Tips for Creating a Family Garden

Thirty-five percent of households in the United States grow food either at home or in a community garden, according to a report by the National Gardening Association. Why not join them? While seeds shouldn’t be put in the ground until six weeks after an area’s last frost, you can start cleaning out last year’s beds and plant seeds indoors for later transplanting.

And, if social distancing and stay-at-home orders prevent you from getting outside, indoor gardens are a great alternative.

To begin, start reading about gardening (see links below). Fred Soviero, director of grounds and landscaping at Hofstra University, also recommends James Underwood Crockett’s “Victory Garden.”

“Anything worth pursuing requires some homework,” he said.

Next you want to consider what type of garden the family might want.
Flowers?
Vegetables?
Both?

What you plant will determine the location of your garden and the necessary sun exposure needed to make it thrive. Soviero said to also consider what your family likes to eat. “Salad greens like lettuce, spinach and kale are nutritious and easy to grow,” he said. Plus, you can start them indoors. Tomatoes are also a great addition as it gets warmer and they grow quickly, he added.

Planting: Before planting your new vegetables or flowers, remove old plant materials and debris. Loosen the existing soil and improve dirt by incorporating organic matter such as leaf compost to add nutrients to the soil. “You will need a minimum of fertilizer if you compost often and use mulch,” said Soviero.

Weeding and Watering: You’ll want to weed often, but especially in the spring since you’ll want to get rid of any new weeds before they yield seeds. Removing these will result in less weeds throughout the growing season. “Learn to enjoy weeding and you will be a better gardener,” said Soviero. “You will want to weed every time you enter the garden.”

Patrice Dimino, a Hofstra University landscape designer, said watering depends on rainfall, temperature and sun exposure. A good technique is to use the pencil test – Stick a pencil in the soil, and if it comes up dry, add water. “Watering is the most important thing you can do in any type of gardening,” Soviero added. He suggested watering heavy and then waiting for the plants to dry out before watering heavy again. “I say the equivalent to 1 inch of rain per week and maybe more for a vegetable garden.”

Mother and daughter taking care of home plants at table indoors

Gardening is an activity that the whole family can participate in. Children who develop a love of gardening can continue with it for the rest of their lives.

The most important thing is to enjoy the process. “This should be relaxing and enjoyable,” said Soviero. “It is satisfying to work a garden and it’s something you can do until you’re old and grey.”

Online Gardening Resources:

Information on starting seeds indoors: for gardening supplies: gardening lesson plans and activities: National Gardening Association website has an online library about gardening, which includes podcasts, apps and videos, and a plants database: Gardening Channel offers tips, advice and resources:

Family garden. Father and son grow flowers. Family hobby.

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