10 Garden Starting Tips

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Are you starting to think about this year’s garden? I know I am! Spring will be here before you know it. So today let’s go over a few tips to get your garden started off growing right!

My son Josh is joining me today. He has a certification from Howard Garrett, The Dirt Doctor. You can learn more about The Natural-Organic Gardening and Landscaping Course Online Classes and Certification here. Tell them Josh sent you and use promo code TORCCERT10 to get a 10% discount.

Ok, so here are 10ish tips (there a bonus 11th tip at the end) to get your garden started off right!

1. Know Your Zone
When you are shopping for seeds or for seedlings it is helpful to know which growing zone you live in. This way you’ll be able to determine which plants will do well in your area, as the description of the plant or seed usually refers to the USDA zone hardiness map. Here is a link to find out which zone you live in.

2. Grow Native Plants
This isn’t always possible when you’re trying to grow food. There are a lot of native plants you can’t eat. However, try to grow some native plants along with other plants. When you grow native plants you support the natural ecosystems. They will also usually require less care, less water, and less fertilizer saving you money, but at the same time building up the natural environment so you can grow things that are more exotic to your area. Find out native plants for your area.

3. Know Your Average Last Frost Date
Knowing your average last frost date is helpful when you’re planting seedlings. The frost date can change, but especially for those plants that can take a light frost, it’s helpful to know when you can actually put them in the ground. For plants that will absolutely die from a frost, like tomatoes, you would want to wait a few weeks after your average last frost date to plant. Unless you have a super short growing season, in which case you might need a hoop house or something along those lines. Go here to find your average last frost date.

4. Plan Out Your Garden
It’s ok to plant things here and there. They will still grow. But you’ll get so much more out of your garden if you plan where to plant things. Things to consider when planning:

  • Decide Where To Plant–Not everything will be planted at the same time, so decide when to plant seeds and seedlings and leave spaces for the things you’ll plant later in the season. Also, consider shady areas and full sun area and plan to plant appropriate vegetables or fruit in those spaces.
  • Decide When To Plant–This way you’ll know when to start your seedlings indoors.
  • Decide When You Want To Harvest–Consider staggering the planting times of your seeds so that everything in your garden will not need to be harvested at the same time.

5. Get Your Seeds
There are a lot of terms going around about seeds that can get confusing such as, organic seeds, heirloom seeds, hybrid seeds, conventional seeds, GMO seeds.

  • Organic Seeds–Seeds that have been raised organically without pesticides or herbicides. It’s best to look for seeds grown from organic plants because these seeds will typically do better if you intend to raise them in an organic environment.
  • Conventional Seeds–Seeds grown with conventional agricultural practices such as using synthetic or chemical pesticides or herbicides.
  • Heirloom Seeds–Seeds raised from fruits or vegetables where the seeds have been saved from the “parent” plant for generations. Theoretically, you’d only need to buy these seeds one time as long as you saved seeds each year from your crop. These types of seeds can be organic or conventional.
  • Hybrid Seeds–Seeds that can’t be saved from season to season (or at least shouldn’t be because your plants won’t do well). A hybrid seed is from a plant that has been cross-pollinated so that the resulting seeds will have the best properties of both plants. The practice has become “scientific” in the last 100 years and is one of the reasons we can grow crops on a large scale to feed a large number of people. However the practice is very old, and humans have been cross-pollinating plants for thousands of years. Cross-pollination can even happen naturally in nature without human interference.
  • GMO Seeds–GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. This is a scientific process where humans replace or modify the genetics in certain organisms–seeds. There are not any GMO gardening seeds on the market (that I’m aware of) at the time of this show. That all could change, but GMO seeds are used by commercial farmers to produce foods like corn and soy. So while you do not want to garden with them, at this time they are not a concern as far as winding up in your garden. (Note: Monsanto, a company that is very involved in developing GMOs does have some seed labels that they sell non-GMO seeds under. So if it’s important to you not to support their work you will want to avoid buying from those companies).

6. Amend Your Soil
This can be as simple as using good quality potting soil. Of course, organic potting soil gets expensive, so you might consider starting a compost pile or getting a composter. When using compost you want to make sure you have a balance of green material to brown materials. If you have too much green the compost will have a bad smell. If you have too much brown then it will take longer to decompose.

Another way to help the soil is to put mulch down. The mulch will decompose over time and help keep weeds out (weeds take nutrients meant for your plants). It will also keep moisture in.

7. Decide Where To Start Seeds
Are you going to start seeds indoors or outdoors? If you have a short growing season then you might consider starting seeds indoors. It will depend on how much room you have and the conditions inside your house. A few tips for starting seeds indoors:

  • Use A Seed Growing Rack–This can just be a simple shelf unit, but it’s so much easier than having seeds spread all through your house on windowsills. Click here to see how we built an inexpensive seed growing rack.
  • Plant More Than You Need–You can always thin out later or give some seedlings away. However, if you don’t have enough seedlings because the seeds didn’t come up or something else happened then you’re behind and might be able to catch up during the current growing season.
  • Place a fan on your shelf unit to simulate wind. This way your plants will harden off more quickly.
  • Consider a Paper Potter instead of plastic containers.
  • Viability Testing–Be sure to test older seeds to make sure they will come up.

8. Consider Going Organic
If you have used chemicals and herbicides before, consider giving those products a rest and trying to do things organically. It’s a lot easier than you might think. There is a ton of support and your food will be healthier.

9. Know Your Plant Starting Dates For What You’re Growing
Not every plant can be planted at the same time. Lettuce and broccoli can take the colder weather. Things like tomato and okra need the sun and warmer weather. This goes back to planning out your garden, but even if you don’t plan, understand it’s probably not a good idea to plant everything on the same day.

10. Stagger Your Harvest Time
This one goes back to planning too. Stagger your planting so that you don’t have all your vegetables ready for harvest at the same time. Even if you have a small garden that’s a lot of eating and preserving to not let things go to waste. Determine when your harvest will occur by looking at the seed packet and make sure you have staggered harvest times.

11. Josh’s Additional Comments
There are also many different methods of gardening. Each of the different methods has their own advantages. Some are better at incorporating compost into your garden while others are better if you have a limited amount of space. Keyhole gardening and Lasagna gardening are both great methods if you want to better incorporate compost into your garden. Lasagna gardening involves layering brown material and green material and letting it compost before you plant your crops. With keyhole gardening, you have the compost pile in the middle of a raised bed with a slit cut out for walking. If you have a limited amount of space then you might consider hydroponics or container gardening. Hydroponics is growing without soil. The plants sit in a growing medium with their root suspended in water. With this method, you can control the nutrients that the plants get and it can be done indoors. Container gardening is just planting pots. If you live in an apartment this is a good way for you to still be able to grow some tomatoes or other crops.

Don’t forget to check out our Gardening Planner. It’s a 108-page planner that helps your plan garden. It also helps you keep track of things like amending the soil, planting seedlings, watering, fertilizer, pest control, and your harvest. It comes with two bonuses so be sure to click here to check it out.