Want to make your garden ecofriendly, biodiverse and sustainable? Garden Design recommends planting an oak or native fruit tree to provide a butterfly habitat, adding a bird bath, adding a naturalized “meadow” area with native “weeds” such as milkweed, and growing flowering vines to attract hummingbirds without having to fill a feeder with sugar water. A garden tailored to your area’s climate tends to use less water and allows gardeners better options for treating pests without chemicals.
Even before your region sees the final blast of winter, you can start planting a vegetable garden. Plant snow peas first; seeds can go in the ground four to six weeks before the final frost and be harvested in 60 days. Once the threat of a final freeze has passed, continue on to plant radishes, lettuce, and kale, SmartPots suggests; you can usually sow ungerminated seeds and harvest delicious fresh foodstuffs within a month. “Planting early spring vegetables brings both sanity to the winter-weary gardener and homegrown goodness to the kitchen,” the story says.
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.”
Growing vegetables is a great way to save money on groceries, says Better Homes & Gardens. A single tomato plant can yield 10 pounds of fruit in a season, for example, saving $40 on store-bought varieties that just can’t deliver the same flavor. You don’t even need a lot of space to start; by tucking raised beds, pots and other containers into the corners of a deck or balcony, even apartment-dwellers can enjoy nature’s bounty. Check the thrift store for spare pots, window boxes and other containers you can upcyle to create a garden; many are supplied by generous donations to ClothingDonations.org.
If you’re starting your first serious vegetable garden, you’re in for a treat. Fresh-picked produce tastes better than store-bought, says a beginner’s guide from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Be sure to pick a good location that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day; features soft, rich soil and good drainage; and won’t be disturbed easily by winds or foot traffic. Start small to ensure you don’t create more work (or more of a single crop) than you can handle. Give your plants enough room to grow, and observe each crop’s watering requirements carefully. And finally, choose vegetables that are easy to grow in your area and that you like to eat, and you’ll be hooked in no time.