If you have extra time free time during your day, starting a garden is a great option to keep you occupied and grow some fresh produce. Even if you do not have a yard or a large space, you can still grow fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Below are some tips for starting a garden, as well as some advice for gardening in tight or less than ideal spaces.

STEP 1: Choose your space. Ideally, find the location that gets the most amount of sunlight during the day. If you are interested in growing vegetables, these typically need 6-7 hours of sunlight per day; however, some vegetables are able to thrive in only 2-4 hours of sunlight per day. If you do not have an outdoor space, windowsills are still a great option for certain plants.

STEP 2: Choose your garden bed.  (You can use old egg cartons as seed starters- look here for instructions) Many hardware stores have planters that can be purchased, but you can also use a variety of household items in place of these. Some examples include cans, milk crates, fish bowls, and laundry baskets. View this website to see more household planter options. Additionally, you can have an in-ground garden bed or create a raised garden bed using wood or other material. View this website to determine which garden bed style is best for your conditions.

STEP 3: Choose your plants. First, search your zip code on the USDA’s Plant Hardiness map to find which zone you are in.  Next, find which plants would thrive most in your hardiness zone using this guide. When choosing the produce you would like to plant, be sure to consider how much sunlight and water is required, as well as the growing season. If you are planting in a small space, or in area with little sunlight, be sure to choose plants that do not require a lot of space.  When planting, be sure to consider how long it takes for the plants to grow. Use this garden database to determine which plants are best for your garden and needs. Below are a list of some plants that grow well in less-than-ideal spaces.

Little sunlight:

  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Root crops (carrots, beets, potatoes, radishes, etc.)

Small spaces:

  • Tomatoes (especially smaller varieties, like cherry tomatoes)
  • Lettuce
  • Herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, etc.)
  • Chard
  • Radishes
  • Plants varieties with keywords dwarf, patio, pixie, tiny or baby
  • Vining plants

STEP 4: Pick up your supplies. Many garden supply companies are offering curbside pick-up for planters, seeds, soil, starter plants, and all other tools. Be sure to practice social distancing when gathering your supplies. If you are new to gardening, ask professionals at the store for any advice! View this link to find garden supply stores near you. 

STEP 5: PLANT! Be sure to consult the seed packet or search on the internet for specific instructions for the plants you have chosen to grow. This video gives a detailed guide to digging and planting your first garden. If you are transplanting seedlings, this video highlights tips and ticks to successfully transplant your vegetables.

STEP 6: HARVEST! Garden plants vary greatly in harvest time, so it is important to make yourself aware of individual plant’s harvest time and check-in with your garden frequently. View this link to know when and how to harvest your garden produce.  Below are some garden harvests and garden-inspired meals.










Below are some additional websites with gardening advice:

Further information about gardening in NC can be found by visiting the North Carolina Extension Gardener’s Handbook, which has plenty of tips, tricks, and must-do’s for at-home gardener’s.

For more gardening publications and COVID-19 food-safety tips, visit NC State Extension‘s website.