It all begins with a tiny seed. Sown in soil beneath the earth, until one day, like magic, it springs from the dirt. With its awakening comes sustenance, a pop of color, a familiarity.

Whether planting a herb or vegetable garden, or sprucing up your yard with a flock of tulips, spring gives way to bountiful opportunities for growth — both with plants and within yourself.

If you’ve ever wanted to get your hands dirty and plant something that’s your own, now’s the time! It’s easier than you think.

Here’s how to start:

  • First, choose your location. Take a stroll through historic downtown Newburyport and it’ll quickly become apparent that you don’t need a huge plot of land to grow some truly majestic looking flowers, plants and herbs! Whether you want to spruce up the front of your home or trade out overgrown weeds in your backyard for something more eye-catching, there’s a plant for every space, no matter the size.
  • Once you’ve found where you want to plant your goodies, now comes the fun part: what to plant. When choosing your items, keep in mind how much sunlight your area receives throughout the day. Choose your items accordingly (full sun versus part-sun).
    • Most herbs and vegetables like a lot of sun
    • Shadier areas can accommodate flowers like hostas, ferns, hydrangeas and Bletilla (also known as ground orchids). Ask any garden store for a full list of recommendations based on your area and budget.
    • Decide if you’d like to plant annuals versus perennials. The former will live just one season, but flower until the first frost, while the latter tends to have a shorter growing period, but comes back stronger and bigger the following year. So, if you want lots of flowers, go for the annuals (just remember you’ll have to replant each year), or if the abundance of flowers isn’t important to you, perennials are a great option.
  • Make sure you have all the needed materials. Soil, fertilizer (not necessary but will promote growth), gardening tools, gloves and pots if you’re not planting directly into the ground.
    • If planting into the ground, dig a hole twice the size of the container. Gently pull the plant from its pot, shaking off excess dirt. Plop in the hole and cover.
    • For pots, make sure there’s a drainage hole at the bottom. Terracotta pots are great — but they can freeze in the winter and crack, so make sure to bring them inside when the weather changes. Remove the plant from the container and place it into the pot (similar to planting in the ground, make sure the pot is about twice the size of the plant). Cover the roots entirely. Give it a nice watering and you’re done!
  • If you’re starting out with seeds, the process is a little more complicated. Depending on the seed, plant approximately six weeks before the last frost of the season. Ideally, for the best results, use a seed starting kit, which contains individual plugs of soil, a  leak-proof tray, a plastic lid and a heat mat. You can also try this process using empty cardboard egg cartons to hold the soil.
    • First, make a shallow hole in each soil cell (about twice as deep as the seed’s length), drop one to two seeds in, then cover with a light dusting of soil.
    • Cover the seed tray with the plastic top and set on the heat pad or a warm corner of the house. 
    • When the soil is dry, place the tray into the leak-proof container with about ½ inch of water.
    • Once the majority of the seeds have sprouted, remove the plastic lid and move the tray to a spot with bright light — seedlings need 14 to 16 hours of light per day! Professional growers (or those of us who like to pretend to be professionals) will purchase grow lights, as, unless you have a greenhouse, it’ll be hard to find a spot with that much light.
    • Check seeds daily, watering when the soil is dry. Once the seeds begin to outgrow their tray, begin transitioning them outside. Set the tray outside for a couple hours the first day and gradually increase their exposure. If you plant them into the soil immediately, they’ll go into shock. After a week or two with time outside, they’ll be ready to be planted into a pot or the ground.

Where to buy:

Once you start thinking about your garden, you’ll be surprised at how many places carry everything you need. Check your local garden store first, which will be a great resource for those with questions or who need guidance. Otherwise, Home Depot and even places like Walrmart, Costco and BJ’s will carry a lot of supplies.

Some local favorites include:

Georgetown: Nunan Florist and Greenhouse

Ipswich: Wolf Hill Garden Center

Salisbury: Pettengill Farm and The Herb Farmacy

West Newbury: Knapp’s Greenhouse Garden Center

Remember, gardening is supposed to be a fun, relaxing activity. Don’t stress the small stuff, especially if it’s your first time. Paradise awaits!