High schoolers’ guide to gardening

Are you looking to start a small garden or pot some plants for the warmer months? Local farms and nurseries come to the rescue with tips and tricks on how to make your garden last longer, stronger, and thrive to its full potential, even if it’s a small one.

If you’re looking to start an outdoor garden for the first time, Merrifield Garden Center has monthly gardening tips; the months of March, April, and May suggest planting your seeds indoors until the weather is consistently warm in order for summer plants to be in full bloom.

Planting native plants is beneficial; they do not require fertilizer to adapt in the garden because they are native to the region. Another benefit is that there is less need for pesticides, which can sometimes harm your garden instead of helping it.

The key to a beautiful garden is the nourishing soil. It doesn’t matter the size, but if you balance soil, water, and sunlight, your garden will surely thrive. The best soil for a small garden is called loam, which is used for most gardens as it is rich in nutrients and minerals. You can buy loam at your local garden center, or make your own with sand, silt, and clay.

Some basic house plants that don’t require much watering and are great for a smaller-scale garden are aloe plants, which have many benefits for your hair and skin, succulents which require little to no water, and the snake plant which is the hardest houseplant to kill.

Avoid invasive non-native plants like mimosas (shame-plants), chinaberries, and trees-of-heaven, which attract the invasive spotted lanternfly bugs. Although many invasive plants are beautiful and most would love to incorporate them into their garden, this can damage other native plants that animals in Northern Virginia may depend on.

If you want your garden colorful and diverse, pansies and violas clash beautifully to provide “early spring color” to the landscape, said Merrifield Garden Center volunteers. Another way to brighten your garden is to make or buy and place birdhouses or windchimes around which will attract many birds passing by or living in that area. Birds are beneficial for gardens and are also pollinators for wildflowers.

Although most plants mentioned are easy to care for, potted plants can be easily transported to your outside garden to flourish in the warmer months. Having a garden is not just beneficial for the environment, but betters your quality of life and helps relieve stress.