Spring has sprung and what better way to set the season into full bloom than to get your garden going? SoilKit spoke with Jill McSheehy, creator and host of the top-rated Beginner’s Garden Podcast and author of Vegetable Gardening for Beginners, to learn some tips and tricks for the best gardening practices this season. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the game of gardening, read on to optimize your garden this spring!Springtime is the perfect time to start planting your garden! As McSheehy explains, “Because the daytime temperatures are more moderate — not too hot and not too cold — plant growth usually explodes.” Moreover, “In many areas, rainfall is abundant, which helps growth.” McSheehy suggests lettuce and other greens for a spring garden, as these vegetables are more cold-tolerant and grow quickly. Additionally, “Most people grow tomatoes, of course, after the last threat of frost has passed.” Many popular summer crops are planted in the springtime as well. This includes, but is not limited to, cucumbers, squash, beans, and peppers. A crop that can be difficult to grow in the spring (depending on where you live), but not impossible, is broccoli. “When the temperatures warm up fairly quickly in the late spring, often that will throw the broccoli into flower production instead of producing the large heads that we can get in the fall.” If you’re looking to plant flowers, spring is the perfect time for many floral species to bloom! McSheehy recommends calendula, nasturtium, and alyssum. These are generally planted during the cooler part of the spring. They are certainly aesthetically pleasing, but have other benefits as well! “Not only are they beautiful but they also attract beneficial insects to support the vegetable garden.”
When it comes to planting your spring garden, timing is everything. McSheehy emphasizes “Understand the difference between cool weather crops that can take a frost and warm season crops that can’t, and time your planting accordingly.” For more information about a specific plant’s frost tolerance, visit McSheehy’s website: journeywithjill.net, but generally lettuce, greens, broccoli, and spinach are considered to be cool weather crops, while tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are warm season crops. It is crucial to know the average last frost date for your region in order to determine when to plant your crops, but this is not all that you should be aware of. She cautions, “Just because the calendar says it’s safe to plant frost-tender crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers — or just because you see them at your nursery — that doesn’t mean it’s safe to plant them in any given year.” Stay up to date with your local weather and forecast .Although the springtime is mostly favorable for gardening, there may be some complications. McSheehy explains, “Cool soil can cause some seeds — especially of summertime plants like beans, cucumbers, and corn — to germinate slowly.” In addition, “Cool nights can cause warm season crops not to grow as fast as when the temperatures start to rise.”
The general interest in gardening has exploded as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. “I think many people got into gardening because they needed something to do and gardening also provided a mental respite.” Many of those who began their gardening journey during quarantine remain avid gardeners! “Now that life is back to normal, many of those same people are still gardening, which is great! I think people garden now not only as a hobby but also for food production and for the benefits to mental health.” That being said, it is never too late to start! Growing your own crops is not only healthy but can also be extremely rewarding.
If you are a newbie or looking to start, McSheehy outlined some of the most common first time mistakes and it all goes back to identifying frost tolerant species. “I’d say the most common [mistake] is not knowing the difference between cool weather crops and warm season crops and how they grow at different times. There is some overlap, especially during a mild spring, but for the most part the bulk of their growth is during different parts of the growing season.” Know these differences so you can avoid complications and optimize your harvest!
McSheehy leaves us with her best piece of advice: “Know that while gardening isn’t hard, it does have a learning curve. Be willing to try new things, research what you can, but know that even failure is a learning opportunity. Also, weather plays a role and you can’t control that. Don’t think that if something doesn’t go your way that you have a black thumb. Consider it all a learning experience and enjoy it!”