hungry squirrels, rabbits, deer and other four-legged friends.
- Know your annuals and perennials.
Popular home garden choices like tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, basil and summer squash need to be replanted each year. Starting these veggies from seed will take time, so be sure to check seed packages, as they will indicate approximately how long it will take to get to the desired end product. To give your home garden a bit of a head start, visit your local farm or farmers market for small starter plants. Other backyard favorites, like strawberries, blueberries and woody herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano), will come back from year to year. Place these items up against a fence or in some other convenient spot for long-term enjoyment.
- Plant things you will eat!
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, but growing too many things will lead to a bunch of extra work and extra food waste. Choose foods you know your family loves, and experiment with one or two new additions each year. Once you’ve gotten things in the ground, make a labeled sketch of where you planted them, especially for different varieties of tomatoes and produce you’re less familiar with.
- Get the entire family involved.
Let the kids choose a veggie to grow each year — it will hopefully inspire them to eat it. Divvy up the work and assign specific days or chores for each member of the family to tend to the garden. As the season goes on, many foods will need daily picking, and there’s always watering and weeding to be done.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.