Little Hands can Help your Garden Grow

by Valerie Demetros

Starting a family garden is an ideal way to provide fresh, healthy and organic food for your table. But it’s also a perfect way for your family to work together.

If you’re new to gardening, it can be challenging. Remember it’s meant to be fun and rewarding, with a little sweat equity thrown in.

If you are ready to begin at home, let’s look at what’s involved.

Start small

Your first year is not the time to grow every vegetable out there. Start small and expand.

A good size for a beginner is 6 feet by 6 feet, but fit your garden into your yard the way you want. This could be 2 feet by 8 feet or any configuration that works.

Don’t fret if that sounds daunting. You can plant vegetables in various size pots and place them in clusters.

Choose a good spot

Almost all vegetables, and many types of flowering plants, need 6 to 8 hours of full sun each day. Take the time to observe your yard throughout the day to find out the optimal spot.

If possible, find a relatively flat spot with access to water.

Improve your soil

Residential soil usually needs improvement. Aerate the soil with a spade and give it a boost by mixing in a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost, decayed leaves, dry grass clippings or manure when you begin.

Prepare your beds

Let your family join in and get dirty.

Loosen the soil to help roots grow easier and access the water. Be sure to work the soil when it’s moist enough to form a loose ball but dry enough to fall apart when dropped. Digging when the soil is too dry is harder and you can damage the soil structure if it’s too wet.

Choosing plants and planting

You may want to dive into research or just head to the garden center and see what hits you. Ask at the garden center for suggestions if you’re not sure.

Better yet, depending on their age, let your family help to decide so they are even more invested.

Either way, choose plants for Prescott’s climate, soil and sunlight for a better result.

Watters Garden Center in Prescott recommends planting perennials, bulbs, onions, garlic, rhubarb and asparagus in March. In April, early planting of beets, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, chard, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips can begin.

You also can get a head start by buying young plants that already have been started.

Water it right

Water daily so your seedlings don’t dry out. Transplants need frequent watering (every other day) until their roots establish. After, how often you need to water depends on the soil, humidity and rainfall, but once a week is a good start.

Water slowly and deeply to soak in and early in the day to avoid evaporation. If you can set a drip system on a timer, that’s optimal. But check it frequently.

Maintain your garden

Keep up with your garden, it can become needy.

Pull weeds before they go to seed, and remove dead and dying vegetation. Harvest vegetables as soon as they’re ready.

And above all else, have fun and enjoy your bounty.