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Tips for first-time gardeners

Volunteers tend to a community garden in Indianapolis.
Volunteers tend to a community garden in Indianapolis.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Starting a garden may seem like a big job, but there are ways to boost your odds of success.

“With many of us staying at home right now, this could be a great time to start a new garden,” said B. Rosie Lerner, consumer horticulture specialist at Purdue Extension.

Lerner shared tips for first-time gardeners on YouTube.

1. Start small. You can always add to the size of the garden later.

2. Pick the best site to plant. “As you’re looking for a site to start your garden, select a site that gets a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight daily if at all possible,” Lerner said.

3. Avoid trees and shrubs. “Try to stay away from trees and shrubs as much as possible to avoid competition with the root system and with draining,” Lerner said.

4. Choose well-drained soils. Relatively level, well-drained soil is what you want to shoot for. Remove existing weeds as well as turf grass from the soil. Check to make sure it’s dry enough to work by digging up soil and squeezing it in your hand, Lerner said. “If it forms a muddy ball, it’s too wet to work,” she said. “If it crumbles and falls through your fingers, it’s dry enough to work.”

5. Decide whether to plant cool or warm season crops. Cool season crops, such as lettuce, spinach and radishes, can be planted in early spring. “Warm season crops, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, need to wait until after the danger of frost has passed,” Lerner said. “Usually that’s after around Mother’s Day. Southern areas of the state can plant a little earlier.”

Learn more about gardening at www.purdue.edu/hla/sites/yardandgarden.

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