By now, you’ve probably run out of board games, free trials of streaming channels, and even the easy home improvements you’ve put off since you moved in. Now what do you do to make long days at home a little more tolerable? Life during social distancing can take a toll on your psyche.
But do you know what always manages to cheer us up and renew our sense of purpose? Gardening. After all, is there anything more rewarding than seeing a seedling grow to maturity thanks to your own carefully cultivated green thumb?
In Western North Carolina, it’s easy to create your own personal farm-to-table movement with a flourishing garden space. We’ve offered you our thoughts before on the best local places to buy gardening supplies. Now, we’re excited to share some of our top tips for what to do when you have all your tools in place. We asked our agents: What are your top tips for gardening in the WNC mountains?
Fill your garden beds with awesome compost for cheap! The Town of Waynesville has a semi-annual sale on double-ground mulch and compost. Regular sized truck bed fill ups are only $10, and large trailers are $25. I challenge you to find a better deal!
The first question when planting trees, shrubs, flowers, herbs, or vegetables is, how much sun or shade will the area receive? Another fact to consider is whether you are zone 5, zone 6, or zone 7. This depends on your elevation and microclimate. I owned a garden center for 20 years. Contact me for a free yard consultation. I still love planting and consulting!
I love to garden and do it as organically as possible. I have been prepping my flower beds all throughout the property and find that doing a good job of removing weeds and roots from the soil before planting new flowers and herbs keeps the plants from getting choked out. I use a good organic mushroom compost mixed in with my top soil, and my garden flourishes and thanks me for the rich food by producing the most beautiful flowers, delicious veggies, and herbs. I love to “play in the dirt” as I call it, and it makes for a nice therapeutic escape as I tend my gardens throughout the growing season. I call that kind of work “Grandpa’s Crossfit.”
I enjoy “container/vessel” gardening. Unlike in-ground planting this time of year, I like choosing various vessels, pots, and containers in which to place my favorite annuals. Often, I choose a vessel that is not specifically designed for plants, but it adds a whimsical touch to an ordinary flower display. One of the many great things about container gardening is the ability to move your “garden” from place to place depending on sun, wind, rain, and most of all … a different site for you to enjoy your creative spirit.
I started using raised beds because of all the rain over the last few years. The drainage is better than planting in the ground, and weeding is easier sitting on the cinder cap blocks. The key is to make them just wide enough to reach the center from either side. I fill the lower two thirds with regular garden soil and the top third with mushroom compost, which I get from Carolina Mulch Plus in Fletcher. I had the most productive garden in 45 years of vegetable gardening last year using this method.
Gardening can be a fun, simple activity for all members of the family. I recommend consulting the Farmers Almanac online. They have amazing tools to help you pick what to grow, when to plant, and how to care for just about everything! For an ongoing science project while we are safe at home, my six-year-old learned about how plants grow from seeds. We planted seeds, and we have been monitoring their growth. I also built a raised garden bed for when the plants are ready to go outside!
While many people are eager to get started with extra time on their hands, it is important to be patient. The best advice I can give is to hold out on planting frost-vulnerable crops before the first week of May. Preparation and planning are key! Take this time to test your soil, evaluate the environment, and look for pests/bugs that can cause problems later on. If you want to do something right now, consider planting seedlings indoors to start your own vegetable plants. Make sure you have all the gardening tools you will need throughout the season so that you don’t have to make multiple trips to find or purchase them. Get your raised garden or in-ground beds ready for planting. Just like in real estate, it is just as important with gardening….Location, Location, Location! Your garden will need to be placed in the right location that gets enough sunlight throughout the day. Happy growing!
Now that we are spending more time at home and for the most part preparing three square meals a day, we find ourselves with a lot of scraps. Why not put those scraps to use in making compost? Even beginners can create a small raised bed or till up a small corner of your yard and just give it a try. Seeing new life spring up from the efforts you put in brings joy even in trying times.
My husband and I like to plant herbs and flowers. This year, we are planting more veggies. We’ve had good luck with rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, parsley, and lemongrass. If you have a fence or something peas can climb on, I was surprised at how well our snow peas produced all summer last year. Marigolds and zinnias provide a lot of color with very little care. For those who want a spectacular rose, I highly recommend Mr. Lincoln. He was my star producer last year.