Spring is getting closer and closer so the amount of questions popping up in on-line gardening groups is increasing. I love participating in these groups, trying to answer questions and/or give advice.
There are a few questions that keep coming up over and over and at least one that I never thought about. So I thought I'd write this post to share my answers with all of you.
1. What are the main things that I need to know as a beginner gardener to be successful?
There are certainly lots of answers to this question, but for me how much sunlight the area you want to use as a garden receives is the first thing to consider when planting. I recommend that people go outside and monitor the area throughout the day to be sure of how much sunlight the spot receives and when ( morning, afternoon, all day, etc). Also take into consideration trees that will have leaves come spring.
While we can amend soil with nutrients and compostable material to change texture and drainage, its very hard to change the amount of sunlight an area receives. Short of taking down large trees or a building this is something that is hard to change and greatly impacts the health of our plants.
Take it from someone who lived in the woods for 20 years. While about an acre of our property was cleared, large trees at the edge of the woods grew and grew. Even areas that had 6-8 hours of sun became more shaded as the trees got taller. I love flowers like gladiolas and delphiniums, but there try as I might I just did not have an area that received enough sun for them to do well. I was left with spindly plants that were not healthy and eventually died.
When I gave in and planted the right plant in the right spot - my gardens flourished.
2. Since it has been so warm will the frost-free date be sooner this year?
This was a question that I never thought about. Frost-free dates are a guide for all of us who are planting annuals including vegetables.This is the date assigned to a given area after which it is unlikely that there will be a frost. I was always taught that where I live in zone 6 the frost-free date is generally around Mother's Day.
Turns out that frost-free dates on sites like the Farmer's Almanac are calculated as an average of the last several years of temperature data. Remember it is just a guide not a guarantee. To find the frost free date in your area you can go to https://garden.org/apps/frost-dates/ or https://www.almanac.com/gardening/frostdates
For me-I'm sticking to Mother's Day. It's always been pretty safe!
3. I'm planting my first garden - can someone review my plan?
I love people who plan. It's the best way to lay out what you're going to need and calculate things like how much many plants and how much mulch to buy. And it can prevent overbuying of plants if you stick to the plan. The one issue I saw with the plans I reviewed was how big they were!
I loved the enthusiasm but it's so easy to plant more that you can take care of - especially when you're just learning. If any of you have heard my story you know that I bought my last home when I had lots of time to garden. There were already lots of beds and I added more. I was an experienced gardener at the time and had the knowledge and time to take care of what I planted. Fast forward to my going back to working full time in a new career and wanting to explore other hobbies and now I had an overwhelming amount of work.
If you are just starting out my best advise to you is to start small. Last year I had enough sun at my new home to plant vegetables. Since this was my first vegetable garden I started out small, learned a lot and was very happy I did not do more that this as a first effort.
I hope these questions and answers have been helpful. If you have a question, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll answer your email and also may use your question in a future post.