The Spring season is the start of new growth for mother nature. Animals are coming out of hibernation, dormant trees are sprouting new leaves, and daylight is getting longer.
Since it is the start of the growing season, now is a great time to pick up the satisfying hobby of gardening. Benefits from gardening are growing your own fresh vegetables, saving money on groceries, and even improving your health by consuming more vitamins from fresh vegetables. By growing a garden, you are helping our Earth produce more oxygen. Gardening is a lesson of patience and known to be a natural stress reliever.
With all this newfound time at home, now is the perfect time to plant a garden. Here are a few tips for your 2020 garden success.
Consider Your Plant Hardiness Zone
Your location will affect your growing season and which plants you are going to have success with. For example, gardeners located in the mountains will have a shorter growing season than those on plains.
Mother’s Day has been known to be a good time to begin planting outdoors. While this is generally true, your plant hardiness zone dates can vary and I recommend looking yours up. You can search your zip code and find info on your specific zone here, and then read up on your zone’s best practices.
Denver falls into zone 5A & 5B according to the Department of Agriculture. The last frost date is typically May 15 and the first frost date is around October 15. This growing season is plenty of time for summer vegetables to harvest.
Choose Your Plants
You will want to choose plants that are capable of growing in your environment, and that you will also enjoy. If you love tomatoes and only have a small patio space, you can easily grow a tomato plant in a pot. Even if you have acres of land, don’t overdo it; the more extensive the garden, the more care time required.
Decide whether you want to start from seeds or transplants you purchase from a gardening center. If you are growing from seeds, plant them indoors 6-8 weeks before you replant them in the ground. Each seed packet will have recommended planting instructions.
The benefit of buying a transplant from a garden center is that you will have a healthy plant that will yield crop fast. The garden center will also have plants appropriate for your area and can give advice.
Popular garden picks for the arid Colorado environment are kitchen herbs, tomatoes, greens such as kale and lettuce, peppers, root vegetables, and squash.
Beans are a plant that will bounce back even after a hail storm, which we know are common in Colorado. Zucchini is known to be simple enough for even the novice gardener to master. Keep in mind that certain plants, such as zucchini, continue to produce all season. Other plants can only be harvested once, such as carrots.
Another thing to consider is companion planting. Certain plants thrive next to one another, while others have a tendency to take over the garden and hurt other plants. For example, keep peppers away from beans, because bean plants will grow vines and suffocate the pepper plants. Onions are great next to carrots because they repel pesty carrot flies.
Choose Your Planters / Beds
If you have the space for an in-ground garden, you can easily build a raised bed with some wood and nails. You will want to build the beds in an area that gets a lot of sunlight.
If you aren’t the DIY type, you can find some kits in hardware stores and online. There are even Colorado locals selling pre-made beds on Facebook marketplace.
If you are limited on space or prefer to build a patio garden, there are a multitude of styles of pots, raised patio beds, window gardens, and vertical gardens that work great.
Cucumbers and tomatoes can easily be grown in containers. If you give them the support they need to vine, they will keep growing up.
Raised beds are best for carrots and other root vegetables because they won’t be stunted by clay, rocks, and hard dirt.
Herbs grow successfully in pots because they can be brought inside during cold flashes. I have two basil plants still growing that I started by seed last season.
Another option to consider is a greenhouse, which can extend your growing season. There are various greenhouse options that can be budget-friendly such as cold frame styles, plastic zipped up versions, or you can build your own.
This year, I plan to protect my plants from hail as much as I can with these row protectors I found on Gardners.com. A late summer hail storm killed half my garden last season, which is a constant to plan for when it comes to Colorado spring weather.
Consider Irrigation Techniques
You can go the traditional route and fill your watering can with water from your hose or sink and manually water all your plants. But if you have a lot of plants, this can quickly become a time-consuming task.
Personally, I water all my indoor house plants and herbs with a pitcher, but for an outdoor garden, I recommend some sort of irrigation system.
For an even more foolproof method, buy a water timer (these are around $35) which will automatically water the plants at a set time every 12-24 hours. You can go on a trip and come back to happy, watered plants!
Drip irrigation is another popular choice that requires a little more effort to set up but is a more sophisticated option. Drip systems don’t waste water because the system will drip water directly into the bed. Drip systems are great for mulched areas because it doesn’t wash away the mulch as a sprinkler could.
I personally set my timer to water early morning and late evening. On a 12 hour timer, I use 7 am-7 pm. The time for your watering will depend on your container or bed size.
Soil should feel damp when you stick your fingers into it, but not overwatered, which can rot the roots. Layering compost, hay, and mulch help keep you from overwatering. If you are using pots, drill holes in the bottom so the water can drain out the bottom.
With sunlight, water, nutrients, time, and patience, your garden will eventually become a plentiful harvest of your favorite vegetables, herbs, joy from flowers and plants. You will learn discipline in sustainable practices and hopefully relieve some stress. Enjoy connecting with nature at your own home!