Get ready: garden time is upon us

Published 4:19 pm Friday, April 21, 2023

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I have an online friend who lives in Australia that I chat with from time to time. Our recent topic of conversation has been gardening.

Because we live in different hemispheres, the kinds of plants we’re planning for right now differ. For me, I’m getting ready for spring planting and summer growing, while my friend is preparing for fall and winter plants. It’s been fun to share tips and recommendations, such as my experience growing okra and whether or not we should add flowers to our vegetable gardens. I even learned something new: arugula is called “rocket” in Australia (and in other countries that tend to use British dialects for English).

Like many people here locally, I grew up helping my parents raise a garden every summer. I have plenty of fond memories about planting and harvesting. There’s that lovely bit of anticipation every year right as you start putting seeds and seedlings in the ground, imagining all that the garden will bring forth in the coming months. And there’s also that wonderful feeling of eating homegrown vegetables right from your own backyard. (In recent years, I’ve also enjoyed finding a variety of recipes to utilize all the vegetables in new ways.)

Of course, I also have plenty of garden memories that aren’t as pleasant. Like the annoying repetitive work of getting rid of weeds that kept trying to take root. (Why does grass somehow want to grow better in my garden than in my yard??) Or the humid days where you feel like you’re melting into a puddle of goo right there between the rows of squash and tomatoes. (The best time to garden, I’ve learned for me, is the earliest morning hours when the sun hasn’t yet become your greatest enemy of the day. Though that also means you have to contend with the dew… so it’s not a perfect solution.)

Gardening is a fun hobby, but not always an easy one. In addition to the plants themselves, you often have to make sure you have all the right tools you need to do it properly. As a farmer’s daughter, I’ve always been lucky enough to have a tractor to get the land ready for gardening. But there are plenty of other methods to get going, especially depending on what size garden you want.

A hoe, shovel, or trowel are all helpful for different gardening tasks. And gloves are pretty handy too. I’m personally guilty of forgetting my gloves, and always end up with sore spots on my hands after using the hoe a long time to chop weeds.

Recently, I was reading the Associated Press’ regular gardening column. That particular article was focused on suggestions to make gardening a little less strenuous. I had no idea that there are more options out there these days for tools to help make things easier. Some tools are made now with extendable handles so you’re not having to bend over as much. There’s apparently even an automatic shovel that will dig the holes for you. (I assume you’d still have to guide it to the right spots though.)

The article writer also suggested a rolling garden seat, which could be useful to take care of plenty of other yardwork tasks too. Not everyone has the physical ability to do all the hard labor that a garden often requires, but having extra tools to assist can allow people to keep doing something they enjoy.

A few other important tips from the AP News article: use heating pads right before you head outside to garden. Place them around the areas that tend to hurt the most, and the heat will help loosen the muscles.

Be mindful of your posture. Bend at the knees when you’re lifting something heavy like a bag of mulch. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart for good balance when standing. Hug heavy objects you’re carrying (like containers or large pots) to your chest and keep your back as straight as possible.

If bending down is too difficult, try gardening in raised beds. Or even make an attempt at vertical gardening. There are plenty of plants that will climb up a trellis if you give them a chance.

Some of these tips seem just like common sense, but I think even longtime gardeners can use a reminder every now and then too.

Occasionally, Youtube will give me random video recommendations – mostly for music and recipe videos – but as gardening season approaches, it throws in a few gardening videos as well. Sometimes I check them out to see if I can get any tips I didn’t know before.

But sometimes, they’re just entertaining. I watched one video a few weeks ago about gardening mistakes. Viewers of the channel had submitted their own tales of gardening woes, and the hosts shared tips on how to avoid those mistakes in the future. There was one specific story from a beginner gardener who wasn’t quite sure how to deal with blossom end rot on their tomato plants.

Blossom end rot will make your tomatoes, peppers, and other veggies start rotting before you even have a chance to pick them off the plant. The problem is caused by insufficient calcium absorption in the plant, often due to inconsistent watering. This gardener, however, misunderstood the part about insufficient calcium, so their solution was to simply pour milk onto their affected plants!

Just imagine the mess created by pouring milk outside on an extremely hot summer day! The gardener said that the milk almost started curdling as it hit the ground.

A good idea to remember for the future: milk will not help your garden plants!

Hopefully, the weather remains good and the temperatures stay warm enough for local gardeners to get their start soon (if they haven’t already). Perhaps these tips can help make things easier and more fun, no matter what you choose to plant.

Good luck gardening!

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.