We’re addicted to spring in Rhode Island. There is a fresh buzz of life in the air as the birds return home and you can hear them chirp, all the snow is gone, the soil softens, and all the plants come out of dormancy to bloom and grow. It also symbolizes our gradual transition to spending more time outside! In the garden!
But as most avid gardeners know, a beautiful flower bed resting on a windowsill or a luscious vegetable garden don’t simply appear out of nowhere. A true beautiful garden takes time and energy and work.
Yet therein lies the therapeutic effects of gardening. I find that touching and working with the soil, growing seedlings, planting plants, and watching them grow is tremendously tranquil and serves as a form of therapy for my mind and soul.
But wait! It is still too cold for any outdoor gardening.
Luckily, we find that pre-spring is the best time ever to get excited and inspired to garden in Providence. So we compiled a list of 6 ways for you to get started on your garden, NOW! Let’s get those hands dirty!
1) WASH OUT YOUR POTS AND CLEAN YOUR BEDS
Are you using terracotta pots? Do they have a layer of white stuff on the outside? Well, no need to fear. That’s just calcium deposits and other minerals from fertilizers and water. Terracotta pots are porous and these minerals seep through the terracotta from the watered soil and accumulate on the outside of the pots. Fortunately, this residue will not harm your pots or your plants. But it’s also not visually appealing either! Here’s how you clean them:
- Wash away all dirt and debris from the pot
- Soak the pot in a combo of 3 parts water, 1 part vinegar for five minutes
- Use an old rag to scrub away any remaining dirt or mineral deposits
- Let air dry!
It’s also a good time to clean your bed! (No, not your bed bed. Your garden bed!) Here’s what to do: First, clear away anything that looks dead – meaning cut all the dead flower stalks and limbs, and also rake away any fallen leaves or branches or miscellaneous debris. This will let you start with a blank canvas on which to garden. Clearing the garden bed of all this dead plant debris will allow space for your new plants to push through the ground! This blank canvas will also help you determine which new growth is from plants you purposefully planted or which plants are pesky weeds! Make sure to keep your garden weed free
2) ORDER YOUR SEEDS!!
Whether you’re growing flowers or fruit or vegetables, now is the right time to get your seeds! I personally get seeds from www.johnnyseeds.com. And since I didn’t use all of the seeds from last year, I stored them in a cool & dry place for use this year!
3) CLEAN / REFRESH OLD SOIL
Have some soil in the beds or pots from last year?? No need to fret! It is still good to use for this year! Just follow these tips to clean and refresh your soil so that your plants thrive this year. You’ll have one of the best gardens in Providence. We promise!
First, thoroughly mix up the soil to eliminate any soil compaction that occurred over the winter. Your plants’ roots will not spread as easily if they’re fighting against a dense soil. Turning the soil with a rake or 3-tine rake will ensure your plants’ roots spread quickly and easily!
Then, if your soil has been used for a few seasons, it is a good idea to add some organic compost to the mix! A new batch of compost will add vital nutrients and minerals that your plants will need. However, it’s important to note that if you only add compost as a regular supplement to your garden, the soil will become too heavy and compact. In addition to the compost, try adding some vermiculite and peat moss as well! The combination of these three materials, added in equal amounts, is sure to make your garden a stunner!
4) GO TO YOUR LOCAL HARDWARE STORE AND PICK UP SOME MORE ORGANIC SOIL / ORGANIC FERTILIZER
If you have a windowsill garden or potted outdoor plants, you will only need to purchase bags of soil. If, however, you’re working with a bigger garden – like a raised bed or you’re working on a plot of land in your yard, you might want a buttload more soil than what the bags offer. In that case, most local nurseries will deliver a truckload of soil right to your house! Now that your soil needs are met, it’s time to start planning the garden!!
5) REMEMBER THOSE SEEDS YOU ORDERED!? WELL NOW THEY’VE ARRIVED AND YOU CAN PLAN YOUR GARDEN!
Yay!!! Your seeds have arrived. Your eyes and heart light up at the sight of these packets of goodness. You can start to plan out the garden! But before doing so, make sure you know the specific details regarding each seed that will go in the ground. For example, kale and spinach can be planted much closer together than, say, squash plants. Each packet of seeds should detail a) how long the seeds take to grow b) how much space the plant requires and c) specific handling instructions for either direct seeding or transplanting.
Once you’ve internalized all the details regarding your plants, I recommend drawing out your garden. This is a fun exercise that will help visualize the beauty you are soon to create! Sketch out the plot you will be working with, and space out where the plants will go. Of course, you can always deviate from the original plan slightly, but in our experience this helps your garden stay organized and productive!
6) START THOSE SEEDLINGS! (pro-tip: you likely have recycled materials around the house that will work for this step)
Now that you have the seeds and soil, you can now start growing your garden! Inside! Whether you’re growing annuals, petunias, impatients, sweet pea, nasturtiums, veggies, herbs, or anything else, they all have to start from somewhere! Unless you’re buying already grown transplants, the only place to start is with those seeds you bought. Since it’s still too cold for baby plants to survive outside, this step can be done in the house. Here’s how to do it with recycled materials you can find around the house:
First, find some old egg cartons.
Second, put some soil in the little egg compartments.
Third, adhering to the instructions on the seed packets, put the seeds in the soil. (At this step, if you’re unfamiliar with the way baby plants look, I recommend drawing a grid that lists where each seed is planted.
Fourth, place the egg carton in a southern window. If you don’t have a south-facing window, use east then west. Do not put the carton in a northern window, as they do not receive enough sunlight to maintain healthy plants.
Fifth, maintain a relatively damp soil by misting it until the seedlings sprout. Depending on what you plant, you might see results in as little as 5 days!! Plants grow fast
Other pro-tips when starting seedlings: If the plants are not getting enough sunlight, they will often become “leggy”. When this happens, it appears as if the plant is growing tremendously. However, what’s actually happening is the plant is not receiving enough sunlight, so it is s t r e t c h i n g to get closer to the light source. If you find this happening, place the container closer to a window or in a brighter spot of the house.
Once the seedlings are a few inches tall, I place a fan next to them once or twice a day to simulate wind. A fan, facing the seedlings and turned on low, will force the plants to grow stronger roots to keep them upright. So when they’re transplanted outside, they’ll be strong enough to withstand the actual wind!
I hope you can feel spring approaching and the opportunity to garden again! If you’re as excited as we are, please comment and let us know some of the tips and tricks you use to get ready for planting season!