Urban Gardening

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It’s spring, so it’s time for Central Texas gardeners to roll up their sleeves and get to work. This is prime gardening season if you’d like to have a full crop of veggies later this year. Start planting now, and you’ll have plenty to harvest before the heat of summer sets in. If you’re a new gardener, you’re in luck! Austin has ample resources to get you started off on the right foot. Here are a few tips to help you set the foundation for a successful garden.

Choose a Location

The very first step is to find the best location for your garden. Look on the south side of your home for a sunny spot with level ground and, ideally, close to a water source. Be open-minded…a front yard garden can be beautiful and may yield the best results! Start small, for example, a 4 foot by 6 foot bed. You’ll be surprised to learn how much you can grow in a small space. If need be, you can add another bed next season.

Build your bed

If you start with a well-prepared bed, you’ll find that you have less work down the road. Raised beds are very popular in Central Texas, because of the heavy clay content in the south and rocky soils in the west. But even our lucky friends in the east can ben- efit from the well-draining rich soil a raised bed can provide. Fill your beds with quality soil. If your soil at home is lacking, I highly recommended locally made Lady Bug Brand Hill Country Soil (ladybug- brand.com) and GeoGrowers Thunder Garden Soil (geogrowers.net). To learn more about raised beds, check out the free classes at the Natural Gardener. Go more in depth with Citizen Gardener–a 3-day workshop starting 3/24, course fee $30, hosted by the Sustainable Food Center: sustainablefoodcenter. org/events

Get good seeds

I’d recommend Rene’s Garden and Seeds of Change seeds, both available at local nurseries around Austin. Don’t be afraid to experiment with heirloom varieties! This month you can plant beets, broccoli, carrot, chard, collards, endive, kale, lettuce, mustard, parsnip, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, shallot, turnips. You can also buy your pepper and tomato seeds now to start indoors, but you’ll want to wait until later in March to plant them.

Enrich your soil

Learn to compost by signing up for a free class on composting by Austin Resource Recovery www.aus- tintexas.gov/department/austin-resource-recovery. Some great local products to try are the Compost Tea from Microbial Earth www.microbialearth.com and the Triple Power Compost at Organics by Gosh www.organicsbygosh.com.

No yard? No problem

Try your luck at container gardening! If you have a sunny spot on a balcony or patio, you can grow food. Herbs, broccoli, carrots, chard, lettuce, spinach and many other veggies do well growing in containers. You can even successfully grow cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets. Start with deep rectan- gular containers to allow room for roots to grow, and be sure to provide holes for drainage. You’ll need to water regularly, especially when it heats up!

Once your garden is planted, water with care and enjoy the excitement of watching your seeds sprouting. There’s still more to learn, but you’ll have a solid foundation to get your garden grow- ing. And the best part…you’ll be eating fresh, organic, inexpensive vegetables from your own backyard in no time!

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