Home gardening, especially among millennials, is more popular than ever. Between 2008 and 2013, there was a 63% rise in millennial gardening. Now that most of the nation is staying home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it could be the perfect time to start a home garden (as long as you don’t violate stay-at-home orders or social distancing practices to buy supplies). We spoke with some expert gardeners about how to get started.
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Why it’s a great idea to start a garden right now
Fresh produce. Having your own source of fresh produce can be healthier, save you money and be really rewarding. There’s also no mystery about potential contamination or chemicals.
It’s good for you. Gardening has both physical and mental health benefits. It’ll get you outside for a bit of Vitamin D and help with any stir-crazy feelings. Gardening can help relieve stress, make you feel more productive and provide some exercise. Timothy Hammond, a home gardener, told us, “Gardening for 2.5 hours a week can help achieve the same target heart rate as a moderate-intensity workout. It also provides light strength training.”
You’ve got kids at home. If you have kids home from school right now, gardening is the perfect activity. Sarah Cook, founder of Sustainable Cooks, told us it covers many homeschooling subjects like biology, history, social studies, math and P.E., “We also use our garden to teach our kids about taking care of others. You can always plant a little extra to make sure you’re able to donate to neighbors in need.”
Community. New hobbies can connect you to new communities. You can connect with other gardeners in your area – online for now, of course – to learn about local soil and seasonality. You can also donate and share your produce with your current community of friends, neighbors and family. Cook told us having a garden has made new connections for her, “My garden is in my front yard that faces a street that people use as part of a common walking route. One of the unexpected benefits of my garden has been all the amazing people I have met while I am out working. Without the garden, those people would never have stopped to chat.”
What you need to know before you start
Start small. It can be easy to go crazy and try to build the perfect Pinterest garden, but if you’re new to home gardening, it’s best to keep your first try simple. You’ll also want to think about how much time and money you’re able to invest in the garden once the stay-at-home mandates lift. Consider what you’ll be able to maintain once you go back to your normal routine.
Resist the urge to jump in and convert your entire gardening space during your first season. Let the garden and area grow with you as your knowledge expands. You may start off thinking you want to grow food crops, and after doing research, you realize you would instead grow flowers.”
Timothy Hammond, Big City Gardener
Scope out your space. Before you buy seeds or start building garden boxes, consider where your garden can live. Cook told us to consider the year-round sun exposure and the reach of your water source, “I guarantee you won’t want to be hauling buckets of water in the middle of summer out to your garden. Find an area that can easily be reached by a hose.” If you live in an apartment, you might use balcony or terrace space, or consider plants that thrive indoors.
Research your region. Where you live will impact some of the things you can plant and when they’ll thrive. For some states, it’s the perfect time to start planting for a summer harvest. In other areas, the soil is still frozen in the Spring and you’ll want to consider cold-weather options. Our expert gardeners recommend the Old Farmer’s Almanac for all your regional garden planning. You can also connect with local Facebook groups versed in home gardening.
Easy projects for beginners
Save your scraps. You can start growing food with the produce you already have in your kitchen. All you need is water and small plastic containers. Chelsea Wells-Barrett, owner of The Green Acre Homestead, said to “Cut off the butt or end of a bunch of celery or head of romaine lettuce and place it in a shallow container with an inch of water. Within a week, you’ll see new growth. Be sure to change the water once or twice a day and take pictures daily to document the growth!” This method works best with sprout and root veggies like celery, potatoes, lettuce, leeks or green onion.
Herbs. Like succulents, herbs are hard to kill. It’s a great starter plant with low up-front investment (in money and labor). Herbs like cilantro, mint, parsley, rosemary and basil may have slightly varying needs, but are pretty adaptable. You can plant them in a pot on your windowsill, or in the backyard. And if you use a starter plant, rather than seeds, you’ll be able to harvest in no time.
Seed starters from your local farms. Many local farms and garden centers are offering drive-up or delivery service to purchase seed and plant starter kits for your own garden. It’s a great way to support local businesses while getting a jump start on some home produce.
Flower beds. Food isn’t the only thing you can garden. Flowers can brighten your landscape and spirits. Wells-Barrett told us, “Flower beds can also be a fun beginner gardening project because they add a little pizazz to your landscape, whether that be a balcony or front porch. Try planting flowers that attract pollinators: Calendula, marigolds and my personal favorite, sunflowers.”
If you decide to start gardening at home, take a picture of your progress and tag us @freshome.