Hey friends! Welcome back to the Gubba Podcast. Today I am going to be talking about gardening and seed starting. Summertime gardening is right around the corner, and now is the perfect time to prepare for your summer garden!
Even if you don’t have a yard or an established garden, I have tips for you in this podcast! When you begin to dive into gardening, it can seem overwhelming.
For me, it did at least with learning about soil nutrients and how different plants use different nutrients and how to balance all of that, when to plant, how to plant, watering systems, etc.
I’ve come to discover that not getting overwhelmed with the nitty gritty and just DOING IT, you learn so much and gain experience that you wouldn’t otherwise.
You can find gardening resources on my website gubbahomestead.com for more information.
How do I start a garden?
One of the first things to do when you are beginning gardening or have moved somewhere new is to evaluate how the sun falls on your property.
I have recently moved from the city to a little homestead and the first step I took to preparing for my future garden was walking around my gardening space and evaluating the sunlight and exposure.
I noted where shadows fell from trees and speculated where shadows would be with different sun locations. Sunlight is so important to your garden.
Your tomatoes will need eight plus hours of sunlight a day, so you don’t want to be planting sun-loving plants where they will experience shade during the day.
You need to understand the different sun requirements of the plants you intend to plant and plan accordingly.
How do I make a garden map?
I would suggest mapping out your garden. Include the trees, fences, houses, walls, and any buildings that could obstruct the sunlight from reaching your garden.
Take into account that the sun is higher in the sky during summer and it dips lower in the winter.
So, at summer equinox, it is at its highest point in the sky then will fall until the winter equinox which is when it is at its lowest point in the sky.
The shadows cast by different structures can vary depending on the angle of the sun. In my situation, I have a few trees that I have to consider when planting. They are of considerable size, so the shadows cast can engulf my garden area.
Obviously, whoever set up the garden originally didn’t plan out the sunshine haha, but that’s okay. This will be my first garden year at the new house, so I’ll be able to fully analyze the situation.
You don’t want to spend time cultivating and sowing plants just to have them be engulfed in shade—that would be a tragedy. After considering the sunlight in your garden, consider your space.
What will you be growing and where will you be growing it?
Include your crops in your map. For example, tomatoes need full sun, so map them in an area that will receive full sun according to your sunlight analysis. Write out what plants will go where. Keep in mind the varieties of plants you are dealing with as well.
For example, will you have bush beans or trellis beans? If you are using a trellis for your bean variety, you will have to take into account the shadow cast from the trellis. All of this seems painfully meticulous, but once you starting writing out your plans and ideas, it comes together.
Get Your Seed Starting & Planting Chart
How do I start a garden in an apartment?
So how would this work if you live in an apartment and don’t have an outdoor garden area?
If you have a small area to work with and just have an apartment patio per say that maybe doesn’t get the best sunlight, get crafty and move your plants around your place to where the sun hits at different times. Your gardening area could truly be your apartment or condo or where you live!
There are tactics like vertical gardening where you can purchase a large planter that tapers upwards, so it doesn’t take up a lot of space but you have a large amount of surface to garden with.
These wouldn’t be the easiest to move, but would suffice for a small area that received a good amount of sun. You can also get potted plants like tomatoes or peppers that in bagged pots that don’t take up space and you can move around.
Herbs are easy to grow from a kitchen windowsill or any sun-receiving windowsill in your apartment or home.
What is a community garden?
At the end of the day, don’t let the amount of space you have dictate what you want to grow. Look into community garden plots. I have a few friends who have a space in a community garden and they were able to grow some beautiful fresh food for themselves!
I even got to have some of their extra produce, and it was wonderful. Research your city and see what they offer for community gardens. Some community gardens offer produce in exchange for volunteering.
So you could volunteer to help maintain the garden, grow your crops, and receive abundance on top. What a wonderful way to expand your summer harvest! If you have friends or family that have a garden, ask if you could utilize some gardening space.
You could suggest trading and sharpening those bartering skills. Maybe you make amazing sourdough bread. You could trade bread for a gardening space. Get crafty.
What is my garden zone? How do I find my garden zone?
Next, after you have made a map of your garden for the sun and what you will be planting, figure out what gardening zone you are in. You can just search your zip code, city, and state with the words “gardening zone” and it should pop up.
Once you know your zone, look up your zone’s planting schedule. This will give you a tentative outline of when you should be starting seeds and when the last average frost date is so you can plant outdoors.
I would highly suggest calling your local nursery to ask what the last average frost date is for your area because that way you can get the most accurate information. Another thing to keep in mind is microclimates.
I’m in zone 6b, and so are the people who live 5-10 miles away but sometimes they’ll have snow and I don’t and we experience different weather. My last frost date may differ slightly from others even in the same zone.
The best way to figure out the most accurate frost dates for your is to keep a weather log. Jot the temperature highs and lows and weather conditions each day. After a year or so, you can see patterns for your microclimate.
The internet and your local nursery can give you a good start, though. By knowing your zone, you can have a good idea of how much time you have in your garden season.
This will affect what varieties of seeds you buy. If you live in a cold climate and have a short season, you will have to take into account how long it takes to cultivate and grow some plants and get crafty.
Local gardeners are your best resource!
Starting seeds vs. buying starters
Next, decide if you want to start your garden from seed or buy starters from the nursery. I have done both. You will save money overall by starting from seed, but you save time by purchasing a starter.
A starter has already been cultivated by someone whether that’s a nursery or someone at a farmer’s market, they have already grown the plant from seed and all you have to do is transplant it or leave it in its grow bag and care for it.
If you start from seed, you will need to know your last average frost date. For example, if your last frost date is May 31st, and you want to start tomatoes from seed, you will have to start the tomatoes about 8 weeks before the last frost date so around the beginning of march you will want to start your seeds.
The 8 weeks is the amount of time that it will take to grow the tomatoes so they are able to transplant outside.
What are the benefits of starting seeds indoors?
Another benefit of starting seeds indoors is that you can cultivate a variety of seeds. With purchasing a start from a nursery or farmer’s market, you are limited to the varieties they have.
There are so many varieties of garden plants that it is unbelievable. You want a variety that will do well in your climate, but maybe you will want to experiment and have some fun in your garden and try some wild variety that isn’t offered at your local nursery.
What is hardening off?
If you start your plants from seed, you need to harden off your plants. This step cannot be skipped and you risk killing your plants. Hardening off is when you slowly introduce your seeds to the outdoor weather conditions.
Your seedlings have been used to the controlled environment inside and aren’t used to the blazing sun, wind, and temperature variations, so you need to introduce them slowly to the outside.
If you just throw your plants into the ground without slowly introducing them to the outside conditions, they could go into shock and die. All of your time and effort would be for nothing!
How do I harden off plants?
A few weeks before you transplant your seedlings, start by placing them outside for small amounts of time and work up to longer periods of time.
For the first few days of introducing them outside, place them in shade, avoiding direct sunlight, for a 2-3 hours then bring back inside.
After these initial days in the shade getting acclimated to the weather and its surroundings, begin to gradually increase the amount of sunshine by placing the plants in the sun for 30 minutes at a time then slowly working up the sun exposure period each day.
So the next day, increase by 20 minutes and so on. If the leaves begin to wilt, place the plants back in the shade for a bit to recuperate. Make sure you’re placing the plants out during warmer temperatures as well.
After 2-3 weeks of building up sun tolerance, they can go outside permanently.
What’s the best garden watering system?
Water is almost as important as sun when it comes to gardening. Make sure you have figured out your water source for your garden before you start sowing your garden.
You don’t want to map out an elaborate garden plan, take action to making it a reality, then realize you don’t have the water source to allow it to thrive. For me, I have hose bibs near my garden and plan to use timed watering.
Watering your garden can become a chore and you will have to secure someone to tend to its needs if you go on vacation, so look into different avenues that will suit your needs.
Drip irrigation is pretty cool and to keep things simple, you can even use old plastic milk jugs, punch a few holes in it with a pin then bury the jug around your plants and fill it with water. The water will slowly seep out of the jug at root level with your plants. Pretty neat huh?
I believe that you can truly garden from anywhere. Don’t let your space dictate what you can do. Find local resources. Experiment and see what works for you! Happy gardening!
I hope you have a wonderful day and don’t do anything a Gubba wouldn’t do!