I know it’s still only early spring, but it’s never too early to think about your garden this year! What do you want to grow? What don’t you want to grow?? What failed last year that you want to make better this year? (That last question is definitely one I have some answers for…) I have three of the best garden tips I learned from our garden last year, that I know will help you have success!
Without further ado…
Garden Tip #1. Have a plan!
I’m not just talking about what seeds you want to grow, where you want to plant them, etc… I’m talking a full timeline of how you expect planting/ growing to go. I started with the target date of when I want everything in the ground. Since we are in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we are in Zone 6 (if you don’t know what zone you’re in, click here!). The last frost dates this year are projected to be between April 20th and May 20th.
Since I don’t want my baby plants to freeze (which is what happened last year…) I’m planning on getting things in the ground towards the latter half of that range. Probably the weekend of May 15th or 16th. A good rule of thumb is after Mother’s Day.
Need this step done for you? Join my email list to get a free copy of the Garden Planning Template!
Garden Tip #2. Know what you want!
When you make that plan in Step 1, figure out what you want to grow! And then stick to it. If you’re really excited about having your first real garden (like we were) it can be so tempting to want to grow everything. Like, “I’m gonna grow all the greens and all the veggies and all the berries and potatoes!”… and so on and so forth. I speak from experience.
But… what you have to keep in mind is that:
- If you’re like my husband and I, you’ve never grown anything more than some herbs and maybe a few tomato plants. So you’re a little green, to put it lightly–no pun intended…
- There’s only so much time and space (and money). And if you’re building your beds from scratch, making your own soil mix, and starting all your own seeds, these all take time! When you’ve never done them before, they take double the time… trust me! So, to quote Ron Swanson, ” Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing.” Basically, just don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Third and most important, this garden/ homestead is a JOURNEY. A process. You will learn so much from year to year and things will continue to get better. You will become more streamlined, more productive. You will learn what grows well, what doesn’t, and what you love to experiment with.
So to reiterate Step 2, know what you want and stick with it. Be patient and put all your dreams down on paper so you can return to them each year. Then, you can add things bit by bit, growing your best garden in 2021, and slowly creating the garden of your dreams.
Garden Tip #3. Get the right materials.
Having the right stuff for the job can make a WORLD of difference. Take it from me, the girl who insisted we didn’t need a grow light for our seedlings… Refer to the picture below to see where that got me; leggy, fragile, seedlings that couldn’t handle the weather when we put them outside.
It did, however, get us a really cute pregnancy announcement! That’s one thing I grew really well, thank goodness! 🙂
The most important thing above all is to have good soil. We followed Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening technique, and got his book, “All New Square Foot Gardening.” He walks you through how to build “Mel’s Mix,” which is a three part mixture of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. This combination helps keep the soil aerated, moist, and rich in nutrients so your little planties can grow big and strong!
The book also provides plans for building all kinds of beds for your garden. You can build a single level, double level, or stair-step kind of garden bed, you can create trellises, and other decorative elements. AKA, you can make it pretty!
Next, it’s worth it to pay some extra pennies for good seeds. Nothing against Walmart, but getting your seeds from a reputable company like Burpee can help increase your chances of success with growing. Specifically, heirloom seeds are great because they have been grown and developed for generations. They often have the best production, and are resistant to disease and weather (within reason).
Finally, have a strategy for pest control. I know that’s not technically a material, but your strategy will dictate the materials. Whether it be fencing, a repellant you put around your garden, or some other type of boundary, you need to keep out the other little critters who want to partake of the fruits of your labor! There are plenty of safe options so you don’t hurt the little guys (squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, etc). Also, you can put some non-toxic pesticides like Neem Oil (we use this one) and Diatomaceous Earth (here’s what we use) on your plants to keep fungus and bad bugs away. This article from The Prairie Homestead has some good information on DE, and how to apply it properly.
Like your life depends on it! This might be the best garden tip I can offer you. I have to say, without a doubt, that if we had mulched our garden last year, we could have probably avoided 75% of the problems we ran into. But hey, we didn’t know! This year things will be “mulch” different…. 😉
Mulching your garden is vitally important to maintaining moisture in the soil, which will help you save lots of time and money watering, and also keep them cool during hot days and warm during cold nights. As Justin Rhodes says, Mother Nature is modest, she loves to be covered!
Mulching can be done with wood chips, grass clippings, leaves or heck, even cardboard! And a lot of times, you can get wood chips dropped off by your city for FREE. Who doesn’t love free stuff?!
Here are some great videos on mulching:
- How to make EZ Leaf Compost and Leaf Mold to SUPERCHARGE your Garden
- The Case for Cardboard
- 7 Cheap (Or Free) Mulch Sources and How To Use Them In Your Garden
It’s Time to Get Growing…
Well, there you have it. My best garden tips (plus a bonus) for growing your best garden in 2021.
- MAKE A PLAN.
- KNOW WHAT YOU WANT.
- GET THE RIGHT MATERIALS.
I hope these tips help you get your garden started strong this year, and give you some guidance on what is important when starting your gardening journey. If you have a gardening tip that I didn’t mention, leave it below in the comments! And please, tag @sweetgumspot on Instagram when you share pictures of your garden/ homestead! I’d love to see them!