If you’ve ever thought about putting in a garden, this is definitely the year for it, what with the pandemic looming over our heads.
As the tee shirt says, “Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes.”
My “herby” friend, Kim Porter, thinks there’ll be a resurgence of Victory Gardens this summer and I suspect she’s right. I’ve noticed an unusual amount of seeds and plants have already sold out online.
Don’t worry, though, you can still find seeds and plants locally.
If you’re new to the idea of raising your own vegetables, don’t be intimidated. It’s not rocket science. You just need to know a few basics.
First, pick a patch of ground in your yard that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
Once you figure out how big you want your garden to be, you can use my South Bend Friend’s method for killing the grass — spread out cardboard or several layers of newspapers, then cover that area with mulch.
She says it will take a season to kill all the grass, but I’ve found if you’re really impatient, it’s a small area and you don’t mind a little work, you can dig the grass up after a few weeks.
If you don’t want to expend that much effort, consider raised beds instead. You’ll need to bring in dirt for those, though.
A third option is container gardening, especially if you’re cramped for space. Just about anything can be used as a container as long as it has decent drainage. I’ve seen tomato plants grown in a plain old bag of dirt. You just poke some drainage holes in the bag, cut a big “X” on the top, and stick the plant in. It’s not very attractive, but it works.
Another trick for making the most of a small area is to grow UP. Put together a teepee and plant pole beans instead of the bush variety. Cucumbers also do well on a framework of some sort, as do peas.
You’ll probably want to add some fertilizer to your garden. Making your own compost is a good idea and an excellent way to get rid of some of your yard waste. You can spend a pile of money on a fancy composter, or just get some wire and make a little cage.
Alternate layers of “brown” matter (dry leaves, etc.) with moist “green” waste like lawn trimmings, vegetable peelings, egg shells, etc. Just don’t add dairy or animal products (they attract critters) or diseased plants.
Keep the mixture moist and turn it once in a while to aerate it. It should start to break down in a few weeks.
Some vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, onions, peas and radishes, should be planted soon since they prefer cooler growing conditions. I’d wait to plant most everything else until the weather warms up for good.
And I would NEVER plant tomatoes until after Mother’s Day. Tomatoes like it hot.
If you have space, stick some flowers in among your vegetables. Petunias, marigolds, calendulas and nasturtiums are good choices. They’ll brighten up the vegetable patch and their strong scents confuse insect pests.
Aromatic herbs such as basil, rosemary and dill will discourage insects, too. I let some dill go to seed years ago and my garden has been filled with volunteer dill plants ever since. It looks messy, but I don’t care as long as I get to eat more vegetables than the bugs do.
Keep your garden weeded throughout the summer, water it during dry spells and watch out for insect invasions, and you can be picking salad fixings out of your very own garden this year while your neighbor is making runs to the grocery.

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Wednesday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com