7 Steps to Starting Your Own Garden This Spring


Posted: May 8, 2017

There’s nothing that quite compares with the satisfaction of growing your own food. When you harvest your first juicy tomato, or bite into the crunchiest cucumber you’ve ever had - you will realize that nothing tastes as good as garden fresh veggies. Plus, you’ll save tons of money on your grocery bill!

Starting a garden can be a bit overwhelming at first. It’s a good idea to start small and expand your garden as time goes on. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out - here are 7 helpful gardening tips, specific to the Central Massachusetts growing region.

Be sure to mark your calendars - The Regional Environmental Council is having their annual plant sale on May 20th!

01. Know Your Growing Season

Every region has a code (or zone) that gardeners use as a guideline on when to plant certain types of vegetables. Warmer regions are going to have a different (and longer) growing season than colder climates. The most important thing to know is your first and last frost date. 

In Central Mass, we’re in zone 5b:

Because no one can 100% predict the weather, in our zone we the safest dates to plant your seedlings is after May 20. What happens if you plant before the last frost date? If we get a frost, your vegetable seddlings will most likely will not survive. There are select plants that can survive a frost, but for the purpose of this article we’re sticking to a warm weather crops. Frost hardy plants can be planted for an early spring or fall garden. These plants include lettuce, kale, broccoli and peas.

02. Raised Beds or Containers?

photo credit: flickr/local food initiative 

Do you have an area of your yard or deck that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day? Then you can start a raised bed or container garden! 

A raised bed garden can be as complicated as building your own beds out of wood or as simple as constructing some squares with bricks! If you don’t have yard space, there are many vegetables you can grow just fine in containers. Just remember that you will need to water a container garden more than a raised bed garden.

For raised bed and container gardening ideas, visit our Pinterest board.

Tip: When planning your raised bed garden, keep in mind that the north facing part of your garden should contain the plants that grow tall (think tomatoes, trellised cucumbers) and the south side should have your lower lying plants like herbs and lettuce. In most cases you don’t want your taller plants shading out your smaller plants.

03. Preparing Your Soil

Soil is the key to delicious and healthy vegetables, so don't skip this step!

With raised beds and containers, you have more control over your soil quality because it’s all about what you put in it.

You can check our Pinterest board for inspiration

Some experts suggest making a mix of ingredients of these ingredients which can be found at most gardening stores:

1. 6 inches of 1/3 coarse horticultural vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 blended compost.

or

2. 50% screened topsoil and 50% high-quality compost.

A local store with staff on hand to help like Klem's in Spencer can be a one-stop shop for all your gardening needs and questions. Klem's also has a greenhouse full of live plants. 

04. Protecting Your Garden

If you’re starting a garden, most likely the goal is to feed yourself and not the entire neighborhood of furry friends!

You can build a simple chickenwire fence with stakes, cover your crops with row covers, or place bird netting over high stakes to keep out unwanted visitors.

05. Buying Your Seedlings

Now for the fun part! Because the growing season in Central Massachusetts is relatively short, many gardeners buy transplants (a.k.a. seedlings) to get a head start on the growing season. This is by far the easiest way to get your garden started. 

On May 20, The Regional Environmental Council (REC) is hosting a massive Spring Garden Festival and Plant Sale that will have everything you need to start your garden. 

This page lists all the transplants they will have for sale. Use this as a guide to plan your garden. Pick your favorite vegetables! It’s a good idea to start with a small variety and get to know how each plant grows. You can always expand your garden inventory for next year’s garden. REC holds a plant sale every year!

06. Planning

When planning your raised bed garden, we suggest the “square foot gardening” method. This simplifies the process by breaking your beds down into square foot areas. Each square foot gets a certain number of plants. For example, one tomato gets one square and you can plant 9 spinach plants in a single square. 

In the image below, twine was used to mark each square foot. You can also use sticks to mark your squares. Some squares have multiple seedlings, and others have a single plant. Each variety of vegetable or herb will have its own guidelines. Check out our Pinterest board for information on square foot gardening.

07. Start Planting!

Once you bring your baby plants home, they need special care. If you’re not ready to plant yet, place them in a shady location outdoors, protected from pests.

The ideal time to plant your seedlings is on a calm cloudy day, or in the afternoon when the sun is not as hot. The day before you plan to plant, water the plants so that the soil is moist. Your garden soil must be moist as well, but not too wet. If it’s muddy then it’s too wet to plant so wait for a drier day.


We hope you enjoyed our guide on starting a garden in Central Massachusetts. Share your progress with us on Facbeook or Instagram!


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