Gardening 101

Published December 5, 2022 by Joyce
Summer garden full of vegetables
My happy summer garden full of vegetables.

Let’s get you growing!

Whether you want to grow a tomato in a pot, some flowers or a vegetable garden, you're in the right place. 

This is my winter garden.

Gardening in Winter

Winter is no time to plant outdoors in Vermont. It might seem like gardening is done until spring. But I say not. There are plants you can grow indoors. 

Want to give it a try? Find some ideas here - Growing Food in Winter

But for the most part, winter  is the time for resting, contemplating, enjoying food you’ve put by and planning for next year. 


Many companies will send you a free copy. They are full of color and beauty and hope that spring will come again and the spirits are lifted. 

Since the middle ages, people have recognized the soothing effect of looking at plants and flowers. Even looking at a scene out the window or pictures in a hallway or gazing at a seed catalog, are uplifting to the heart.

Practically speaking, you need to know : 

What you want to grow. (that’s where the seed catalogs come in)

How much space you have and how you will use it

How much time you have to give to your garden 

Planting Method:  I use a very simple planting method that optimizes garden space and has many benefits. The method was created by Mel Bartholomew. Once I tried Square Foot Gardening,  I have never veered very far from it. I have never found a better way. 

Mel Barhtolomew’s book Square Foot Gardening is a great guide to this space effective, fun manageable gardening method whether you’ve been gardening all your life or are just beginning.

The above assignments will fill your winter with inspiration, hope and education (and if you are very lucky a cat snoozing on your lap and a warm blanket or woodstove to keep you cozy. Somewhere in the midst of all this coziness, consider ordering a few packets of seeds. 

Late Winter / Spring Gardening

Here in Vermont, we plant in the ground around Memorial Day. We start garden plants indoors 6 - 8 weeks before that date, depending on the plant.About the first week of March, we begin planting seeds indoors. Peppers come first as they take a long time to get started, then come tomatoes a week or so later and finally broccoli, kale, etc which grow much more quickly.

Seed packets tell you when to start seeds indoors, relative to the weather in your area, often in relation to your last date of frost. Pay attention to this. Plants will tend to get leggy and weak if you start them too early. You will need a simple light setup and start your own plants.

Go to this website and enter your zip code. Easy peasy.  

Almanac Frost Dates

The benefits are having living things around you 6 - 8 weeks earlier, greater choice of varieties and the pleasure of tending the plants and knowing where they come from and what soil is used. The downside is fussing around with plant lights and watering for months before planting in the ground.

You may opt to plant no seeds indoors. You can also buy your plants at a quality nursery in your area close to the time of planting. 

Determine whether the timing is right. Here in Vermont, we plant in the ground around Memorial Day. We start garden plants indoors 6 - 8 weeks before that date, depending on the plant.

Get Step by step instructions for indoor seed starting. 

Watch Joyce in Starting Seedlings 101: Choosing Seeds and Containers with WCAX

Starting Seedlings 101: Proper Light and Soil

Starting Seedlings 101: Planting Tips and Tricks

Next you need a spot to put your plants or seeds. 

One garden location ready to go!

To start a vegetable garden, you can have an area tilled. You can turn it by hand with a garden fork or shovel, removing grass, weeds, large stones. 

You might need a fence to keep out those who would eat your garden faster than it can grow.

Another way to start a veggie garden is with raised beds. Dig out existing plants or solarize with black plastic until plants there are dead. Dig out any roots.  Build a boundary for your bed out of untreated wood. Hemlock is inexpensive in my area. Untreated pine or spruce is also a good choice. Yes they will rot eventually. But pressure treated wood is toxic and will leach chemicals into your soil (and food). Fill the beds with garden or potting soil. Use organic potting soil to avoid the many problems of high nitrogen fertilizers.  Don’t line your raised bed with any kind of barrier. It prevents proper soil life.

If a patio garden seems just right for you, watch Joyce talk with WCAX about container gardening and transplanting into containers

Watch Joyce talk with WCAX about Getting Garden Beds Ready

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