Kick Start Your Garden Year!

Thinking about growing your own vegetables at home? Planting a vegetable garden has many benefits, including cutting grocery costs, helping create healthy and delicious meals, and teaching your family (and yourself!) that gardening can be rewarding and fun. While it is still a few weeks before the growing season bursts into full swing in Michigan, now is the perfect time to do some planning that will make your garden a success. Taking the time to plan out your timeline and map out your garden will save you a lot of hassle when you go to start planting your seeds or seedlings, and will help your plants maximize their growth and success!

If this is your first year planting a vegetable garden, there are several important steps you must complete before you start getting your hands dirty. First of all, where will your garden be located? Spend some time in your outdoor space to get an idea of what areas are sunny, shady, or both, and for how long. Most plants need at least 6 hours of sunshine a day, so keep that in mind if you have large shade trees or shrubs that could block light. Is the garden close enough that your hose or sprinkler can reach your plants? If you have a compost bin or heap, it may help to keep that close as well to cut down on hauling your compost all over your yard. Finally, make sure the garden is close enough to your home that you will actually use it and care for it regularly.

Once you’ve figured out the ideal location, you need to decide how big you want your garden to be. If you’re new to gardening, you may want to start small with a 4x4 raised bed or two to experiment, and then grow in size the next year. You don’t need a ton of space, or a huge garden, to grow lots of delicious vegetables for you and your family!

Next, consider what you want to grow. What are the vegetables that you buy frequently or enjoy eating? Planting something you’re excited about eating will help you maintain your enthusiasm for caring for your garden. Decide whether you want to start your garden from seeds or seedlings. Some plants grow best when they are seeded directly into the ground, rather than started in little containers indoors. Be sure to read the back of any seed packets to see whether they need to be directly seeded into the garden, or started indoors a few weeks before the last frost date. If you’re nervous about starting from seeds, many community gardens or local garden centers will have seedlings available that you can purchase.

In Michigan, the danger of frost is considered over by May 15th (but in some areas farther north, it may be as late as June 1st). Once this date arrives, you should be safe to plant your seedlings in your garden. Some plants may need to be “hardened off” first; in this case, you should put them outside every day for a week (so the plants can acclimate to the outdoor environment, experience the stress of the wind, etc.) and bring them back inside at night. After a week, they should be strong enough to plant. Make sure you pay attention to the spacing instructions on any seed packets, so plants don't overcrowd each other or outgrow their space. Planning your spacing ahead of time will also help you prevent overplanting and letting excess veggies go to waste. 

If you don’t have a yard or grassy area, you’re not out of the running for growing vegetables! Many plants do very well in small containers, which you can place on a sunny deck or windowsill. Some cities may have organizations that host community gardens where you can apply for a plot of the garden to plant. 

Planting a gardent does not have to be a daunting task like it can seem at first. A little bit of planning can make a big impact, and you'll be reaping the rewards of your work in just a few weeks! 

What tips and tricks do you have for gardening success? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #blogday! 

Green Team Staff