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Thinking about gardening in CT? Here are some tips for beginners and green thumb wannabes

A mixture of flower seeds rests in the palm of 26-year-old farmer, Xóchitl Garcia while sowing in a 4-foot by 8-foot community garden bed in Fair Haven.
Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
A mixture of flower seeds rests in the palm of 26-year-old farmer, Xóchitl Garcia while sowing in a 4-foot by 8-foot community garden bed in Fair Haven.

Want to start gardening, but aren’t sure what to do or how to begin? Connecticut Garden Journal’s Charlie Nardozzi has some gardening tips for beginners to keep in mind this season.

“Start small,” he told Connecticut Public’sWhere We Live. “Get comfortable with gardening. Get used to going out there and visiting the garden everyday for a couple minutes. And get some success doing it. Once you’ve been successful with gardening, then you’re hooked.”

Start small

Take a look at your space and decide what you want to grow, whether it’s flowers, vegetables, herbs or shrubs.

From there, keep it small. Nardozzi suggests beginning with a couple containers, a small raised bed, or some small herbs.

Starting small will allow you to get comfortable with gardening and remember to take care of it everyday with minimal maintenance techniques. Place the garden somewhere you will see it everyday, which will help remind you to take care of it.

Here comes the sun: Discover the ‘sun spots’

Where is the sun? How much sun do you get in your yard?

To locate the sun-filled areas, go outside every couple of hours and see how sunny it is. Take note of how long the sun stays in each spot before you start planting.

A full sun area will receive six to eight hours of sun per day, while partial sun areas will get three to four hours a day. Shaded areas will only receive a few hours a day, but plants can still grow.

Locating the sun-filled areas is an essential step before putting anything in the ground.

Find your zone

Hardiness zones are developed nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The zones are broken down from 1 (coldest) to 11 (warmest) and helps gardeners know which plants are able to grow in that zone.

Connecticut’s zones range from 5 to 6, and occasionally a 7. When purchasing plants, the zone is marked on its tag, allowing customers to know where and when to grow them.

“Do not go warmer than your zone,” Nardozzi said. “That’s when you’ll lose the plant.”

To discover your specific area’s zone, visit the agriculture department’s hardiness zone map and enter your zip code.

Know your soil 

Knowing what’s in your soil is key to a successful garden.

UConn offers lab soil sample teststhat will give a report about the nutrients, organic matter and pH levels of your soil. The results also help understand what to add to balance it out.

Adding organic matter to soil can change the way the plant grows. Things like compost, straw, shredded leaves or grass clippings from your lawn.

For raised beds or in ground planting, mix 50% compost and 50% topsoil for a nice, rich soil.

For containers, use potting soil mixed with fertilizer.

A few more tips 

When is the right time to start?

You can begin gardening after the last frost date in your area. Frost date information can be found here.

What tools should I start with? 

Some basic beginner tools include gloves, a shovel, a garden fork/rake, as well as hand pruners if handling trees or shrubs.

Don’t worry too much!

Ultimately, though, don’t sweat it, Nardozzi said.

“There’s definitely some magic to the whole gardening thing,” he said. “Even experienced gardeners will tell you: We still kill plants. I still try plants – I think that they’re in the right place in the right conditions, and they still die. So that’s just kind of part of the whole gardening experience.”

Listen to Nardozzi’s entire conversationwith Connecticut Public’s Where We Live.

Connecticut Public's Tess Terrible contributed to this report.

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