Spring Gardening 101: What to Plant, What to Harvest, & Planning Your Garden
No one is more excited for spring than gardeners. After a long freezing winter, folks are ready to trade in their hot cocoa and furry boots for a shovel and a watering can. But before getting your hands dirty, it’s essential to plan how your garden will look. A good gardening plan will help create a better environment for our crops, allowing us to reap better harvests. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming to start your garden, especially if you’re a beginner and don’t know where to begin. Lucky for you, we’re here to help you out!
Planning Your Spring Garden
The first step to having a gorgeous spring garden is planning where everything is going to go. Important things you have to consider are the space and environment of where you will be planting your food. Are you going to plant outdoors in your giant lawn, or are you going to plant indoors by your windowsill or balcony?
Prepare Your Space
If you’ve been blessed with a vast plot of fertile land that’s close to a water source and has adequate drainage, then get ready to clean up that space and turn it into your spring garden. Pick up the broken branches and sweep the dried-up leaves. Add it to your compost (or start one if you don’t have one yet). Save the compost for later, then add it to your soil for more nutrients that your growing plants will love.
If you live in an apartment in a big city, you probably don’t have a backyard to do your gardening in. Well, it’s a good thing you can plant indoors! If you have enough room for an indoor greenhouse, make sure to measure the space in your home carefully and put it in the sunniest spot available. Otherwise, start your mini spring garden on your windowsill or balcony by checking out our indoor gardening series.
Whether you are planting outdoors or indoors, it is a must to start your seeds inside. Typically, it would be best to start your seeds 6-8 weeks before you intend to plant them outside. The reason behind this crucial step is that many plants don’t grow well when you plant them directly into the soil outside.
So to start your seeds, prepare paper cups or egg cartons that are at least four inches deep and fill them up with some seed-starting mix. Follow your seed packet’s guide on how to plant the seed, as each seed might have different depth needs. Make sure to label your seeds by sticking some popsicle sticks or little paper flags with the plant’s name written on them. Next, put the seed containers on a tray and then cover them with plastic wrap. Place them in a warm area with a 65-75 degrees temperature or higher to allow germination. Some like to put a heating pad underneath the tray or even put it on top of the refrigerator as bottom heat can garner better results. Continue to expose the seedlings to sunlight or a grow light, and remember to water them. Humidity is key for proper germination, so make sure that the soil is always moist. Once the first true leaves appear, remove the plastic wrap and repot any seedlings that might have gotten too crowded. Give it a little more time to grow by putting the seedlings beside a south-facing window, and put some fertilizer or compost if needed. If you’re growing outside, transplant the seedlings into your garden. If you’re growing inside, transplant them into bigger pots filled with potting mix. Remember to check each plants’ specific growing needs to know how much sun, water, and extra nutrients they require.
Determine Your Planting Calendar
Of course, if you choose to buy seedlings from a gardening store, we won’t judge. But regardless of whether you purchase your tiny plant or start from seeds, it’s essential to know the right time to plant them outside. Determining your area’s last frost date will help you out with the right timing. You can plant cool-season crops like broccoli, lettuce, and Brussel sprouts earlier in the season. Meanwhile, warm-season crops like tomatoes, avocados, and peppers should be planted in the later months, like May. It is also a good idea to harden your plants by leaving them outdoors for 1-2 hours under the sun while gradually increasing the time each day. The “hardening off” process will increase their chances of surviving outside, so it’s best not to skip this step before fully transplanting your seedlings.
What to Plant in Spring and How to Harvest Them
Now here comes the real hard part of planning your garden — deciding what to plant! With so many seed selections and so little space, it’s hard to narrow down what food you want to grow. We want to help get you out of this pickle (hey, there’s an idea!), so here are some of our top choices for spring crops to grow in your garden.
Filled with Vitamin A and goes well with any savory or sweet dish, carrots are one of the best vegetables to plant for spring. This is a cool-season crop, so you can plant this early in the spring when temperatures are about 50 degrees. Contrary to what we mentioned about seed starting above, carrots should be planted directly into the soil since it is a root crop, and transplanting could disrupt the taproot growth. Harvest time for carrots can range from 50-100 days, depending on the variety you planted. There are hundreds of ways you can incorporate carrots into your diet. Whether you roast it, juice it, bake it into a cake, or eat it raw, carrots are guaranteed to be one of the best vegetables to have in your home.
Cucumbers are warm-season vine crops that grow especially well in warm, humid weather. They require a good amount of compost and some extra fertilizer since they like to drink up nutrients that help them climb trellises or fences. Compact varieties are also great for indoor gardening, and you can plant them in 7-inch containers. Once you see the cucumbers reach a desirable size, harvest them, and add them to your next salad or make some healthy cucumber water.
Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables out there, and you should be growing this in your garden too. It is a cool-season crop, so it’s best to start seeds indoors 5-6 weeks before the last frost in spring. Broccoli thrives in compost-rich, well-drained, and acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 to 6.8. They are ready for harvest after 100-150 days, and if you cut them properly and leave the base of the plant, new heads will start to sprout for a second harvest. Make some broccoli quiche or steam it with some fish for a hearty meal.
Tomatoes taste better when you grow them yourselves. That’s a fact. You can easily grow this outdoors or indoors, as long as you have the right temperature. Tomatoes are warm-loving fruits and need at least 8 hours of sun each day. But they still need a good amount of water, so remember to keep the soil moist and nutrient-packed. You can pick the tomatoes when they are green since they will continue to ripen even after picking, but they taste better when you let them ripen from the vine. Make some soup, add it to a juicy burger, or can it. The culinary possibilities are endless with tomatoes!
Sweet and tart strawberries are nutritious assets to any garden. Just like tomatoes, they enjoy bathing in the sun for 8 hours and like nutrient-dense soil. However, you have to be a little bit more patient with these red fruity beauties, as they take longer to bear fruit. Sometimes, it might even take a year before your strawberries start to fruit, but it is definitely worth the wait! Harvest the strawberries by snipping them with scissors and keeping their green tops intact. Bake a tasty strawberry shortcake or churn some homemade strawberry ice cream with your harvest.
Lemon balm is the perfect herb to plant during the spring. Why? Because in the summer, you can turn this into an insect repellent or a soothing balm. This perennial herb likes to grow in cooler weather, so it’s best to plant this in early spring. Sow seeds indoors two months before transplanting them outside after the last spring frost. They don’t need much light, only about 5 hours a day, and they actually prefer shade. The lower leaves have the strongest aroma, so snip the leaves with a pruner if you want to harvest them. Use the lemon balm to liven up your next curry dish or drink it as a tea to help calm an upset stomach.
This fast-growing herb can grow just about anywhere, so mint makes a wonderful addition to your indoor or outdoor garden. Plant this after the last spring frost in some compost-filled soil or potting mix. Regularly harvest mint by pinching the leaves from the stems. This will also help the mint to produce up to three harvests per season. Sprinkle some bruised mint on a refreshing mojito or iced tea as you soak up some sun.
One of the most popular culinary herbs is basil, and it’s easy to grow anywhere, which is why you should have this in your garden too! Basil likes to get some morning sunlight but wilts off when subjected to scorching heat. Put it under a lightly shaded area when the sun gets too hot, and make sure to give this herb enough water that the soil is always moist. Harvest your basil whenever you need to add some flavor to your pasta or soup. Regularly picking out basil leaves will also help it to stay rounded and less leggy.
And of course, we can’t forget to add some colorful blossoms to our garden during spring! Marigolds don’t only add a splash of sunshine to your garden but also your salad. Marigolds are edible flowers and germinate quickly. They can fully bloom in 8 weeks and attract bees and ladybugs, which are beneficial insects, to your garden. If you decide to leave your marigolds in your garden for aesthetic purposes, you can wait for them to dry out and turn brown so you can harvest their seeds and plant them for next season.
A couple more tips when planting and harvesting your spring garden are always to read the seed packet instructions and do more research online about the crop you’re growing. Additionally, don’t forget the golden rule of harvesting your fruits and veggies early morning to get crisper and tastier produce. We hope that these spring planning tips will help you cultivate an Instagram-worthy garden. Don’t forget to follow and tag us on Instagram to show us what you’ve got growing!
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