Spring is right around the corner, which means you can finally say so long to winter by adding color and life to your home and garden with fresh blooms. If you don’t feel like you have a green thumb, you may be apprehensive to try and grow your own flowers and vegetables, but you shouldn’t be! It’s easier than you’d think.
We spoke to MyLan Sarner, a Certified Master Gardener, for expert advice on spring gardening projects anyone can easily tackle—even if you have limited outdoor space.
Read on for her tips and tricks about how to make your garden grow.
Indoors: Herbs, Bulbs and Blossoms
1. Buy Potted Herbs at the Grocery Store
“Now is the time of year when the grocery store will have a great selection of herbs,” MyLan says. “You’ll see herbs like mint, basil, and parsley already grown in little pots next to all of the produce and it’s much cheaper to buy them than the packaged ones. They’re usually about a dollar or two and when you need herbs for cooking, you just clip them off.”
She suggests putting the herbs on a windowsill in a sunny area of your house. “Usually south-facing sun is the best.” (If you’re not sure which way your windows face, most smartphones have a compass.) “If you want, you can repot them in a terracotta pot, but make sure it has drainage. If it doesn’t come with a lid for the bottom, just put it on a plate.”
MyLan says one thing to watch out for with your herbs (and vegetables) is overwatering. “Root rot is the number one cause of plants dying inside the home because a lot of plant caretakers overwater more than they underwater.” She suggest you only water your plants when they looks like a little wilted and like they need help, but to keep in mind that if you do put them in a southern-facing window, they’ll dry out more quickly than if they’re somewhere that doesn’t get as much sun.
Don’t want to eyeball it? She says, “If you stick your finger in an inch down, and it’s still moist: don’t water the plant. If it’s dry, then you can water it.”
2. Plant Bulbs in Pots
If you want to trick bulbs to bloom before their season, MyLan says all you need to do is plant them in a vase of water (add some pretty rocks on the bottom if you want), and put the bulbs in there. Place the vase by a sunny spot in the window and in the next few weeks it will bloom.
You can also put the bulbs into pots of dirt and place them outside in your garden or on your stoop, and those will also bloom sooner than the ones in the ground. MyLan explains, “That’s because of the heat that’s being retained in the pot versus waiting for the ground to heat up.”
You can do this now with late spring bloomers and summer bulbs (which is what you’ll find available at the nursery), but she recommends that next fall, you buy extra spring bulbs, and instead of putting them in the ground, store them in your basement or somewhere that is dark and cold all winter (they won’t bloom if they don’t get that cold temperature), and then plant them in pots come spring. That way you’ll enjoy daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths in April before they’re blooming in May.
3. Force Stems from Trees to Blossom
“I like flowers around my house, so what I do this time of year is go out into my yard and cut stems off of my cherry trees, crab apple trees, and plum trees,” MyLan says. “Those stems will create beautiful blooms if you force them.”
All you need to do is to cut the stems (“Don’t butcher the tree!”), put them into a vase, fill it up with water, and then watch as they blossom well before the trees outside. “It’s a fun project while you’re waiting for those days of spring to come.”
4. Plant Window Boxes
If you don’t have much square footage outdoors, MyLan says a great way to add color is by planting window boxes. “You’ll know it’s time to plant those when you see pansies and violas in all of the nurseries and grocery stores. You can plant those for a pop of color until the season becomes too warm.”
Outdoors: Get Your Garden Going
1. Start Vegetables Outside in Mid-March
“As soon as there are no frost warnings or pending snowstorms, you can plant vegetables outdoors,” MyLan says. “That’s a good time to start lettuce, arugula, chard, and spinach.” She suggests you start those from seed (“You can buy a bag of seed for 99 cents at the grocery store or dollar store”) and all you need to do is plant them in a little pot (follow the directions on the package), put them outside, and water as needed.
“They should pop up pretty quickly,” MyLan says. “I like to get loose leaf lettuce because it grows, you pick it and use it for your meals, and it comes up again and you don’t have to re-seed it.”
If you have a great site that is fenced in, then MyLan says it’s fine to plant your vegetables in the ground, but that pots are a wonderful option for urban gardeners or anyone who may have critters.
2. Buy Orchard Trees Now
“This is the best time of year to buy and plant orchard (fruit-producing) trees, like apple trees and cherry trees,” MyLan says. “As the ground softens up and there’s no threat of frost, you can plant those trees and get them budding right away. And then in the fall, you’ll get fruit.” Orchard trees are a great choice because they look pretty in the spring and then are practical (and pretty) in the fall as well.
3. Start Planning Your Garden Beds
“March is a great time of year to start planning your garden beds,” MyLan says. “Even though it’s not necessarily warm enough to plant outdoors, you can start building your raised beds (or buy pre-made kits), which is a great way to pass the time until you’re ready to plant. That way, when it is time to plant, all you need to do is put them into the ground, fill them up with soil, pop your plants in, and you’ll have a ready-made garden.”
And when the temperature is right to buy those plants you’re going to “pop in,” MyLan says to get the ones that are already budding. “Don’t buy the three inch tomato plant. Buy the one that has six or seven little baby tomatoes on it.” That way you won’t have to wait as long for those to ripen before you can start eating fresh veggies.