Whether you are looking to spruce up your landscaping or plant a vegetable garden with your kids, it’s easy for the first-time gardener to get overwhelmed.
“Weeds will take over. You’re going to have more zucchini then you know what to do with. There are going to be challenges,” said Emily Kelly, who owns Green Moon Farm in Hellam Township. “Just keep at it.”
David Hartdell of the family-owned Barefoot Farm in Dover recommends starting small.
“Don’t bite off more than you can weed,” he said.
Think smallMany times people get overenthusiastic, wanting to jump into gardening with both feet, Hartdell said.
But a large plot will be difficult to manage. And too many varieties of veggies can set you up for failure.
Kelly recommends beginners start with easy plants that have a high success rate, including tomatoes, peppers, green beans, beets, Swiss chard, salad mix and peas.
When looking for plants, Kelly said to buy local whenever possible. Plants from box stores might be stressed from travel and won’t adjust well to your soil or fertilizer.
When shopping, she said to look for plants with nice, green leaves — yellow means the plant might have a nutrient issue or was over-watered. And she warns bigger isn’t always better — in fact, it could mean that a plant is root-bound.
“Trust your instincts,” she said. “If they look good, they probably are good.”
Stay groundedContainer plantings can be a great way to break into gardening. But when the temperatures heat up, they’ll need a lot of care and water to stay green.
“If you have the space to put a garden in the ground, do it,” said Kelly.
She recommends using a broad fork to turn part of your lawn into a veggie patch.
“Depending on the size of your lawn, a tiller might be more effective,” she said, though she is partial to hand tools.
Kelly recommends pulling any grass out before putting your plants into the ground to cut down on pests and using mulch or weed fabric to nip weed problems in the bud.
And after the initial work of setting up your bed, she said the upkeep of a garden can be less work than overseeing pots on your porch.
“The thing about growing in containers is that you’re definitely going to have to feed them,” she said, referring to compost and fertilizer.
“If you have good soil, plants can pretty much fend for themselves in the ground.”
Tools of the tradeEmily Kelly, 28, has operated Green Moon Farm in Hellam Township for two years.
She has found these tools helpful in her home garden and on the farm:
•A scuffle hoe (aka stirrup hoe) is good for weeding
•A rake can be used to even out seed beds
•Forks come in handy for harvesting root crops
•Standard hoes cut through dandelion and other weeds with big roots
•Rotary hoes work to break up and aerate “crusty” soil
For the ladies
Tomboy Tools, a company founded and run by women, offers a line of garden tools that are ergonomically designed for ladies.
Tomboy Tools’ Garden Transplanter is a small spade with measurements marked on the blade so that it is easy to plant each seed according to the directions listed on its packet. It is available on tomboytools.com for less than $10.