New gardeners can think big, but start small

May is the perfect time to get a jump on gardening.

With the beginning of May and with temperatures in the 60s it is time to think about the garden. If you are new to gardening, there are some important things to keep in mind.

The first thing to consider is how much time you will be able to give the garden. What summer activities do you enjoy? Do you like boating, weekend camping? Or do you enjoy sports like tennis or golf? A garden is a work intensive activity. After a day at work do you want to put in an hour or two in a vegetable garden?

Instead of 12 tomato plants, you might want to try one or two tomato plants in containers and a large bowl of lettuce that can be harvested in a few minutes for dinner. If that project is successful, you may decide that next summer you will want to try a little more.

It is best to start small and as your interests change, you can enlarge your garden into that nice little garden of your dreams. Remember this is supposed to be fun!

If you have the time for a large vegetable garden or the creation of a beautiful perennial border or prize-winning rose bed, then by all means make your plans. As with any project, start small. You might want to draw up a three-year plan adding plants over time. Some easy vegetables to grow are 1 or 2 tomato plants, 1 zucchini plant, lettuce, cucumbers and green beans.

Easy flowers for your perennial border might be daylilies, pansies and herbs. For your rose garden there are many roses that will survive our winters. The garden center will be your best adviser for roses for the new gardener. Ekey’s Garden Center or Graham’s Garden Center.

For now, there is lots to do to get ready for the gardening season. You need to pick a sunny site for your garden, six to eight hours of sunlight is best. Do you have access to water? The garden needs a gentle soaking rather than a quick little sprinkle.

If you are new to gardening, join a garden club, check the library for gardening books and don’t forget the internet. Frost that will destroy your plants is possible through the end of May, so you have lots of time to get ready. A garden center, like Ekey’s or Graham’s is a great source of information. Also, they will have a nice selection of plants that will thrive in our Plant Hardiness Zone, zone 4 or zone 5.

The soil should be dark and crumbly. Check with your extension office for a soil test. This will let you know what amendments your garden soil needs to support your plants. You may need to incorporate compost and other organic matter into the soil. Using a tiller, work the amendments into the soil. Rake smooth and let the garden rest for a few days.

A vegetable garden as well as a rose garden or perennial border is a wonderful hobby. Well weeded, well mulched and appropriately watered gives the gardener a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

Rebecca Norton Ryan is a


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