OSU Extension offers advice for first-time gardeners
Story by Sarah Allen
Photos courtesy Faye Mahaffey, Brown County Master Gardener volunteer
Sunlight, air, soil and water — these aren’t just the ingredients for a healthy garden. For many, gardening is more than putting fresh food on the table. It’s about relaxing, connecting — and, yes, feeling the dirt between your fingers.
Brooke Beam, OSU extension educator for agriculture and natural resources/community development, offered advice for first-time gardeners. Perhaps the pandemic spurred a new hobby, or perhaps this year is just the right year.
“Starting small is very important,” she said, adding that it’s best to begin with “what you like to eat.”
As an example, Beam said that those who enjoy eating salads might want to plant lettuce and tomatoes.
She also described the process of starting a garden. For instance, before digging, it is important to make sure there are no power or gas lines. Beam recommended calling 1-800-362-2764 — the state’s dig call center — before shovels hit the dirt.
Beam also suggested plotting a garden close to a water source. The area should also receive at least eight hours of sunlight.
All gardening supplies, she added, can be found locally: at garden centers, home improvement stores and even grocery stores. Employees there can also be a helpful resource.
Once it’s time to start digging into the earth, Beam advised researching what plants grow well together. Examples of these “companion plants,” include asparagus, tomato, parsley and basil, or spinach, strawberries and fava beans.
Different plants grow better in different areas at different times. Beam said the back of seed packages can provide a guide.
Other resources include the OSU Extension website, which includes information as well as webinars.
Ultimately, however, Beam said that there are various ways to garden. Raised garden beds, for instance, can be a good option for individuals with limited mobility. She added that she has seen gardeners convert flower boxes or even water troughs into raised beds.
Beam said, above all, it’s important to “let your imagination” create a garden that works for your space.
And while any garden takes time and effort, “the end result is very worthwhile,” she added.
Gardeners often finish the season with a sense of “satisfaction … and accomplishment,” Beam said. In addition, the experience can also inspire “appreciation for farmers.”
But the harvest isn’t the only benefit that comes with gardening. Beam said that it promotes outdoor experiences and “gets us away from our computers.” In addition, gardening can relieve stress and be an opportunity for family bonding.
Above all, however, Beam said, “Having something you’ve raised and put on the dinner plate is a great feeling.”