Submitted by Thurston County Public Health and Social Services
There are lots of great reasons why starting a garden is a great thing to do this spring. Gardens provide beauty, exercise, and nutritious, colorful food, just to name a few. They are also a great way to come together as a family. From picking a spot and preparing to plant, to choosing what you’ll grow, caring for your garden, all the way through harvest time—family members of all ages can get in on the fun.
It can be intimidating to get started when there’s so much to know, and always more to learn, but the key is to dive in with an eye toward having an adventure together. Kids of all ages can help choose what to plant, and get their hands dirty pulling weeds. Grandparents can help with the watering, and Mom and Dad? Well, getting creative in the kitchen is a great way for even more family time together. Got kids who hate eating veggies? Well, research shows they’re more likely to eat food that came from their own garden.
There are all kinds of considerations when you get ready to pick your spot, and prepare your soil. Thurston County offers an extensive variety of Common Sense Gardening advice to get you started, including a planting calendar. Washington State University (WSU) also offers a lot of good advice on how to get started.
Two of the most important pieces of the puzzle are sunlight and soil. Most food plants need good sun for at least part of the day. If they’re in full sun all day, you will likely need to water more, and maybe even consider ways to shade more delicate plants. Every plant relies on the soil to feed it. A mix of compost and organic potting soil can get planted plants thriving. You may want to add an organic, slow-release fertilizer after one growing cycle. Plants do best planted into the ground where they can extend beyond a pot and have access to the soil microbes. Your garden will need regular watering, but if you only have room for a potted garden, you’ll need to water more often. Seeds and tiny plants need to be kept moist to encourage germination and growth. Once they’re established, allow the soil to dry out across the surface before adding more water. Practice makes perfect.
Remember, there are all kinds of gardens. You can plant directly in the soil, or put in raised beds, or try a hugel bed. If your space is limited, you can garden in pots. Regardless of how you want your garden to look, remember this is an adventure. Have fun, and don’t be afraid to be creative.
If you don’t have space to plant your own garden Thurston County currently has fourteen community gardens—one in almost every city/town of Thurston County. Visit www.thurstoncommunitygardens.org to find out more about each one! Sign up for your garden plot fast, before they are all taken for the year.
However you get started, you can enjoy all the benefits of gardening – family, community, health and beyond.