WHEELING – This is a very exciting time of year for gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts.
It brings me great joy to drive around the Ohio Valley and notice the start of many gardens. Starting a garden without the help of a trusted family member or neighbor can be overwhelming and exhausting. If you want to create a garden, now is the perfect time, because you have plenty of time for your warm season produce to grow until our first frost in the fall.
Did you know that many crops can grow into winter? With minimal investment, you can grow some crops all winter in low tunnels or under cover. If you’ve never gardened before, it’s best to start your first year slowly. Zucchini, yellow squash, beans, peas, cucumbers, and tomatoes are some of my easy favorites that anyone can easily grow and enjoy as a family. Most plants love the sun, but if you are unable to place your garden in a sunny location, you may also be successful with other plants that love cooler locations.
If you can, a soil test will let you know if your soil is lacking in nutrients.
They are inexpensive and can help with any issues before you put your plants in the ground.
The next step is to plow or not to plow. The main goal is to loosen the soil so your plants don’t have to compete with grass (or weeds), mix organic matter into the soil, and help control weeds. You can’t plow by covering your garden with plastic for at least a month.
A raised bed is a great option for a family garden. My wife and I started with three raised beds 4ft by 10ft, and I was amazed at how much food you can produce from that size of an area.
You can also use landscaping fabric to reduce weeds, increase humidity, and reduce the risk of disease for your plants.
Now is the exciting part, buying plants and spacing your garden. It is important to check your spacing based on your type and variety of plants. Lettuce can be planted a few inches apart, while squash should be 3 feet apart! You want to make sure you give them plenty of room to grow, but also not to have a bare spot in your yard. It’s always best to source all the produce locally, but it’s especially nice with the plants. I always try to ask questions when I’m in a local greenhouse and find out about advice from other local farmers. These connections are invaluable and make it easier for me to try something new. Some plants are better to buy one that is already started, but some can be sown directly (DS, don’t worry, all seeds have instructions on the label). One tip is to make sure you have walking areas – I always shovel my walkways and place the soil where my plants will be and space my garden so I have plenty of room to reach for my plants when it’s time to harvest. . Check when different plants want to be outside. Some plants like pepper trees can withstand high temperatures, while others, like spinach, get bitter and leathery in midsummer.
At the start of your garden, make sure it is getting plenty of water, weeds are removed, and the plants are healthy. If you start to see issues with your plants later in the year (bugs, wilted leaves, brown leaves, etc.), contact the Master Gardeners and join our Ohio Valley Gardeners Facebook group, and we would be more than willing to assist you. help.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the many gardening options. Enjoy your garden – spend time learning and teaching your family how plants grow and delegate. Children can be wonderful helpers, as well as neighbors. A little help now to get your garden up and running and you’ll be feeding the neighborhood in no time. And don’t worry, if you have too much, local pantries and homeless shelters always appreciate the extra produce. Contact your local farmer’s market to see if you are able to sell your produce. Ask questions, and at the end of the day, plant something and just go outside.
Eric Blend and his wife own The Blended Homestead, Wheeling, a local farm that produces a wide variety of produce, meats and eggs.