An uptick in vegetable gardening that occurred last year as COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect seems set to repeat this year. Now’s the time to start the seeds of a pandemic victory garden, since germinating plants hardy enough to transplant can take six to eight weeks. Gardeners will be rewarded with fresh food and a new sense of security, Rose Hayden-Smith, food historian and author of Sowing the Seeds of Victory, told HuffPost: “It’s helpful to be productive and connect with nature, and it’s something that’s within our control in a situation that feels entirely out of control.”
Once your soil is ready for planting — meaning it is dry, free of ice crystals and crumbles easily — you can start planting spring vegetables, Eartheasy says. Early-spring crops offer the makings of a great salad: lettuce, mustard greens, Swiss chard, peas, spinach and leeks. To keep the table stocked with healthy, homegrown vegetables for months at a time, add varieties that take a longer to mature, such as broccoli, cabbage, radishes, kale, onions and new potatoes. “If you expect a hard frost, cover seedlings overnight with anything you have on hand: an overturned bucket or cardboard box, large flowerpot, a portable garden cloche, or a clod frame.”
Once your soil is prepared and supplemented with compost and other organic matter, it’s time to plan your plots. Real Simple suggests consulting the USDA’s plant hardiness zone chart before picking out flowers and vegetables; your local garden center can also recommend plants based on how much sun and shade your garden gets. To keep a flower garden blooming throughout the season, mix mostly perennials with a few annuals, says Yard Crashers’ Chris Lambton, and maintain it throughout the season. “It’s also good to plant according to height, making sure that taller plants don’t block the sun from shorter ones.”
While most garden tasks are done in the spring, fall is a great time to do some planting, too. For best results, start planting at least six weeks before the first frost, Better Homes & Gardens says. Spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils and winter aconite must go in before winter, and leafy greens such as Swiss chard and most root vegetables thrive in cooler temperatures. Plant new grass, trees and shrubs now to help them get established ahead of the dormant season. And perennials such as peonies should be planted in the fall, alongside groundcover plants such as hostas.