The days are getting longer and the weather warmer, so it’s time to start our gardens. In many areas of the Chesapeake, our last frost is past so let’s get out there and get growing!
Home gardening has become increasingly popular in recent years and for a good reason. It not only allows you to grow your own fresh produce, but it also provides numerous benefits for your health and wellness. Whether you have a small backyard or a few pots on a balcony, starting a garden is a great way to get outside, reduce stress, and improve your overall well-being. We’re a big fan of gardening at Our Common Table, it helps to foster a sense of respect for the food we eat and all that goes into growing. In this blog post, we'll explore the many benefits of gardening for health and wellness, and provide some tips for getting started on your own gardening journey.
The benefits of gardening include...
Creates and Fosters a Connection to Food and Nature
Growing our own edible plants helps us establish a strong connection to nature, which can be lost in our busy lives. It allows us to witness the process of plant growth, from seed germination to harvest and we gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world. Growing our own food can help us understand the hard work and dedication that goes into producing the food we eat. We become more mindful of resources required for plant growth and may be more inclined to choose locally grown, organic produce whenever we can.
In today's fast-paced world, stress and anxiety are common problems that can have negative impacts on your health. Gardening provides a way to escape from the stresses of daily life and has been shown to decrease cortisol levels (the hormone responsible for stress) and increase endorphins (the feel-good chemicals in the brain), improving our overall mood and well-being!
Fresh Herbs at the Farmers Market
Provides Fresh, Nutritious Produce
One of the most obvious benefits of gardening is the ability to grow your own produce which is a part of living a Bay and Body-friendly lifestyle. Homegrown fruits and vegetables are often more flavorful and nutrient-dense than store-bought produce, and you have complete control over the growing process! Gardening can help reduce your carbon footprint by reducing emissions produced by shipping as well as decreasing waste and energy used in the food packing process.
Physical Health Improvements
When you think of getting active this summer, add gardening to the list! It has been shown to help improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and increase flexibility. Spending time outdoors in the sunshine boosts your vitamin D levels, which are important for so many functions in our bodies.
These benefits sound amazing, right? Now all we need to know is how to get started!
Potted Flat Leaf Parsley
If you’re new to gardening, you may want to start small with a few potted plants or a small garden bed. Regardless of the size, you will want to follow some of these tips:
Know Your Planting Zone:
First, we need to understand where we are to get started. It's important to determine your planting zone before selecting your plants because it helps determine which plants are best suited for your area and when to plant them. By visiting the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map online or by speaking with a local garden center expert you’ll find out your area’s planting zone. Here in the Baltimore area, we’re in 7a/7b!
Find the Right Spot:
The first step in starting a small garden is to choose the right location. Find an area that gets the right amount of sunlight for what you want to grow and has good soil drainage. Most flowering plants and vegetables will need about 6-8 hours of full sun daily, so keep that in mind in your selection process. If you're limited on outdoor space or unsure about your soil quality, consider using containers or raised beds to maximize your growing area.
If you only have a windowsill or balcony to work with, try and find the space with the most optimal light and if you don’t get a lot of sunlight find varieties of plants that can thrive with limited light.
Try Going Vertical in Confined Spaces by Using Planter Boxes
Select the Right Plants for Your Conditions:
In addition to choosing plants that are well-suited for your zone and growing conditions, consider selecting plants that are easy to grow and maintain, such as herbs! You can also choose plants based on your personal preferences and the types of meals you like to prepare. Not sure where to start? Talk with a farmer at your local farmer's market about what they would recommend or talk with someone at your local garden center!
Preparing the soil is an important step in starting a garden. You'll want to ensure that your soil is nutrient-rich and well-draining. Nutrient-rich soil often contains compost, manure, or other organic materials that improve the soil quality. If you’re working with plant pots, you will want to make sure that your pot size is correct for the type of plant you are growing and that it has good drainage.
Once your soil is ready and the dangers of frost are behind you, start planting! There are many different ways to plant and you can decide which is best for you. Some people like to direct sow (place seeds directly in the soil) while others prefer to start with young plants. You can buy these from many farmers' markets and garden stores. All you have to do is transplant them into your garden and you’ve already got a head start!
Baby Basil Grown From Seed (Approx. 8 Weeks Old)
Watering and fertilizing your plants regularly is key to their success. Plants require regular watering, especially during hot, dry weather. It’s best to water in either the morning or evening to avoid too much stress on your plants. If you are worried about keeping up with watering, consider adding a drip irrigation system to your garden setup. Additionally, use a high-quality fertilizer to provide your plants with the nutrients they need to thrive.
Staying organized is an important and often overlooked step to maintaining a successful garden. Consider keeping a garden journal or calendar to track planting dates, watering, fertilizing schedules, and pest control efforts. Additionally, label your plants to keep track of which varieties are growing where. This extra step in the planting process can make life a whole lot easier down the road if you intend to grow multiple varieties of the same plant.
Whether you only have room for a few plant pots or have acres to grow on, starting a garden has tons of benefits! By following these tips, you can ensure that your garden is off to a great start. Leave comments below on this blog post with questions or your best gardening tips, we’d love to hear them!
Grab your gloves and get growing!
Want to learn from a Baltimore City Master Gardener about starting a small herb garden? Watch last year’s Chesapeake Farm & Bay to Table* episode “It’s Time to Start Your Garden” here.
*Chesapeake Farm & Bay to Table is produced in partnership with Harford County Public Library.