Here at Get Your Green Back Tompkins, we are all about steps. Here are four steps to grow a fruitful garden. Since the summer is upon us, there are some plants that won’t have enough time to grow before harvesting in the fall, but there are still many other options available. Read on to see how easy it can be to grow your green thumb!
1) Find & prep your space. Even those with limited outdoor space have options. Here is some help for determining which option is best for you:
- If you are a beginner, consider growing something in a bucket or container. CCE Tompkins and Tompkins Community Action hold classes on them in the spring. The Seed-to-Supper classes offered in the spring can help you get started with all the materials and knowledge you need.
- You can also join a community garden, which can be found all around the Tompkins County area. Here is a list of their locations, gardening requirements, and prices (some of them are free).
- If you are creating your own outdoor garden, putting up a deer-fence is highly recommended. Here is an article about deer-fencing considerations.
2) What to grow ? Here are some resources to help you find seeds and plant starts, and some advice on deciding what to plant and when:
- If you are just starting, you may want to try some veggies that require little attention: lettuce and salad greens, zucchini, kale, green onions, tomatoes, basil and other herbs, potatoes.
- Here is a list of plant nurseries in the Tompkins county area. Some of these nurseries also sell gardening tools and fertilizers, and can give you gardening pointers.
- CCE Tompkins has a free seed cabinet open to everyone. Individuals are welcome to take up to 5 packs per visit. And to donate seeds as well.
- Different plants need to be planted at different times. Here is a chart to help you determine when to plant here in Tompkins County.
- And here is a chart showing the latest dates for planting for the Ithaca area.
3) Maintenance is key. All plants need good light, water, and nutrients to grow, and they prefer it if nothing is eating them. Some things to think about as your garden grows:
- The Master Gardeners and Garden Educators at CCE-Tompkins can help answer any questions you have along the way. You can contact the Growline at (607) 272-2292 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Also, you can check out classes held throughout the summer on various gardening aspects, as well as other gardening resources that CCE Tompkins provides, including soil testing services and insect/plant/disease identification.
- Plants often differ in the time and resources they need to grow best. Here is a page from Cornell University with guides on growing 58 garden vegetables in New York State.
4) Reap what you sow! Once your produce is done growing, the real fun begins. After the harvest, it is time to cook and store your food so that it stays edible for as long as possible. Here are some tips to make the most of your harvest:
- Eat it. You can find tons of recipes with produce as the main character on the internet. Additionally, your local library is a great resource for printed recipes—free of charge!
- Store it. If you have more produce than can be eaten fresh, good storage practices are essential to make sure that you can eat this later. Some crops, such as pumpkin, carrots, and potatoes, do not require a lot of processing for long-term storage, but other crops should be stored frozen. CCE Tompkins has lots of information on storage practices as well, including freezing, canning, drying meat, and other methods of preservation.
- Can it. This is yet another way to store food long-term. CCE Tompkins has small group workshops on this and other storage techniques. Additionally, here is some information on common canning practices.
- Give it! You can donate any extra seeds to the seed bank and extra food to local food pantries.
- And of course if you have any food scraps or plant remnants left over, compost them!
That’s it! You can read more about local newbie gardeners in this blog article and this one, and learn about more resources on our Grow Your Own page. Don't forget that you can always call the Growline at CCE-Tompkins for support (for free) - (607) 272-2292.