Now that we’re back in the states and spring is right around the corner it is time to start preparing for the growing season. Such a change of pace from traveling and sightseeing to planning and cultivating, that’s the fun of a seasonal lifestyle! From our winter in Europe to our summer at home in the mountains of NC it’s time to start growing!
Here in North Carolina we’re having a range of weather from snowing last week to hitting the seventies this week. It just shows that you’ve got to plan for anything and prepare for the whimsy of spring. I’ve been all over the internet and had my nose stuck in a book the last several weeks soaking up loads of information on seed starting and garden planning. I’m always amazed with gardening and farming that the more you learn the more you realize you still have to learn. Here I’ll share some of the resources and tips I’ve collected and hope they’re useful to you as well. Also if you’re thinking of starting to grow this year but are still on the fence check out my blog post on our farm website about the value of farming and saving the pollinators.
The time is now for seed starting! Save money and get a head start on the season by starting those sprouts indoors now. You don’t have to have expensive equipment or a fancy greenhouse to start.
-A sunny location in your house
-Seed starting soil (note this is different from typical potting soil)
-Cell tray inserts and flat trays (here is a good example of the insert and here is a example of the flats from Fifth Season Gardening)
– labeling of some kind ( popsicle sticks, store bought labels, or a fun idea involving wine bottle corks here)
– Grow light (I just use a table lamb and switch out the bulb with a full spectrum bulb which they sell at Lowe’s and Home Depot, ect. here is an example)
– Quality seeds- there are lots of choices out there I like to use Sow True Seeds, Johnny’s Select Seeds and Floret Flower Farm
Prepare your area and find organize your supplies. Fill tray cells and pre moisten the soil. Plant seeds and allow to grow according to seed requirements. See, it is easy! For more tips and resources check out the Floret Flowers resources. Floret Flowers is a wonderful farm in Western Washington and they’ve got a wealth of growing resources on their website and blog. Check out the seed starting 101 article here. And their seed starting do and don’t article here.
I grow mostly flowers so most of my suggestions are geared towards that area. Flowers are great to grow not just for aesthetic reasons but they are wonderful for pollinators like butterflies and bees. Check out my article on growing for pollinators here. I’ve also included veggies and other suggestions for growing all based on crop ease, yield and productivity based on my experience. If it’s on the list I had great success in growing and high yields so I feel confident in recommending to beginning gardeners. Keep in mind I am located in the mountains of Western North Carolina and these crops work well in my climate adjust accordingly for your location.
Kale- Easy to grow and is a great bumper crop that can be grown in the spring and late summer through early winter depending on your growing area. Healthy and easy!
Squash- I usually plant too much squash and end of with more than I know what to do with. This can be a good thing though if you have the means to freeze or give away what you can’t use. I grew so much last season I am still working my way through my frozen squash in the freezer. Additionally it is wonderful for making Zucchini bread! If you decide to grow squash make sure you have pollinators around to pollinate the flowers otherwise you won’t have any results.
Peppers- Peppers are fun to grow because there are so many varieties and uses plus they are fairly easy to grow. They tend to be heavy feeders though so have that compost and rich soil ready when planting.
Basil- Loads of varieties and uses and is easy to grow! I enjoy growing Thai and Sweet Basil for cooking fresh and dried.
Lemon Balm- Growing Lemon Balm is easy and fast growing. Word of caution it can be invasive and start spreading quickly like the mint family tends to do. Here is previous post recipe for Lemon Balm tea.
Chamomile- Oh how I love Chamomile! One of my very things to grow. I dry out the little flowers every year and get a seasons worth of soothing sleepy tea throughout the fall and winter. There are different kinds of chamomile I like to grow German Chamomile to dry for tea. Another bonus is that once you plant it it usually comes back on its own the next year. Here is an article on tips and instructions for growing your own.
Yarrow- I love yarrow for many reasons. It is easy to grow, drought resistant, pollinators love it, it is a perennial and it has many uses. Yarrow is a lovely cut flower and works well fresh or dried. Check out my previous post of the many reasons I love Yarrow. A few medicinal uses for Yarrow include tinctures, teas, poultices and salves.
Calendula- I love Calendula for a lot of the same reasons I love Yarrow. It is wonderful as a cut flower but also great dried and used for medicinal purposes. Calendula is wonderful in soaps and lotions as well. It is super easy to grow and the more you cut the more you continue to get. Here is an article on growing Calendula.
Sunflowers- If you live in a warm climate then you shouldn’t have any trouble growing sunflowers. They come is a wide range of colors and sizes and are also wonderful for pollinators. They bring a lot of joy to friends and family so they are an easy flower to grow and use for brightening someones day by simply gifting them with a surprise just thinking of you flower. Sunflowers come in a single stem and branching varieties. The single stem are great because they typically have longer stems for cutting and vases. The branching are nice though because they aren’t cut and done like single stem they have multiple blooms but shorter stems making them tricker for using as a cut flower. Also sunflowers don’t just come in traditional yellow you can find varieties ranging from multi-colored to dark almost black in color flowers. Johnny’s Selected Seeds has some great sunflower seed options.
Zinnias- Easy and lovely to grow. They love hot weather and are perfect for summer growing. The more you cut the more they grow so one crop lasts almost all summer long. There are tons of varieties out there here are some I love: Benary Giant Series, Giant Dahlia Flower Series, Persian Carpet and Jazzy mixes.
Additional Cut Flower Suggestions (these are my additional suggestions if you are a beginning gardener looking to get into growing flowers for vases and bouquets): Snapdragons, Celosia, Bachelor’s Buttons, Cosmos, Gladiolus, Rudbeckia, Salvia.
A few things to consider when mapping out where and what to grow include space, time, costs and access. You don’t have to live in a rural setting or have tons of space to grow a few things to add joy to the spring and summer season. You just have to have patience and a few supplies. I would encourage you to start small and make a list of a few things you want to start with and add on from there. It is easy to start too big get overwhelmed and end up killing everything you’ve started because you get burned out and give up (talking from personal experience here). Finally think about your reasons for growing. There isn’t a bad answer here but knowing why you want to grow helps direct what you want to grow from the beginning. Want to help pollinators? Want to grow flowers as surprise gifts for loved ones? Want fresh herbs for cooking? Want to show off on Instagram? Want to teach your kids the value of gardening at a young age? All perfectly great reasons! So what are you waiting for? Celebrate spring, start now!
Before you decide on what excuses you can make up for not gardening see below 🙂
- Move a lot or are on the go? Check out portable gardening or mobile gardening ideas.
- Short on space? Check out this rad article from Design Sponge on Teeny Tiny Gardening.
- Think you don’t have a green thumb? Here’s a basic 101 on things you can do to be a better grower from Michianamom.com
- Don’t have time? Here’s a wonderful article from Urban Gardens called How to Create a Beautiful Garden (even if you don’t have time for it)
Here a few resources to help you learn more and get started gardening!
- Garden Answer YouTube channel- For those visual learners out there.
- GeekGarderner Blog– Great urban gardening resource
- Old Farmers Almanac website- Resources, resources, resources!
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds website resources– They have great articles and tools to help you get started and continue learning no matter your level.
- – The Flower Farmer-An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers- Lynn Byczynski
- The Market Gardener- A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming- Jean-Martin Fortier
- Floret Flowers Blog– Provides a wealth of information and resources for flower growers.
- Sarah Raven’s YouTube channel-– Tips and tricks for flower growing
- Pisgah Flowers blog– okay full disclosure this is my flower farm blog but I do have some resources on here that might be useful plus I included this last so if you read this far it only seemed fair. Bonus if you like pretty flower pictures on your Instagram feed follow us at #pisgahflowers or like us on Facebook.