This Monday was Imbolc, a Pagan celebration marking the midpoint between deep winter and first spring. At Imbolc, I always try to sort through my seeds from last year, check over my garden maps, and start dreaming of spring. For some of you, gardening may be old hat and you may already be pouring over your seed catalogs and thinking about crop rotation, but this article is for newbies for newbies.
So, you want to start gardening in 2021? Where do you begin?
First, think about your space. Will you be container gardening? Making a raised bed? Plotting out a no-till garden? If you’re new to gardening, I would recommend either containers or a raised bed. Choose a spot that gets plenty of sun and that is near enough to your home to feel manageable. Don’t have space at home? Community gardens are an excellent way to start. I love gardening in our community plot, mostly for the company and advice.
Second, choose your crops/flowers/herbs. If this is your first time planting anything, I would go for some easy perennial flowers and herbs. It is helpful to know your zone before choosing plants because New Hampshire’s winters aren’t for every plant. Here is a great article on planting perennial herbs in Zone 5. This is my new favorite site (and a planned field trip) for perennial flowering gardening in New Hampshire.
If you are ready for vegetables (and I think you are!), some easy choices are greens and snap peas (from seeds), tomatoes and peppers (from starts), pumpkin, zucchini, and butternut squash (from seeds or starts). Those last three take more space, but they are so easy and fun to grow that they are definitely worth the infrastructure. Onions (from sets) are also super easy, as is garlic (from cloves), but you need to wait to plant garlic until Halloween/Samhain.
Third, buy your seeds (or starts). I know I just finished singing the praises of a no-spend February, but seeds are an investment in food and future, so I’ll make an exception. Plus, this is when seed catalogs come out. I stand whole-heartedly by High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont. I have been ordering from them for six years and I’ve never been disappointed. Last year, when seeds were scarce, I found a lot of good ones at my local Concord Agway (I love that store!). Remember to be realistic about how many seeds you’ll need (You can always split seed packs with friends and reuse them for a couple years, if stores appropriately). For specific recommendations, so the links in “Plan your beds” below.
Personally, I love the challenge of starting plants from seed and I will start everything indoors in seed trays (I’ll write a separate post on starting seeds next month). I usually organize my seeds by when and where (in or out) they are planted. This is helps me keep on schedule.
However, if this is your first year, it’s probably better to buy nursery starts for plants like tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli because they are usually bigger and stronger. If you are planning to buy starts, you can get those in the Spring. I have had good success with organic starts at Cole Gardens in Concord, but most garden stores sell them nowadays. Herbs and flowers can also be purchased in pots and ready to plants.
Fourth, plan your beds. Square foot gardening is a great place to start if you are new to vegetable gardening. It is logical and super easy to follow. Youtube has tons of videos on how to plan a square foot garden. I have a bigger vegetable garden, so I rotate eight beds with a variety of crops. One bed gets potatoes; ones gets squash; one gets tomatoes and peppers; one gets kale, greens, peas, beans, and onions; one gets carrots and parsnips, ones gets pumpkins; one gets garlic; and one gets cucumbers and sunflowers. I also have a pollinator garden.
Sketching a quick map of your containers and beds will give you a good idea of where everything will be planted. When planting flowers and herbs, pay attention to the heights your plants will reach. If you are planting vegetables, make sure you leave room for any trellises or fencing. If you are in a second or third year of vegetable gardening, it’s time to rotate your beds to keep the pests at bay.
I hope this helps. I am always happy to help with all your gardening questions. I’m not an expert by any means, but after several years, I will at least be able to point you in the right direction. 🙂
What gardening questions do you have for 2021?