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6 Steps to Get Your Garden Growing

The saying “April showers bring May flowers” reminds me it’s time to prepare my vegetable garden for the new season. The weather is changing to warmer and longer days. April is still a bit raw in my area so getting outside to dig in the earth doesn’t sound fun. But once I am out there, I get so excited. Spring is my favorite season and knowing that my garden will be in full swing in a matter of weeks is all the push I need.

Tender lettuce and spinach, sweet tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, loads of colorful peppers, zucchini, beans and more are the best reward for my work. Gardening is also good exercise, burning about 270 calories per hour. I find it good for my soul. I forget my to-do list as I talk to my plants. Yes, I talk to my plants (or maybe I’m really talking to myself!) Those conversations, the exercise and getting dirty is cathartic, and I am all the more appreciative of my garden. As Mahatma Gandi put it, “To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”

There is no excuse not to do some type of gardening. Think of all the places you can grow a plant – a pot by your door, a community garden, or even a planter on a fire escape provide ample opportunities to grow your own delicious veggies and herbs. I have a big garden space with raised beds. Just as easily, throw in some parsley seeds next to a hedge or plant a cherry tomato plant on the edge of a flower garden. I had one neighbor that planted their entire front lawn as a vegetable garden. They didn’t have a backyard and they thought the sight of their thriving garden was more beautiful than a manicured front lawn. Everyone in the neighborhood would stop by and admire their garden.

Gardening with children is really fun. Their wonder and excitement as the plants grow and are harvested is infectious. Author Jeff Cox said, “The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and Mother Nature.” Kids seem to feel the connection with the earth as they help us garden, once again reminding us to appreciate the simpler things in life.

Preparing the soil, planting seeds by following instructions, weeding, watering, and eventually picking the ripe vegetables teach our children valuable lessons. They learn that hard work reaps delicious and healthy benefits. Plus, children who garden will try more variety on their dinner plates.  My children love to eat freshly picked peas right from the pod. They think they are sweet like candy. Go figure! Big win for Mom.

Here are a few tips to get you started (or back into the garden)

  1. Check this chart to learn the  planting zone for your area. This will help you determine the right time to plant various seeds and plants so frost won’t affect their ability to thrive. You may be able to sow some seeds and plants now, while others will need warmer weather before you put them outside.
  2. Plant your veggies and herbs in a pot or garden in a location that will get at least six hours of sun.
  3. Plant in an area where strong rain or winds won’t wash away your seeds or young plants.
  4. Turn your soil so it is looser than average ground. Do this with a spade, or in a bigger garden use a hoe or rototiller. This allows the roots to grow more freely and reduces root rot. It is also a good time to work in any compost to enrich the soil. Learn all about composting here.
  5. Plan out your garden area. Spacing is important. Read the back of your seed packets for guidelines for maximum results.
  6. Be aware, some plants do better together and others will impede growth of their neighbor.
  7. Water well in the first weeks; once a day for the first week and then you can slowly wean down to two to three times per week. Container pots will likely need to be watered daily as they tend to dry out faster. In fact, some plants and seeds do well if you soak them in water before planting.
  8.  Remember to plant herbs too. Fresh basil and tomato is a delicious combination!

Essential advice for the gardener: grow peas of mind, lettuce be thankful, squash selfishness, turnip to help thy neighbor, and always make thyme for loved ones. ~Author Unknown

Remember you can keep track of what you have harvested in your DinnerTime Pantry. Indicate you want to “use soon” for it to be advantaged in your next meal plan.

Try these beautiful, easy and delicious springtime recipes.

Search for more recipes in the DinnerTime Recipe Box.

A great dish to take to a spring party.

Flavorful and beautiful.

Easy-to-make salad. Make extra and take for lunch!