Publisher’s note: We hope you enjoy Planting Edmonds, a new monthly column for garden lovers, written by members of the Edmonds Floretum Garden Club.
Spring is coming. You can feel it. You can see it. It has been a long, cold, damp, and dark winter, but the plants are beginning to stir for their big debut. Are you feeling an urge to garden? I am. We in Edmonds are blessed to live in a rich gardening community and culture. The climate is moderate and moist — ideal for a broad range of attractive plants. Experienced local gardeners are preparing for the arrival of spring. They know what to do, but not everyone does. If you haven’t gardened before but would like to give it a go, read on. This column is for you.
So, you want to start gardening? How to begin? I think there are two major approaches to beginning gardening: the big splash and the tiny dip. I recall stories from the past of hearty folk teaching their children how to swim by throwing them in the lake — the big splash.The child may start to swim — not much of a choice — but I expect it doesn’t foster an initial love of being in water. Gardening can be like that.
When that gardening urge hits, some folks go all out — constructing big gardens complete with trellises, tomato cages and high expectations. They fill their new plots with numerous vegetables, and their beautiful new pots and hanging baskets with lots of flowers. It looks stunning! About a month after that initial spring surge, enthusiasm wanes as the realities of maintaining a beautiful, sustained garden sink in. You are left with an unkempt garden, unmet expectations, some guilt and a hefty credit card bill — not the ideal initial gardening experience.
Here is another approach: The tiny dip. Stick your toe gently into the water, get used to it, enjoy it and then progress to swimming at your own pace. For the beginning gardener, start small, keep expectations in check and have fun. Learn from your initial experience and then, if gardening is still making you happy, slowly expand your garden at a comfortable pace. I planted a single mound of pumpkin seeds in our backyard garden in Spokane when I was 6 years old. That tiny dip grew over time for me into a lifelong passion for plants and gardening.
So, are you ready to stick your toe in the gardening “pool”? If so, I propose some “baby steps” to get you off to a good start. One option: Plant a primrose. The primrose (Primula polyantha) is a hardy, easy-to-grow, compact perennial (comes back every year) that rewards you with beautiful flowers at the first hint of spring and will bloom periodically for months.
Primroses are easy and cheap right now at many area stores and come in a rainbow of colors. You can grow them in the garden or in a pot. For the garden, plant them in a grouping in a partially sunny (ideal) location in your garden. Water them well after planting and keep the soil damp. Primroses will also be happy in a pot on your porch, deck, or balcony. Put them in some sort of container with drainage and standard potting soil. Water them thoroughly (until water comes out the bottom) and keep them moist. If your primrose is in full sun, you will have to water more frequently.
Another option: Plant some leaf lettuce or radish seeds. There is something special about planting dry, hard little seeds and watching beautiful plants emerge and grow. You get to channel your Frankenstein movie geekiness by yelling “It’s Alive!” when that first seedling breaks through the soil surface. Furthermore, being able to eat what you have grown from seed connects you with Mother Earth and reminds you where food comes from. If you have a little patch of ground that is blessed with some sunlight, then radishes and leaf lettuce are good choices for the new gardener. They can be planted now and will thrive in our cool and moist spring weather. So, dig up a little patch of ground, plant some seeds according to the seed packet instructions, and keep the plot moist. You will be rewarded with tasty food from your garden. Leaf lettuce and radishes can also be planted in pots or containers in potting soil and placed on a sunny balcony or porch as well. Keep them moist and watch food grow.
You don’t have a yard or balcony? Indoor gardening is rewarding and fun, too. Try growing some radishes and/or leaf lettuce from seed. All you need are some seeds, a container, some potting soil, and a spot that has moderate light – some sunlight is best. You don’t need a fancy container. An empty yogurt container, a food take-out container, a milk carton, etc. – you get the idea – will work. Put some drainage holes in the bottom and place it in something to catch the water when it drains out the bottom. Something as simple as turning up the edges of aluminum foil works as drainage tray. Keep the soil moist. A general guideline is to water thoroughly (until water runs out the holes) once per week. You are all set. Enjoy the process and keep your expectations in check. You may not get a huge crop, but you may get to experience the satisfaction of eating a little something you grew yourself.
There it is — my advice on some baby steps you can take right now to start gardening. So, get out there, plant a primrose and maybe some lettuce or radish seeds, and just see what happens. You’re not going to make a big splash, but maybe, just maybe, sticking your toe into the water will be the start of a lifetime of gardening pleasure!
Timely Garden Tips:
- Get your seeds now while there is good selection.
- It is time to plant bare-root roses. They are currently available in local nurseries.
- Dig out the larger weeds in your garden now. They are easier to control when they are young.
— By Joel Ream
Joel Ream has been a member of Floretum since 2019. He grew up in Spokane and earned a bachelor of science in botany at the University of Washington and a master’s in botany at Michigan State University. Joel spent 37 years as a plant biologist at Monsanto, using plant physiology, biochemistry and analytics to increase the efficiency of crop production. He also worked on new weed control technologies, regulatory studies to support the safety of new products, greenhouse and field evaluation of new crop varieties, increasing the nutritional value of animal feed and developing methods to measure grain composition. Joel retired to Edmonds in 2018.