Flowers + Plants 101

Guide to Spring Gardening

Friday, February 19, 2021

Spring is the time of renewal. Everything that was in hibernation over the winter begins to grow again. Mother’s Day is celebrated. Animals start making babies. Flowers are delivered. There is a lot to like about spring.

Person holding a young plant with roots exposed, ready for planting, with a smiling woman crouching in a blooming garden background, evoking home gardening and sustainability.

Spring is also an amazing time to begin gardening. One positive result of the COVID-19 pandemic is that there has been an explosion of interest in gardening. In fact, many seed companies ran out of seed packets in 2020 because of this unprecedented interest.

Gardening, like interacting with plants and flowers in general, provides a lot of benefits. It can strengthen your immune system, reduce stress, improve memory, and build strength. You don’t have to have a farm to get a lot out of gardening either. Even a few plants in pots will provide these benefits.

If you are new to gardening, you likely are confused about where to start. Keep reading and you will learn everything you need to start a new garden—big or small—this spring.

When to start a garden in spring The important first step in any spring garden is knowing when to plant your seeds or seedlings. Although it may be tempting to through all of your seeds or seedlings in the ground together as soon as the soil is workable, that is not optimal. Plants

Experts divide the world into different growing zones—also called plant hardiness zones—which are determined by the area’s average minimum temperature range. The zones range from 0-13. Each numbered zone is further divided into “a” and “b” sub-zones. This level of detail helps you exactly pinpoint the zone you live in, your planting dates, and the plants that will thrive in your area.

We’ve summarized each zone below, with the average minimum temperatures described in Fahrenheit. You can learn more about plant hardiness zones here and here.

Zone 0a Under -65

Zone 0b -65 to -60

Zone 1a -60 to -55

Zone 1b -55 to -50

Zone 2a -50 to -45

Zone 2b -45 to -40

Zone 3a -40 to -35

Zone 3b -35 to -30

Zone 4a -30 to -25

Zone 4b -25 to -20

Zone 5a -20 to -15

Zone 5b -15 to -10

Zone 6a -10 to -5

Zone 6b -5 to 0

Zone 7a 0 to 5

Zone 7b 5 to 10

Zone 8a 10 to 15

Zone 8b 15 to 20

Zone 9a 20 to 25

Zone 9b 25 to 30

Zone 10a 30 to 35

Zone 10b 35 to 40

Zone 11a 40 to 45

Zone 11b 45 to 50

Zone 12a 50 to 55

Zone 12b 55 to 60

Zone 13a 60 to 65

Zone 13b Over 65

As you can see, each of the twenty-eight zones is divided by five degrees. It is important to remember that the zones do not tell you the average temperature of the region. So, zone 0a does not average a temperature of under -65-degrees Fahrenheit all year long. Instead, the temperature range describes the lowest temperature the region will experience in an average year.

Why the average minimum, not the average max? For plants, minimum temperatures are actually more important than high temperatures. Low temperatures affect both annual and perennial plants and flowers. Annual plants, or those you replant every spring, can be affected by cold weather that lasts too long. For example, tomatoes originate in Central America, a hotter zone, so they struggle to grow in extremely cold zones like 3 and 4. Perennial plants, or those that will come back year after year, may die if the weather becomes too cold. Some plants and flowers are perennials in warm zones and annuals in colder zones.

A final thing to keep in mind about zones is that they determine when to plant seeds in spring. Cold zones tend to stay cold a lot longer than warm zones. Therefore, if you live in zone 8b, you can start your spring garden a lot sooner than you can in zone 5b.

Your first step in any spring garden should be to determine your zone. Then determine your average first and last frost date. A quick google search will give you an approximate schedule for planting your seeds. If you know your frost dates, you can get planting information off of the back of a seed packet or seedling info card as well.

How to start a garden Once you have a sense of when to start your garden in the spring, it is time to get planning.

  • Planning the garden Planning a garden is always fun. It is a little easy to get overwhelmed but try not to. The best part about spring gardens is that they don’t have to be perfect. For all the scientific information there is about gardening and plants, the process is fairly easy. Some conditions, such as planting about your hardiness zone, are more optimal than others. However, if you do just throw a bunch of plants and flowers in the ground, you will likely still see results.

You should consider planning your garden in the early spring. This timing works for most zones because you will be planting your plants and flowers in the late spring and early summer.

Make sure to plan a garden that fits your space requirements and that you have the time to maintain. Large gardens are great, but they require a lot of time in weeding and watering. You may also not be able to put in a large garden if you do not have access to a yard. Instead, consider container gardening or hydroponic gardening. Here are some pros and cons for all three of these options.

  • In-ground garden In-ground gardens are gardens you plant in your yard. They may be big or small depending on your space requirements. A big advantage of in-ground gardening is that you can plant anything. You do need yard space, and the ability or desire to tear out your grass, though.

  • Container garden If you do not want to mess up your yard or don’t have access to a yard, try container gardening. This type of gardening is exactly how it sounds. You put plants and flowers in containers of many sizes. There are limits to what you can plant in a container garden, however, as some plants do not take well to being in pots. Most herbs, flowers, berries, and even veggies can be grown in containers, though.

  • Hydroponic garden Hydroponic gardens provide a way to grow plants and flowers without soil. You keep the roots in water. This garden type takes up the least amount of space, as they often provide vertical growing space. You will need to invest in a hydroponic system, which can get pricey.

Once you determine the type of garden you want to create, you need to plan its dimensions. And, then comes the really fun part: deciding on plants and flowers. There is no right or wrong to this question. Want a vegetable garden? What to grow your own flowers for flower arranging? Want herbs to cook with? These and more are all valid gardening options.

Seed starting vs. buying plants You’ve planned your garden and decided on plants and flowers, now it is time to decide whether to start your own seeds or buy pre-started plants (also called seedlings). Both have pros and cons.

  • Seed starting Seed starting is much cheaper, especially if you are planning a big garden. One seed packet will also stay good for multiple years, depending on the plant, so you can use the seeds for more than one season.

You need the right equipment to seed start, however. At the very least this includes a seed starting tray and either peat pods or a seed-starting soil mixture. You should also consider heating mats and grow lights, especially if you live in a cold zone. Seedlings that do not get enough direct light will get leggy—have stems that are too long and prone to falling over. Leggy plants are not the end of the world, but they can be delayed.

Once you have the correct equipment, you will need to make a chart of when to start each type of seed. Thus, seed starting involves more work on your part, but the low cost and achievement of creating your own plants may be a good trade-off.

  • Buying plants Buying plants is the easier option. You can go to any garden store and find a variety of seedlings to plant. Most farmer's markets also have stalls that specialize in seedlings. Seedlings will cost you more, but the hard work of getting the plant to grow is complete.

You will have fewer options when you purchase plants. There are hundreds and even thousands of plants and flowers. There are thousands of rose and orchid species, for example. You will not have these thousands to choose from when you purchase plants, though. You will likely be stuck choosing between a few of the most popular options. If you want more variety in your garden, you will need to start the seeds yourself.

Planting Whether you start your own seeds or buy plants, eventually you will need to get them in your garden. Each type of plant or flower prefers its own growing and planting conditions. For example, succulents not need much water and, unless you live in the desert, would probably prefer to be planted in a pot. Carrots need sandy soil because their roots cannot push through thick clay. On the other hand, herbs like oregano will grow anywhere.

Your seed packet or the information that comes with your plant will tell you how and where to plant it. If you are putting seedlings into containers, there is very little you need to do. You have complete control over the weather each plant is exposed to. Plants that go in the ground will require more care because once you put them in the ground, that is where they are going to live.

After you are done planting, your spring garden is ready to go. Just keep your plants and flowers watered and fertilized, and then sit back and watch them grow.

Easy to grow flowers and plants New to gardening? Here are a few easy-to-grow plants and flowers for you to try.

Flowers In general, most flowers are easy to grow. Orchids and some rose varieties are a notable exception to this rule. Still, below you will find the easiest to grow flowers for beginner gardeners.

  • Marigolds Marigolds are an extremely easy flower to grow. They thrive in pots and the ground. You can plant seeds directly into the soil, which makes marigolds easy to seed start. They also germinate very easily, so you do not have to try too hard to get flowers.

Marigolds should be planted outside after the danger of frost has passed. They need a little sun but will grow in partially shady conditions. Marigolds work great at keeping pests away from many vegetables, including squashes, potatoes, and tomatoes. These are great flowers for a bouquet or as part of any vegetable garden.

  • Tulips Tulips are a beautiful spring flower. Bulbs are planted in the fall and overwinter in the ground. The plant emerges in spring. Tulips do well in cooler climates because they need that cold weather to grow properly.

There are many different colors of tulips. They are mostly associated with spring and Easter especially. If you want your own colorful tulip bouquet, you should consider this easy flower to grow.

  • Snapdragons Snapdragons are tall and exciting flowers. They grow well in most conditions. Not all show-stopping flowers are hard to plant, which the snapdragon proves. The flower will bloom in late spring or early summer. It prefers cooler spring weather.

The conical towers of flowers make the snapdragon a good novelty flower. You can find it most often in pink, white, or red colors. It works well in a tall flower arrangement with many different types of blooms.

  • Sunflowers Finally, there is the sunflower. The sunflower is the quintessentially easy-to-grow flower. It prefers to be planted outdoors, but some mini varieties work well in pots. Sunflowers are a warm-weather plant, and they prefer to be planted in full sun.

There isn’t a flower more associated with fall than the sunflower. That is when the blooms really come into their own. From a living fence to a child’s playhouse, there are lots of ways to use the tall, striking sunflower. This flower also works well as part of a Thanksgiving bouquet. arrange

Plants Herb plants and succulents tend to be easier to grow than vegetables. But, there are a few easy veggies that beginners should consider for their spring garden as well. Below are the easiest plants for novice gardens.

  • Lettuces Any type of lettuce or green will be easy to grow, with the possible exception of spinach. Spinach is a little bit pickier about its environment. However, any green will grow like a weed.

Lettuces are cool weather plants and are perfect for a spring garden. They will bolt (this is where the stalks get larger and set seeds) and become bitter in warm weather. But, spring salad lovers will enjoy the easy-to-grow lettuce.

  • Succulents No matter what type of garden you have, you should include succulents. These plants are better grown indoors in cooler climates. However, they are easy to keep in pots of any size or shape.

Succulents continue to grow and look nice no matter the season. They can also add fresh oxygen to your home. These cute little plants are a great addition to a home garden.

  • Money tree Money trees are tropical plants and prefer to remain in our homes. Yet, as long as you keep them regularly watered, they will continue to grow. Money trees are said to be good luck, so it behooves you to take good care of them. Our money trees come already potted. All you have to do is add water when the potting mix dries out, and your money tree will thrive.

  • Basil Basil is one of the easiest to grow herbs out there. It germinates and grows quickly. It will thrive in pots or the ground. It can be grown in the shade or the sun. The only thing it is picky about is water. Make sure to keep your basil plant watered, and you will have plenty of the herb to put in marinara sauce in no time.

The benefits of a garden Clearly, there is a lot that goes into a good spring garden. It may be easier, and in some cases even cheaper, to purchase a bouquet or a flower subscription plan. Those are great options. But, gardening has benefits as well.

Most importantly, gardening brings you close to nature. Spending time in nature has proven benefits for our stress levels and increases our immune system. That’s not all! When you garden, you will be getting gentle exercise. Exercise is also linked to reduced stress and overall well-being.

Plants and flowers are truly amazing things. They can raise our mood and provide beauty to our lives.

Gardening, like interacting with plants and flowers in general, provides a lot of benefits. It can strengthen your immune system, reduce stress, improve memory, and build strength. You don’t have to have a farm to get a lot out of gardening either. Even a few plants in pots will provide these benefits.