It’s been a year since the coronavirus pandemic sent people scouring for new recipes in droves and searching for the newest binge-able series on Netflix. The timing of the first lockdown in March 2020 also spawned another trend… a new generation of backyard gardeners. Not all those people filling the aisles of home improvement retailers in those early days were there to update their kitchens. Now with Spring here once again experts predict the backyard garden season to be robust. If you are late to the trend, no need to worry. We’ve got some guidance for getting your own backyard garden up and running.
A successful garden requires two main things to function.. Water and sun. That means don’t put your garden under a tree. Most veggies require a minimum of five hours of direct sunlight per day. There are actually Sunlight calculators to help you choose the ideal planting location.
Give some thought to how you will water the garden (by hand, drip line, irrigation system) Whatever you choose, remember the Carolina sun gets hot so it’s best to water in the morning when possible.
One more thing to keep in mind regarding location. You’ll want the plants in your garden to face south.
You don’t need much room to start growing. Even a 100 square foot garden can produce a steady supply of salad greens for a family. 500 square feet (20’x25’) is the perfect size for a variety of vegetables for a family of four.
INGROUND, RAISED BEDS OR CONTAINERS
While you can certainly prepare native soil for growing directly in the ground, many people opt for raised beds or containers.
Each of these require slightly different cost and work up front.
For instance, raised beds can be more expensive to start depending on size and what they are made of. But one of the advantages to raised beds is soil control. When planted correctly beds can reduce the need for weeding later in the season.
Many vegetables can be grown in containers. a 12-inch pot is enough lettuce for a salad. Radishes, tomatoes, carrots and even potatoes also work well in large containers.
WHAT TO GROW
The NC State Extension office In North Carolina says most vegetables are grown as annuals. They define it like this:
- Cool-season annuals. Plant these crops in early spring and early fall. They are cold-hardy and thrive in spring and fall when temperatures are below 70°F: beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips.
- Warm-season annuals. Plant these crops after the last spring frost when soils have warmed up. They are frost sensitive and thrive in summer when temperatures are above 70°F: beans, cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, pumpkins, southern peas, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelons.
It’s no wonder gardening has appealed to the masses given our circumstances. It’s good exercise, it limits the need for multiple trips to the grocery store and it’s good for your mental health. Researchers say there are proven benefits to spending time outdoors including reduced mental fatigue, reduced stress, and improved sleep.
Oh, one more piece of advice, don’t plant until the threat of frost is gone… for us in Charlotte that’s usually after April 15th.