Even though it’s still winter…

… it’s never too early to plan your garden.

Recycla bought the first batch of seeds for her kitchen garden last week.  Yes, it’s only February, but believe it or not, she’ll start direct-sowing her spring veggies in two or three weeks.

If you are thinking about doing any sort of gardening in 2011, whether it’s herbs in a pot or a full-blown large-scale garden, you need to start planning now.  Luckily, getting started is easy. It also doesn’t have to be expensive. And, best of all, eating local and seasonal doesn’t get any easier than walking out your back door and picking tomatoes fresh from the vine.

Thinking about growing some of your own food this year?  Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Plan to be organic. You DO NOT need to use toxins in your garden, nor do you need chemical fertilizers.  Organic gardening is the way our ancestors raised their food for centuries and if they survived, so can you.  For more information about being an organic gardener, read Organic Gardening magazine or go to their website.  You’ll find lots of practical tips and suggestions for all gardeners, from novice to experienced.

The garden at Monticello.

Choose a good location. Vegetables, fruits, and herbs need sun — lots of it — so choose a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of direct light every day.  Make sure your garden is convenient to a water source so that you can keep your plants hydrated and also to your home so that you can dash out at dinner time for a last-minute harvest.

Choose how you’re going to garden. In containers, in a raised garden bed, or directly in the ground itself?

The kitchen garden at Mount Vernon.

Choose what you’re going to plant. Herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, or a combination of everything?  Some plants are easier to grow from seed than others, so if you are a complete novice, go ahead and buy plants this year.  They should pay for themselves pretty quickly.  Putting herbs and flowers in among your veggies will help repel pests in your garden. Consider companion planting — some plants do particularly well when planted together, such as tomatoes, basil, and marigolds.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s easy to get excited about gardening and make huge plans, but then lose momentum in the heat and humidity of July.  If this is your first foray into gardening, start off small.  Try a couple of herbs and one or two tomato plants.  If things go well, branch out next year.

Michelle Obama in the White House kitchen garden.

Do your research.  Read about gardening.  Buy magazines, check out books from the library, and surf the Web.  Talk to people you know who garden and ask for their advice.  If you can, visit gardens and pay attention to what you see.

Enjoy! When Recycla was a kid, she hated it when her parents made me help them outside.  The idea of weeding a garden was pure torture and she was pretty sure that someone should call Child Protective Services and report her parents for their cruelty.  Now, however, she can’t wait to get outside and get busy in her own garden — a 400 s.f. space that produces most of her family’s veggie needs at the height of summer, plus herbs year ’round.  Even better, her daughters garden happily too and are already excited about this year’s plans.

This is just a preliminary post on how to get started.  In the coming weeks and months, the Eco Women will be talking about general topics, such as how to start a garden, container gardening, compost, companion planting, the specifics of growing different plants, and more.

Tell the Eco Women: Do you garden? Why or why not? What gardening topics would interest you?

Photo credits: Yahoo Images.


3 thoughts on “Even though it’s still winter…

  1. Thanks for the tips! I am definitely going to check out Organic Gardening magazine. I am excited to start a garden here at my new house – it’s been a couple of years since I have had one and I really miss it. I’m going to let my 4-year-old plant his own little garden too. Now I just have to figure out whether I have a spot with enough sun (hard to do when there are no leaves on the trees!). Can you recommend any resources that tell you when to plant in our area?

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