Get the most out of your spring garden

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Gardening can seem daunting, especially when you're convinced you didn't inherit a green thumb. But it turns out green thumbs don't really exist, and growing your own vegetables doesn't have to be a labor-intensive, tedious process.

What makes a good gardener is less about the color of your thumb and more about education. If you understand how and when to grow the produce you want, you will definitely get the most of out of your spring garden.

Jerry Dill, owner of Dill's Greenhouse, says the most important factors in creating a great garden are good sunlight and good soil and keeping your plants spaced so they can grow.

Choose the right plants for the season

The first step is to decide which vegetables you want to grow. This is where the planting calendar comes in. A common amateur mistake is planting a vegetable in the wrong season. The seed will not grow or the plant will die simply because it is either too cold, too hot, too wet or too dry for it to survive. Good vegetables to grow during the wet and warm spring season are not limited to, but do include, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots and beans.

Choose seeds or starts

After you know which vegetables are best to plant, you need to decide whether you would like to grow from seed or from plant, also known as starts. Often this depends on the amount of space you have. Using container gardens can be just as effective as growing your vegetables in the ground.

If space is not the issue, use seed for those vegetables that are quick and easy to grow. This includes zucchini, cucumbers, beans and carrots. Start with a plant for vegetables that take longer and might be more temperamental, such as tomatoes and peppers.

Provide plenty of growing room

Whether you are using a plot of land or containers, make sure you are not overcrowding your plants. In your backyard garden, keep your seeds or plants appropriately spaced. More space is better than less.

With containers, try to choose the largest possible one for your plant. As it grows, it needs space. Tight quarters can choke the plant and dry out the soil. For items like beets, sweet corn, potatoes and lemongrass, you need a container 10-12 inches deep. For chives and lettuce, you only need a container 4-5 inches deep. Often these sizes will be listed on the seed packages, or you can ask the staff at your local nursery for information on appropriate container size.

Pair your veggies appropriately

Another trick is to make sure you are planting your vegetables next to compatible vegetables. Certain vegetables are selfish and will take all the nutrients another vegetable may need. Great combinations include:

  • Beans, carrots and squash
  • Eggplant and beans
  • Tomatoes, basil and onions
  • Lettuce and herbs
  • Spinach, chard and onions

Condition your soil

Finally, the most overlooked step in gardening is soil. It is easy to bury and water the seeds or buy the plant and put it in the right container, but it is not always easy to keep the soil conditioned.

Always remember, topsoil does not grow vegetables. It grows grass and is a great filler, but you must have fertilized and healthy soil. Conditioners or amendments such as peat moss, manure and compost help improve the fertility of the soil. Composting can also help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, which is a great way to "condition" the environment, as well.

With a little knowledge, you'll find gardening isn't nearly as hard as you thought it would be. Contact Dill's Greenhouse to find out more about what to plant in your garden this summer.