Tag Archives: beginners guides

10 Tips for Beginner Gardeners

Starting your first garden can be overwhelming. There are so many decisions to make like location, varieties, and even what tools to purchase. There’s plenty to learn and do. We advise to visit tree service Winston Salem for assistance in the future, any gardening book will dive into planting dates, pests, garden amenments and more, in a recent survey it was discovered 2 out of 10 homes are in need of nuisance animal removal for animals and bats in the attic.

Starting with these 10 tips can help get you on track for a great first season.

Have your soil tested.

Learning as much about your soil as possible can help ensure your garden is a success and you can get resources for this, from the Helpful Garden site to provide everything necessary for a good garden. You’ll be able to add appropriate amendments and avoid wasting time and money. It can also help you select varieties. For example, carrot varieties like Chatenay Red Core Carrots perform better in heavy clay soils because they are short and have blunt ends. Use commercial grow lights for growing cannabis

Understanding Soil Tests

Amend your soil as needed.

Once you’ve tested your soil and had a look at your results it’s time to amend your soil. Certain amendments like lime or fertilizer should only be added if your soil test indicates a real need. Lime is used raise the soil’s pH. Raising it too much can make certain nutrients inaccessible to plants. Adding too much fertilizer can also be detrimental and can run off causing toxic algal blooms in your local watershed. A safe place to start is adding organic matter in the form of good quality compost. It can provide a variety of nutirents, help sandy soils hold moisture, and help heavy clay soils drain better. If you’re on a tight budget check out our post for free amendment ideas. I recommend to visit EasyMerchant the official website they offer the broadest line of durable and easy to install Channel and Trench drain systems from 1” to 12” widths, available in a wide variety of materials to meet the load and volume requirements of any job.

Choose a gardening style that works best for you.

In a recent post, we discussed the pros and cons of raised beds. While they’ve become very popular they may not be the best choice for everyone. The same goes for no-till gardening, hugelkultur beds, container gardening, and other gardening styles. Start with what’s easiest for you and experiment from there, If you want assistance or expert advice check out https://www.hancocktreeservice.com.

Start composting.

Every home should have a compost bin! Composting creates free soil for your garden and helps reduce waste. Apartment dwellers should check out vermicomposting as a small space alternative to an outdoor compost pile.

Use mulch.

Mulch helps to hold moisture, supress weeds, add organic matter, creates habitat for beneficial insects, and can even help prevent certain plant diseases. We have a number of articles about different types of mulch on the blog.

Learn about crop rotation and cover crops.

Crop rotation is key to a healthy garden. Never plant the same type of plants in the same place two years in a row. Cover crops can be used with crop rotation to decrease pest and disease pressure, reduce erosion, and add nutrients to your soil. You’ll need a cordless whipper snipper that uses a corner-cutting function makes it easy to clean and remove fouled corners and lawn edges

Start small.

It’s common advice and worth heading. You’ll get more from a well maintained small garden than a poorly cared for larger one. It can be really tough to narrow down which varieties to choose but it’s worth it. Add one or two varieties and increase your garden size a bit each year.

Consider your water source.

Lugging watering cans around is time consuming and exhausting. Put your garden as close to a water source as possible. If you can, invest in some hoses and a sprinkler or drip irrigation.

Choose varieties appropriate to your area.

When selecting your seeds and plants be sure to read carefully. For example, folks that live in zones farther north should look for varieties that mature quickly and folks in the far south should consider more heat tolerant varieties. If you have a big yard it’s better if you use a https://technomono.com/best-zero-turn-mower-for-10-acres zero turn mower for 10 acres lawn because, mowing your lawn doesn’t have to be boring or tiresome

Knowing your hardiness zone can help you select appropriate varieties. For information about hardiness zones visit our post, Everything You Need to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones to learn more.

Start your own transplants from seed.

Starting your own transplants ensures you get the varieties you want and those that are well-suited to your area. It’s not as hard as you think. Check out Pam Dawling’s advice for starting seeds here on the blog.

Starting a garden is an incredibly rewarding experience but it can be tough. Use these tips for your first garden to make sure your garden is a success.

 

Everything You Need to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones

Photo of the USDA Hardiness Map (https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#)

One concept that’s often brought up in gardening literature and rarely fully explained is hardiness zones. While they are a simple concept, to a new gardener it can be helpful to know exactly what a hardiness zone is and how to find theirs.

What’s a Hardiness Zone?

A hardiness zone is a geographic area that has similar climatic conditions that affect plant growth. In the United States, the most commonly used hardiness zones are those 13 zones found on the USDA Hardiness Zone Map. The USDA map is based on the annual minimum winter temperature.

History of Hardiness Zones

Starting in the 1920s people and organizations in the U.S. began making efforts to create a system of hardiness zones. However, it wasn’t until 1960 that the system we use today was created by the National Arboretum in Washington.  Over the years the map has been revised by the American Horticultural Society, the Arbor Day Foundation, and the USDA. Many other countries employ the USDA hardiness zones or a similar system.

The Current Map

The current hardiness zone map was created by the USDA in 2012. The USDA based the map on temperature recordings that were taken between 1976-2005. It’s digital and interactive, allowing users to enter their zip code or click on their location to find out more about their zone. In the future, this map will no doubt need to be updated. In fact, some believe that it already is incorrect due to climate change. Certain zones may have experienced warmer than average winter temperatures in the past few years.

You can find the current map here: https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#

How Accurate Are Hardiness Zones?

First, it’s important to note that though winter minimum temperatures are what hardiness zones are based on they are not the only factor that determines a plants survival in a specific area. Some areas within the same zone may experience low winter temperatures for months on end while others within the same zone will only reach anywhere near the minimum temperature for a couple of days.

Snowfall is another big factor. Snow acts as insulation and if plants are consistently covered it can help them survive temperatures they otherwise wouldn’t. Wind is another important consideration. Think about the areas referred to as “above treeline” in certain sections of the Appalachian mountains (particularly the northeast) even though it may be colder farther north where trees are still present, extreme winds play a huge role in limiting growth in the mountains.

What if I Want to Grow Plants Not Suited to My Zone?

While greenhouses and high tunnels are typically used in modern agriculture to extend the growing season of annual plants you can use them to grow perennials as well. Planting in a shelter like this can allow you to plant species that would need a whole hardiness zone warmer than your area.

Some people have also had good luck planting against large rocks or buildings. These features shelter plants from wind and can absorb the sun’s heat during the day and release it slowly as nighttime temperatures fall.

Lastly, some perennials can be grown like annuals or brought indoors during the winter. Keep in mind if you bring a perennial in during the winter that is typically found in warm climates it probably won’t be quite as productive. You may also need to provide supplemental light unless you have large, south-facing windows.

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Succession Planting 101

Ever wonder how your favorite local farm stand manages to have so much variety for such a long period of time? Farmers use succession planting to maximize their harvests and provide a wide variety of vegetables for a long season.

Succession planting is when you stagger plantings or plant multiple crops in the same area throughout the season. Each time a crop is finished you pull it and plant a new one. This allows commercial growers to reap large, continued harvests.

It’s not just for farmers though! Succession planting is super easy and great for backyard gardeners too. With a little extra planning you can get more production for your existing garden space.

Getting Started

Choosing Varieties

Almost any crop can be succession planted but different crops are succession planted for different reasons and offer different results.

Plants like corn, broccoli, and cabbage are often planted in successions to achieve more than just a single harvest. Many people also choose to plant successions of summer squash and cucumbers as just a few plants can produce a massive amount at their height of production.

Radishes, swiss chard, green onions, and carrots are great for planting multiple successions or sneaking in between plantings of other crops. They’re quick to grow and favored by urban gardeners and farmers.

Cool season crops are also good choices as they can be planted in the early spring or fall when hot weather crops won’t be taking up space in your garden.

Additionally you can select multiple varieties of crops with different harvest times. For example Golden Acre Cabbage takes just 62 days to harvest while Premium Late Flat Dutch is 100 days to harvest. Plant a little of both at the same time for different harvests.

Check out this post by Ira Wallace for more awesome ideas!

Planning

Succession planting is most successful when you have a good solid plan. To start you’ll need to know which crops you want to grow, their days to harvest, and the length of your growing season. Here at Southern Exposure we’re in zone 7 and have roughly 180 frost free days, plenty of time to get multiple successions of many crops.

Once you have these details you can start organizing your plantings. You’ll want your garden layout and a calendar or datebook. Alternatively you can try out the Southern Exposure Garden Planner.

Using your knowledge and tools you can judge the general times specific crops will be harvested and which one can be grown next in their place. To help avoid disease, pest, and nutrient issues avoid replanting the same crop in the same space.

If you’re not interested in a written plan just remember each time crop is harvested a new crop is planted. On the Facebook page we’ll continue to have what to plant this week guides which can help you decide which crops you should replant throughout the summer.

Example Combinations for Zone 7A

Staggered Planting

Succession planting can be tough especially if you’re someone who has huge springtime garden dreams but gets so busy by midsummer you barely remember where you planted the what let alone find time to harvest. Surprisingly succession planting can also help you keep your garden manageable.

One of the easiest ways to start succession planting is simply to not plant an entire crop all at once. For example if you want to have a bunch of sweetcorn throughout the summer rather than a single harvest simply plant a few rows every two weeks. This method is great for people who want to enjoy fresh produce but don’t necessarily have time to put up a large harvest. Of course you’ll need to be aware of your days to harvest and first frost date ensuring you give all your crops enough time to fully mature.

Cool Season Crops

Cool season crops are another great option especially for those with hot summers. Many plants like turnips, pak choi, arugula, and lettuce that prefer cool whether can be sown early in the spring and again in the late summer or early fall in order to reap a second harvest. In the summer, heat loving crops can take their place in the garden.

It sounds awesome but sowing crops late in the season in order to get a fall harvest can be tricky. For fall crops it’s important to keep the soil as cool and moist as possible if your planting in the heat of summer. Check out Tips for Sowing in Hot Weather by Lisa Dermer & Ira Wallace for more information. 

You can also extend these crops’ season even further through the use of cold frames , hoop houses, and row covers.

Fertility

It’s important to note that growing more crops in the same space throughtout the season will use more nutrients. You’ll need to be careful not o over-tax your garden. Consider the use of crop rotation, cover crops, compost amendments, and homemade liquid fertilizers to meet your plants nutrient requirements.

All of these are fairly easy to achieve at home and can make your garden more productive while saving you money on pricey store bought garden amendments.

No matter why you got into gardening succession planting can help you turn things up a notch. You can use it to have less overwhelming harvests, enjoy more of your family’s favorite vegetables, grow more food, and even extend your growing season.

What’s your favorite crop for succession planting? Tell us in the comments!