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Gardening Tips for First Time Gardeners

With gardening season just beginning in the greater Pittsburgh area, Longwood at Oakmont resident gardeners are planning out their season and preparing their seedlings to make the transition to the community’s garden beds.

Recently, the senior living community’s Garden Committee met to divvy up the 48 raised (4’ x 8’) beds between approximately 30 families/residents who actively garden.

“We have people who want the same bed every year and others who want two beds. The beds are usually assigned based on seniority,” states Bill Ferguson, Longwood at Oakmont resident and Garden Committee chair. “For the beds that go unassigned, the committee members plant corn, which is shared with the Longwood at Oakmont community.”

Ferguson, who began gardening in 1953 upon purchasing his first home, provides these tips for first-time gardeners.

1.) Don’t get too ambitious. Start with a small plot and figure out which plants and vegetables you like.

2.) Try something that is easy to plant such as
– Green Beans – they grow pretty well and don’t take up too much space;
– Tomatoes – they’re a little trickier to manage as they need a post for them   to grow. However, you can buy them already started as a small bush      instead of starting them from a seed.
– Herbs – Chives and basil are good for first time gardeners. I personally discourage people from growing mint because it is hard to get rid of later.

3.) Location is very important as various plants need different amounts of sunlight. Additionally, you want to make sure the bed and/or plot of land is close to a water hose or source. Also, if you are doing a raised bed, it is important to consider how close it is to    the side of your home as you want to make sure you are able to reach the middle of the  bed.

4.) Timing – If you plant too early (March/April), especially in the greater Pittsburgh area, then your plants could freeze, and either die or not bear any fruit. For this area, it is usually safe to plant a majority of vegetables and flowers in May. However, peas, radishes, parsley and spinach will grow in cooler weather, and rhubarb, which is a    perennial, will survive cooler weather and reproduce every year.

Additionally, resident Peggy Menges, who grew up with a garden and served as a Farmette during World War II, contributed the following tips:

5.) Perennials and Annuals – Perennials flower every year during certain times of the   year. Annuals only last for one growing season, but provide a garden with color.

For beginners interested in growing flowers, Daffodils, which are perennials, flower in the spring and add a splash of color to a garden. If deer are prone to feast on your beautiful flowers, then add Hosta, another perennial, around them.

6.) Soil – The pH balance of your soil is an important factor to consider when determining which vegetables and flowers to plant. Most plants thrive in soil that has a moderate to neutral pH balance level.

Also if you happen to get a fungus in your soil, you should not plant the same flowers or vegetables in that area for a couple of years. For example, if you had Impatiens that were    affected by a fungus then you would want to wait to plant those again in your garden for a couple of years.

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