Although the planting phase is still a few weeks away, the real planning and work starts now.
Planting the perfect garden
By Tiffany Billings '17
“Gardening is like an adventure. It takes patience and persistence, and you can try new things!” – Olivia Mingora, student manager of Grantham Garden
Spring has finally arrived, so the topic of “planting a summer garden” is sure to come up any day now. Words like perennial, bulb and taproot will be tossed around just like seeds. But the reality is, there are many people that don’t have much experience with gardening. Perhaps your greatest gardening success was growing grass in a Styrofoam cup for a high school biology class. But why not give it a try? Although the planting phase is still a few weeks away, the real planning and work starts now. Follow these few short steps and soon you’ll enjoy fresh organic food that you grew yourself!
Decide what you want to plant. Especially for a novice grower, note that transplants are easier to work with than seeds. Sometimes seeds don’t open up, while transplants are already growing. Vegetables like lettuce, kale, carrots, tomatoes, squash and zucchini are all fairly easy to maintain, especially for a beginning gardener. On the other hand, beware of celery and melons because they can be difficult to work with; their seeds must be in the proper environment. Celery cannot get a lot of direct sunlight, so they need to be covered. Melons need to grow in an environment with lots of space and damp soil.
Prepare your garden. Experts recommend cleaning out your garden on a warm day in April, but the time to prepare your garden and plant the seeds or transplants also depends on what type of plant you are growing. Plants like lettuce, spinach, kale, potatoes and root vegetables should be planted early, around mid-April or May, while others not until June. To be sure, research your plant to understand when it should be planted, how much sunlight and space it needs, what type of soil it grows best in and when you should be prepared to harvest. Here at the Grantham Garden, Messiah’s compost is mixed with the soil, along with manure from a local farm. But if you don’t have access to compost or manure, it’s recommended to use a fertilizer like Miracle-Gro or Scotts.
Keep up with it! The work doesn’t stop after the seeds are in the ground. Plants need to be looked after and the garden maintained. Weeds can attract more pests and choke out the plants by taking nutrients and water from the soil. For a home garden, you should spend one or two hours weeding each week. When it comes to watering, overwatering can be just as bad as under-watering. You should water the plants every other day either in the morning or evening. If you water midday, most of the water will just evaporate. You know that you’ve watered enough when you stick your whole pinky into the soil and it comes out completely dirty.
Harvest time! After a few weeks of maintenance, it’s time for the harvest! Check the garden once or twice a week for ripe fruit or vegetables. It’s important to harvest at the right time so that the plant can continue to produce more. Be sure to follow the guidelines for what you're growing to find the perfect time to harvest. According to Olivia Mingora, student manager of the Grantham Garden, the most rewarding part of gardening is trying out new recipes with the vegetables you grew yourself, and sharing your food with friends.
“Most importantly, don’t be afraid of failing. You’re going to have crops that don’t work, but you can always try again next year!” - Olivia Mingora, student manager of Grantham Garden
So what do you say? Will you join in on the adventure?