Rock the Green feature blogger, Becky Migas, takes a closer look at gardening and options for you if you don’t have access to a bit of earth of your own.
Even though parts of the Midwest are still covered in snow and frost during the spring months of March through May, it is the perfect time to start planning for a summer garden. By doing a little research and becoming educated on options anyone can become a garden pro and have access to fresh, clean food for
their family and friends. As Gretchen Mead of Victory Garden Initiative says in a video, “We can make a better world by growing our own food.” So here are some tips and ideas on how to start rocking your garden!
The planning process for a garden begins in late winter or early spring. The first thing you should do is plan what fruits and vegetables you would like to grow. It is important to find plants and vegetables that grow in the climate and soil native to your area. By doing a little research you can find native plants and learn about other plants that will help them cultivate in the garden, since some vegetables like to be grown with other vegetables to be able to succeed in growth. Also, research will help you decide when to start seeds to prep for the outdoors when the weather is nice! A great resource to find information on plants is BloomIQ.com, which provides information on many plants.
Don’t fret if you don’t have a yard; you can still grow vegetables on a balcony or patio area. Vegetables such as tomatoes, herbs, peppers, strawberries and more can be grown in pots or hanging baskets to make the most of a small space. Find some creative tips on how to use your space with “Gardening Without a Garden: 10 Ideas for your Patio or Balcony.”
Buying and starting seeds
The winter months are a great time to purchase seeds since you can usually get them at a lower cost and then start them indoors. Seeds can be purchased in a local retail store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot or through online catalogs. Again, doing research through a variety of resources you can make an educated decision on which seeds you should purchase to start a garden. Also, be sure to watch for seeds that may be treated with chemicals. Be sure that you are purchasing untreated and organic seeds. Sites such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Botanical Interests, and The Natural Gardening Company offer a wide variety of organic seeds for purchase.
Now that you know what plants you want in the garden and where to buy seeds, it is time to start growing them … indoors! Seeds can’t go outside until after the last frost of the year, but to be sure they grow in time you can start them indoors. Plants such as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers need to start during the early spring. To find out when to start your seeds visit SproutRobot and put in your zip code! The information will give you a week-by-week planner of when to start planting your new seeds!
Once the weather becomes warm plants can be moved to the garden or outdoor area you have designated for your plants. To help your garden thrive it’s best to use natural fertilizers or compost from leftover food scraps, leaves and yard clippings. Once you learn how to do it composting is simple and beneficial to the successful growth of your garden. Better Homes and Gardens‘ website provides valuable information on how to start your compost today!
By getting involved in local garden groups or organizations such as Milwaukee’s Victory Garden Initiative you can become active in your garden community and learn more about how to efficiently garden in your area. The Victory Garden Initiative also offers courses and garden mentors to help you grow the perfect garden!
Don’t have a yard or patio to be able to plant your own garden? There are other options:
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Community Supported Agriculture, frequently called CSA, is a concept becoming popular throughout the United States. A CSA offers people an option to partner with a local farmer either through a paid membership or work program to receive seasonal crops from the farmer. Find your local CSA through LocalHarvest.org to see what options work best for you!
Community gardens are also becoming popular in local areas. A community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people. The Victory Garden Initiative offers space to rent in community spaces and the opportunity to get involved with other local gardeners.
Another way to grow a garden is through Garden Share programs. Homeowners that do not have a green thumb rent out their land to a person interested in gardening to use the space. Find a space and information on rental through the Milwaukee County Cooperative Extension.
If gardening just doesn’t work for you be sure to support local farmers by purchasing their products at area Farmers Markets!
So now that you know a little about gardening, it’s time to get started! Other great resources for gardening information include Daily Green Guide, Better Homes and Gardens and many other resources available online. Then, in late spring and throughout the summer, enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor!