February is nearly gone, and while the cold weather may still be keeping us wrapped up, it’s a good time to start thinking about your summer or spring gardens! Never had a garden? Don’t have the green thumb for it? Living in an apartment smaller than most closets? Don’t worry! We’re here this month to make gardening fun and easy for you as we are nearing the start of Spring!
When it comes to actually starting a garden, you tend to have a lot of options for exactly “where” to start. Getting a packet of seeds and kicking off your garden from scratch is perhaps the most obvious way to go, but if you’re a first timer, you may want to consider starting with a seedling instead.
These plants have already sprouted, and just need to be placed in a pot or in the ground with soil. If you decide to take this route, then you’ll likely not be in short supply of seedlings to choose from, since just about any spring farmers market is bound to have somebody selling them by the truckload. If you’re looking to go more corporate than that, most chain hardware stores will also have a section of either seedlings, or fully grown plants for you to drop out back! Of course, if you take this route then February isn’t really going to be when you’re starting your garden, it’ll probably be late March.
If you do want to start from the bottom though, now’s a good time to get certain seeds going indoors, to get a head start on growth. There are many great guides by people more knowledgeable than us about the exact temperatures and water levels you should be keeping your planters at, so we’ll hold off on the specifics here.
When To Move Outside?
At a certain point your seedlings will outgrow their indoor habitat and need to be moved to individual planters or a garden plot. If your plants aren’t visibly outgrowing their pods, you’ll still want to do this around the end of March or by following a handy chart like this one to know exactly when your plants should be moved.
If you are a first-time gardener, we recommend buying a set of planting pots or buckets for your seedlings, since you can know exactly what kind of soil you’re putting in with your plants and can monitor them more efficiently. A full set of light brown clay pots may be tempting for their aesthetic, but if you’d prefer function and affordability, then large paint or “homer” buckets are the perfect home for your new garden residents. These buckets can even be easily turned into self-irrigated planters, or SIPs!
Similar to the seeding process, there’s complexity here that we’ll leave to the experts, but you’ll want to fill your planters most of the way with soil before planting your seedlings inside. From there you’ll have to adjust the planter’s location and watering schedule based on how much light and moisture the seedling needs, but once you’ve got a routine down you’ll be well on your way to a delicious summer harvest!
Especially now when food prices are quickly rising, it can be extremely tempting to start a home garden to save on produce come summer. But what you should know before taking the plunge is that gardening is very much an investment in time and money. Getting the necessary supplies you need to get started can easily present you with a bill in the triple digits. And you have to pay attention to your seedlings. It’s also important to remember that successful guides and videos of people with bountiful harvests are rarely, if ever, people’s first time doing this. Gardening is a skill which takes years to learn, and a lifetime to master, so don’t be discouraged if your first few planters don’t bring you a supermarket-sized harvest. Being able to garden is on its own a joy and a luxury, and unless you want to drive yourself insane before summer, don’t worry too much at the start!
By Andrew Wong, Long Island Pine Barrens Society