Tips from LFT Staff: A Beginner’s Guide to Gardening

August 16, 2023

It's no secret that growing plants in your space can positively impact your mental and physical health. Plants give people something easy to look after, they freshen up the air, and they can spruce up a space! If you're anything like me, you might need help getting started. Thankfully, many of our staff members here have quite a green thumb, so I sat down with our biggest plant enthusiast, Laura Komara. Laura is our Land Protection Assistant at LFT, and she graduated from Temple University with a degree in Environmental Studies. She's always loved plants and is our go-to if we have a greenery question.

As we sat among the ferns and succulents in her office, I was compelled to ask why she loves plants so much. "I like having something to take care of, and I like my space feeling and looking natural." Laura currently has a 3x10 plot where she grows peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, squash, and cucumbers. I told her my troubles, my lack of a green thumb. She smiled. "I think gardening is much easier than people make it out to be."

And so, if you're planning on starting a garden, here's all that Laura suggests:

What do I need to create a garden? What do I do?

All plants are different, but all plants need dirt. Laura noted that the rule of thumb for each plant is 1-2 inches of soil all the way around a plant's root ball. Some plants require other items, like a trellis. For these, Laura suggests checking the back of a seed packet or the informational card that comes with a potted plant. These labels tell you what the plant will need in terms of light, shade, and water.

What should I plant?

While going to a greenhouse is fun, deciding what plants to buy can be challenging if you're a beginner. Laura suggested that beginners start with leafy greens, peas, beans, and radishes. She notes that they're relatively easy to care for and are lower maintenance than other veggies.

If you live in a small space, like an apartment, you will have to consider plant size. Laura suggested that apartment tenants try a window box garden. Rows of leafy greens are good plants for growing in window boxes. She also suggested spinach, green onions, cherry tomatoes, and banana peppers. Often, a greenhouse will label a plant as a "container variety" if it can be grown in a container or a window box.

Where should I get my plants?

"Buy your plants and seeds locally!" Laura exclaimed. Lancaster County has dozens of local greenhouses where you can get your plants and seeds. Laura likes Rohrer's Seeds, as they carry their own line of seed packets. However, she does suggest that a beginner start with already-planted plants.

What if my plant doesn't come with instructions?

What if you lose the instruction card? What if a plant doesn't come with one? Laura suggested that I download an app called Planta. After you identify your plant, you can add it to Planta, and it will give you detailed care instructions. It will also create a care schedule for you, notifying you if it's time to water your plant. Plus, you can even give your plants a name!

What else do I need to know?

Laura was kind enough to provide various other tips and tricks. Here is what she suggests:

  • put eggshells in tomato plants for extra potassium
  • attempt companion planting to avoid pests and pest-control expenses
  • keep on top of your weeding
  • only plant things you know you will eat
  • continually prune your plants
  • pay attention to the hardiness zone you live in (Lancaster County's hardiness is 6)
  • have fun!

"Because gardening should be fun!" she exclaimed. Gardening is a hobby that benefits the planet and the planter! Reaching your first harvest can be incredibly rewarding, and it might save you some money. So, get up, get out, and get gardening!

Are you looking to learn more about LFT staff? Check out the "About" section on our website. If you want to connect with us more, follow us on Instagram at @lancasterfarmlandtrust, and find us on Facebook at Lancaster Farmland Trust.


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