"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul." --Alfred Austin
Every year, the day after Christmas, I find myself reaching for my seed catalogues. Sitting by a cozy fire while it snows outside, all I can think about is the Spring: soaking in the sun, hearing the birds chatter in the trees, and feeling a cool breeze. These daydreams provide a striking contrast to the interior life many of us lead in the winter.
If gardening is new to you but you too yearn to start growing your own garden, January is the perfect time to begin day dreaming and planning. Here I will offer insight into the first three steps you must take before beginning a successful garden.
1. Determine where you are gardening so you know what you can grow.
The first thing you will want to determine when planning your garden is what plant hardiness zone you are in. For example, living in Boulder, Colorado, I garden in zone 6a. Most seed packets will designate which zones they will successfully grow in.
2. Find your first and last frost dates.
The second piece of information you will want to gather is the first and last frost dates for your region. From this you can determine when to plant and how many days you have in which to reap the benefits of your garden. For example, the projected last frost date for Boulder, Colorado is May 9th and the first frost date is October 1st. This means that generally, I have a 144 day growing season. Therefore, plants like Calendula, which take 60 days to mature, and zinnia, which take 90 days to mature, are well suited to my zone. Now that you know your projected last frost date, you can decide whether or not to start your seeds indoors or to wait and direct sow them in the garden after the last frost date. I will provide a post on these two options shortly
3. Now for the fun part, choosing your flowers!
If you are like me, you'll be tempted to order every single flower smiling up at you from the pages of seed catalogues. If you do, however, come May you may find yourself the owner of far more seeds than you are willing or able to plant and care for. To avoid buying more than you can use or garden burnout, purchase just a few seed packets (most come with more seeds than you could possible fit into your yard anyway). I recommend purchasing a fast growing, early bloomer, such as Calendula, and a prolific later bloomer, such as Zinnia. Both of these flowers are cut-and-come again, meaning that the more you cut them, the more flowers will grow. (Click on the name of flowers for a link to detailed plant profiles).
Please see my upcoming post on my favorite sources for seeds!