The very first thing you need to know before you begin gardening is to learn which hardiness zone you live in. In case you don’t already know yours, I included one in an earlier post for your reference. https://bgibsonbooks.com/gardening-fall-cleanup/. The area where I live is right on the line of hardiness zone 6b and 7a, so I usually choose zone 6 plants because they are safer to grow. Generally.
In my area, the rule of thumb for planting tender plants after the last frost is April 15. Of course, that depends on a lot of factors and is not a steadfast rule. Just a date to keep in mind. Many times, I’ve had to cover all my new seedlings because of a freak cold snap. My advice is to talk to your neighbors, visit the local extension office, or join a gardening group. These will all be great resources if you are new to gardening or have moved to a different area.
You can also get good information from your local nursery and greenhouse. If I do not germinate my own seeds, I get my starts from a reputable four-generation greenhouse that is near me. I trust anything they tell me because they are the experts.
By this time of year (mid-April), if I want to grow cool-weather crops like lettuce or cabbage, they should already be planted. They do not do well when warm weather begins and will bolt and become bitter.
I began container gardening several years ago and I am now preparing for my usual tomatoes, sweet peppers, and eggplants to be ready to move outside when the time comes. I also grow all my herbs and flowering annuals in patio pots and hanging baskets.
The herbs that I wintered over are so ready to go back out! They are reaching to the sunlight, hoping to bask in its warmth, stretching and becoming leggy. This does not make for a strong plant! They need to be trimmed up and hardened off so they can go out and be healthy. I love growing my own herbs.
As I said, I germinate a lot of my own seeds. My best advice for seed starting is to buy them from a reputable seller. It’s very difficult to tell some seeds apart and you might actually be getting kale when you thought you were buying cabbage seeds. I belong to seed exchanges also. This is a particularly good resource if you want to grow a difficult-to-find or rare heirloom plant. Remember that commercial sellers usually only stock seeds that are popular and in demand.
Another way to get seeds of vegetables you like is to save the seeds yourself. I have had varying degrees of success with this because some of the foods we buy at the grocery store are hybrids and either doesn’t produce seeds or are infertile. Or they have been picked before the seeds are mature enough to germinate. But saving seeds from the plants you grow and like is always a good choice.
This would be a perfect time to talk about seed- and, therefore, food diversity but that is a whole subject unto itself. I’ll save that for another day because it is something we all need to be cognizant of. We are in great danger of losing many varieties because they are not popular, either with the public or growers.
Whether you are planting into the ground or raised beds or patio pots, making certain your garden is located in a well-drained area is extremely important. Very few plants like wet feet! But they do like consistency in watering. Make a schedule whereby you check the moisture levels at the same time every day. Water when needed. Also bear in mind that raised beds and pots require a closer eye because they dry out faster. In the heat of summer, large hanging baskets may require a thorough soaking two or three times every day! For some people, that is just too much of a commitment. I find that the payoff of beautiful plants and delicious vegetables and herbs is worth the effort. If necessary, use a water meter. This is the one I use. Simple and easy. https://amzn.to/31u5J7x)
No matter if you have a huge in-ground garden or, like me, are content with growing things in pots, gardening is a wonderful activity. It beautifies our living spaces and gives us nutritious foods. And the health aspect of growing things is evident. Fresh air, the feel of the earth, reaping the benefits of a job well done. What could be better?