(BPT) - The new growing season is upon us. You don't have to be an experienced gardener to enjoy the many benefits of the season, nor do you need large swaths of land and sprawling acreage to grow your favorite greens. In fact, beautiful outdoor spaces - rich with colorful blooms and hearty edibles - can be created in nearly any space, including patios and balconies.
'Small-space gardening is the fastest-growing area in gardening and is becoming increasingly important to individuals who are interested in starting a garden but don't have a lot of space,' says Tom Batt, a horticulturist and sales associate with Burpee Gardening Products and a consultant for Tractor Supply Company. 'Ultimately, people are looking to have more control over what goes into their family meals and there's no better way to know than by harvesting food from your own garden.'
Small-space gardening is all about getting creative and having fun. So whether you're attempting to create an eye-catching outdoor oasis or produce delicious food for cooking, the most effective way to learn is by simply digging in.
To help you get started, the experts at Tractor Supply Company compiled a list of tips on how to take a confined area and turn it into a bountiful garden.
Ready, set, prep
As with most new endeavors, preparation is key. First, determine how much space you'll be allocating and whether or not the area has access to adequate sunlight. According to Batt, a successful garden should receive at least eight hours of sunlight per day. It's also important to make sure your planters are equipped with a sufficient drainage system. A hole at the bottom of your containers will help prevent oversaturation while still allowing water to permeate the soil. It will also ensure adequate airflow reaches the roots.
Commit to cultivating
Now that you've decided on an area, it's important to remember that a garden - regardless of its size - requires time, attention and effort. It isn't just planting then vacating. With that in mind, try to be realistic about how much time you're willing to put forth. Batt suggests reserving an hour over the weekend for things like weeding and watering.
When it comes to plant hydration, it's better to water deeply and thoroughly on a seldom basis than water too little on a regular basis. That being said, plants in containers tend to dry out more quickly than plants in the ground and will often require more water, especially during warmer months. A good rule of thumb is to soak plants until you notice water coming through the drainage holes. But remember plants absorb water through their roots and lose water through their leaves, so when watering try to avoid the foliage.
It's almost time to plant those first few seeds, but you're not entirely sure what to grow. Consider starting with simple, cool-season crops like cabbage, carrots and radishes. Often, according to Batt, newer gardeners attempt to grow popular products like peppers, but what they don't know is that in order to thrive, those need to be started indoors.
Another great option for beginners is herbs, which are inexpensive, require nothing larger than a 6-8-inch container, and only take three to four weeks to yield results.
'Herb gardens involve very little space and provide gardeners with a harvestable product that's relatively easy to cultivate,' Batt says. 'It's also a fantastic way to grow a wide variety of plants in one fell swoop.'
Time to eat
It's vital to know what you've planted and how long it should stay in the ground. Carrots, for instance, will harvest in about 65 to 70 days and, according to Batt, will show signs of wilting when they're ready to be eaten.
Try to make a trip out to the garden every day to see what has ripened or is starting to flower. Trim back herbs, such as chives and basil, as soon as they start to flower. This will help plants continue to put energy into growth and production.
Checking on your garden daily also allows you to intervene at the first sign of trouble.
When it comes to small-space gardening, a little goes a long way. To give you an idea, a 10-foot by 12-foot garden has the capacity to feed a family of three for the entire summer simply by rotating the crops.
Tractor Supply Company hosts a variety of gardening events throughout the year, featuring expert advice and special products, all geared toward getting families out from under the roof and inside the garden. The rural lifestyle store carries all the supplies a family needs to get started, including mulch and soil, live plants, regular and organic seeds, pest control and garden tools.
Check with your local Tractor Supply store for details on upcoming gardening events.