National Garden Month celebrates the tradition of gardening at home, at school, and in the community during the month of April. Whether you want to start small with colorful flowers or dive in with a full vegetable garden, gardening is a fantastic way to enhance your yard's appearance and boost the value of your property.
Learn more about different types of plants, how to start a garden, and how to keep it growing.
Choose The Type of Garden You Want
The first thing to decide when designing your garden is whether you want to plant flowers, fruits and vegetables, herbs, or a mix. If you go with fruits, vegetables, or herbs, choose the types that your family likes to eat.
Do some research about the plants that are native to your area and grow well in your climate. You will also want to find out the expected first and last frost dates where you live and the hardiness zone. Developed by the United States Department of Agriculture, the hardiness zone helps gardeners determine which types of plants are most likely to thrive in their area.
Decide Where to Plant Your Garden
Most fruits, vegetables, and flowers need at least six hours of sunlight each day to grow, so choosing the right place to plant your garden is crucial. Watch your yard throughout the day to figure out which spots receive direct sunlight versus partial or full shade.
You’ll also want to make sure the location you choose for your garden slopes away from your home to prevent water drainage issues. Avoid areas that are prone to intense winds or visits from wildlife that could harm your garden.
Prepare Your Soil
Healthy soil is the key to a growing garden. Before you begin planting, you will need to know whether your soil is sand, clay, silt, rocks, or a mix of the four. The type of soil and its pH will affect what type of plants you can grow.
At-home or professional soil tests can help determine any issues that could affect the health of your plants. If your natural soil proves problematic, creating a raised bed garden could be a more efficient option for your planting needs.
Pick Out Your Plants
Plants used in gardening beds and landscaping are typically classified as annuals, biennials, or perennials.
- Annuals go through their life cycle during a single growing season and must be replanted every year. Annuals include flowering plants like marigolds, sunflowers, and geraniums.
- Biennials spend their first year developing foliage, before flowering in their second year. They need to be replanted every two years.
- Perennials, like daylilies, pansies, and purple coneflowers, typically survive for at least three growing seasons. They go dormant during winter but re-grow from the roots the following spring.
Most vegetables, fruits, and herbs are annual plants, though a few like asparagus or strawberries are perennials. Keep this information in mind, in addition to climate, soil, and sunlight needs, when deciding which plants will be best for your garden.
Plant Your Garden
You can plant your garden from seeds or use young plants from a nursery. If you are using seeds, read the packet for information about when to plant, how deep to plant, and how far to space out the seeds.
If you are new to gardening, using nursery plants may be easier to start out with. Also known as transplants, young plants should be planted in a hole twice the size of their root ball and as the same depth as is in their pot. Fill in the space around the roots with soil before soaking with water.
Water Your Garden
Regular watering is important for your garden, especially right after planting. Seedlings should be watered daily so they do not dry out. Transplants should be watered every other day until their roots take hold.
As your plants continue to grow, watering frequency will depend on the type of plant, soil, and the weather. Hot, sunny conditions will dry soil out faster than cool, rainy weather. You can also check the top 3-4 inches of soil – if it is feels dry, your plants need water.
Maintain and Protect Your Garden
Cover your soil with a couple of inches of organic matter to stop weeds and prevent it from drying out. Dead leaves, mulch, coffee grounds, and other types of compost will keep moisture in and act as a natural fertilizer.
If weeds start sprouting, pull them immediately before they grow. Regularly remove dead or dying vegetation from your garden beds to protect from pest infestation. If your garden starts attracting insects, rabbits, or other small animals, consider fencing or utilize other natural pest control methods.
Planting a garden is a fun way to stay active, improve your mood, and spend time outdoors with your family.