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Tips for the first-time gardener

If you find that your garden is shaded, try leafy vegetables such as lettuce and shade tolerant flowers.
If you find that your garden is shaded, try leafy vegetables such as lettuce and shade tolerant flowers. Centre Daily Times, file

Could 2017 be the year that you begin a vegetable garden or plant some flowers outdoors? If so, here are a few considerations that might make your venture more enjoyable.

When is comes to growing plants, you can always find a place to plant. Outdoor beds in the soil are indeed the most popular, but a lack of space shouldn’t hold you back. You can use hanging baskets, small borders or edging surrounding existing plants, window boxes or containers on the porch or deck for planting space. This is where you can let your imagination take over.

If you do not have an area of soil, you can even plant into bags of growing media or potting soil that you purchase from Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and garden centers located around the area. Simply cut an opening in the plastic bag of growing material and put the plant into it. Gardening in a bag.

A word of caution: If you do have room to put your first garden in a bed, start small. Given an efficient layout, a 15-by-25 bed area is very adequate for a full-blown vegetable garden. You can always expand next year after you get some experience under your belt.

Most vegetable crops need as much sun as possible. Six or more hours of full sun each day should be enough to assure a good harvest. If you find that your garden is shaded, try leafy vegetables such as lettuce and shade tolerant flowers. They will give you a harvest with minimum sunlight. Many vegetables are quite adaptable for container growing if sunlight is available.

Every first-time gardener should have a few of the basic tools to get started. For the first season, I suggest a shovel, garden rake, hoe and towel for planting. These tools will allow you to adequately prepare the soil or beds.

A few seed catalogs or gardening texts available from the Penn State Extension publications that can be view on line that will give you endless ideas on planting and soil management. It is important to read ahead of the actual season to become familiar with what might happen in the garden so you will be ready for any problems.

That should get you growing this year.

Bill Lamont is a professor and extension vegetable specialist in the department of plant science at Penn State and can be reached by email at wlamont@psu.edu.

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