BAY CITY, Mich. -- It's springtime! That means, you guessed it, flowers! Vegetables! Gardening! And we at Graff Bay City are here with some helpful tips on how to start a garden for beginners.
WHY IS GARDENING SO GREAT?
Before we get into how to start a garden, let's talk about why gardening is actually really good for you. On top of being super fun and yielding beautiful and/or delicious results, gardening helps to promote good health, community, and general positivity for both solo and community gardeners.
Here are a couple reasons gardening is so great:
- It burns calories: Gardening is considered a moderate to high-intensity activity. According to the CDC, just one hour of light gardening and yard work can burn up to 330 calories - more than you would lifting weights for the same amount of time! The National Institute of Health even recommends 30 to 45 minutes of gardening three to five times a week as part of a good exercise routine.
- It relieves stress: CNN reported a study that showed gardening may be more of a stress reliever than other leisurely activities. After completing a stressful task, two groups were asked to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes. The gardening group not only reported being in a better mood than the reading group, but also exhibited lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
- It strengthens your immune system: While you're outdoors in the sunshine, you soak up a lot of Vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption. Calcium helps to keep your bones strong, as well as promote a healthy immune system.
- It improves relationships and compassion: Research shows that those who spend a lot of time around plants tend to have better social relationships. Due to the measurable increases in feelings of compassion that exposure to plants provides, those who care for nature are more likely to care for and form stronger bonds with others.
WHAT GROWS BEST IN MICHIGAN?
The first step to start a garden is to know your region and what plants will thrive where you live. In our case it's the Mitten State, and many flowers, vegetables, and even fruits grow very well in our climate.
Here are some flowers, vegetables, and fruits that grow well in Michigan:
- Indigenous: There are many species of flowers that are actually native to Michigan, and can be found growing free throughout our wet ecosystem. Examples are Lady's Slipper, Fringed Polygala, Great Lobelias, Fringed Gentian, Lathhyrus Latifolius, Wood Geraniums, Wild Bergamot, Joe Pye Weed, and White Trillium Grandiforum.
- Daylilies: Daylilies are a hardy perennial that thrive in many climates, including those that experience extreme cold and a short growing season, much like that of Northern Michigan. Those varieties that do best are Happy Returns, Chicago Candy Cane, Bertie Ferris, Hearts Afire, Addie Branch Smith, Stella de Oro, and Little Grapette.
- Peonies: Peonies yield large blooms, feature a beautiful scent, and grow well in cooler climates like that of Michigan. Their bulbs can be planted in the spring, but it's recommended that you plant them in late fall so they have time to develop a healthy root system before blooming, covering them in a layer of straw to protect them from their first winter.
- Cosmos: Perfect for beginner gardeners with busier lifestyles, the colorful annual Cosmos not only thrive in cool climates but also are very low-maintenance, doing better with too little care rather than too much.
- Sunflowers: Hardy, fast-growing, and requiring little care, the happy Sunflower is also perfect for Michigan's climate. Their seeds can be planted after the last frost or started indoors ahead of time, as well as planted continuously throughout summer for a constant bloom cycle.
- Zinnias and Marigolds: While some areas of Michigan tend to have short growing seasons, our summers can be very hot. Zinnias and Marigolds thrive in that heat and are low-maintenance. On top of that, Zinnias don't attract pests while Marigolds actually repel them to keep the rest of your garden protected.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Many varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, broccoli, cabbage, kale, lettuces, carrots, potatoes, green beans, peas, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, radishes, beets, onions and sweet corn can thrive in Michigan. Growing your own fruits and vegetables can help to encourage a more healthy lifestyle, and you can even start a side business selling your produce at one of the Mitten's many annual farmer's markets.
START SMALL AND EASY
Okay, so you're stoked on all the health benefits of gardening and the many varieties of plants that you can grow in Michigan, but slow your roll for just a minute. We know how exciting it is to start your first garden, but the most common path to failure is planting too much than you can handle energy, time, and interest-wise. Gardening won't be the enjoyable experience it's meant to be if you overwhelm yourself too early, so start small with a one or two plots in your backyard with plants that are easy to care for to get yourself in the groove. Then once you feel more comfortable and your time allows, plant more!
Now that you know what you're planting and have a plan that works for you, let's get into the basics. Different plants have different needs and attributes, which will usually be indicated on the seed or bulb package, or on a tag if you buy the plant potted. It's also helpful to ask the people working at the place you're buying from, or green-thumbed friends or family members for advice. Here are some things to look for/ask about:
- Perennials vs. Annuals: Perennials are plants that come back every year, going dormant then re-blooming without having to plant a new one. Annuals on the other hand only last the year, with no dormant period and must be replanted next season.
- Sunlight: There are some plants that require full sunlight to grow, some that need a little, and even some that need complete shade. Observe how the sunlight falls wherever you're planning to plant, and figure out what should go where based on that. Don't be afraid to improvise if you need to however! If you've got a fully sunned backyard and want a plant that requires full shade, create the shade yourself.
- Soil: Overall, plant roots penetrate soft soil the best, so make sure you're planting in nice loamy soil that crumbles in your hands and isn't clumpy. Potting soil comes by the bag at virtually any lawn and garden center, and that's usually the go-to for most people.
- pH Level: Soil pH levels affect how a plant absorbs nutrients, and some grow best at different levels. Most gardening stores sell at-home testing kits which will tell you the level of acidity or alkalinity in your soil.
Gardening is not only fun, but good for your health and well-being! Many flowers, fruits, and vegetables thrive nicely in Michigan, so you have your pick. Remember to start small and not overwhelm yourself right out of the gate, gardening is supposed to be a positive experience. Never fear though, with work and patience, your backyard will be looking like Dow Gardens before you know it! Now that you know how to start a garden, get planting! Before you set out to the garden center to grab your supplies, head on in for a service appointment to make sure your car is ready to get all of those beautiful flowers home!
Hank Graff Chevy is located at 3636 Wilder Road, Bay City, MI 48706 and we are here to help our community grow to become an even better place to call home! For more information on Hank Graff Chevrolet, or for any questions call us at (989) 684-4411 or visit our website: www.GraffBayCity.com.