Springtime might still seem far away, but it’s not too early to start planning your garden!
Whether you’ve got just a window box or a full backyard, the first step to make the best use of your space is to plot out your herbs, vegetables and flowers on plain old paper. Or, for the technophiles, you can use apps like Garden Plan Pro to make sure your asparagus doesn’t crowd your azaleas.
If you have a room with enough light in it, especially with a well-placed windowsill, you may be able to start some of your seeds indoors – a much cheaper option than buying plants at the gardening store, plus you’ll start turning out fruits and vegetables a bit earlier than if you planted seeds outside. It’s the same drill as growing plants outside: you’ll need a container with soil, and water -- and of course, seeds.
As with planting seedlings outside, timing can vary based on your regional climate, with the primary variables being the expected last frost date for your area, and the type of plant you’re growing.
For instance, for Long Island, N.Y, Cornell University’s extension program in Suffolk County recommends starting broccoli seeds indoors in March, then transplanting them outside any times between early April and early September. If you’re starting broccoli outside, though, it’s best to plant between mid-April and late July.
Planting times will vary by your particular area, so you may want to search for a local guide tethered to your regional climate. Usually a nearby university, especially one with an agricultural sciences department, will have a guide available. You can also use apps like When To Plant, which uses your ZIP code to calculate the best range of times for starting seeds indoors, transplanting or planting seeds outdoors, and when to harvest your crops.
Planting flowers alongside fruits and vegetables can help attract pollinators like bees. For best results, most horticulturalists recommend using native flowers. If you’re aiming to draw butterflies to your plants, there are certain plants that are reliable favorites: marigolds, lilac, and, unsurprisingly, butterfly bush, just to name a few.
One unconventional option for growing tomatoes is to use an upside-down planter. Such containers, which can be purchased or made from an ordinary wash bucket, save space and adherents claim the arrangement helps foil weeds and pests. Other plants that can be grown topsy-turvy fashion are peppers and cucumbers, though any variety that gets too large may soon weigh too heavily on the vine. Horticulturalists still aren’t sure if this trend is just a fad, though.
Another gardening design that’s currently en vogue is the vertical garden, which is a great way to make use of wall space. Vertical planting beds can be made out of lots of different things: fabric pockets, repurposed wooden pallets, or specially designed trays.
You may not even have to buy seeds for some of your garden plants -- there are several vegetables that can be regrown from kitchen scraps. Leftover ginger root can be planted directly into soil, while if you put the bottom scraps from celery, leeks, scallions or green onions into water, they should start to sprout and can be replanted in potting soil.
Good luck, and happy planting!
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