Plant it forward

Prep now for your summer garden

By Kristen Wicker

Photo: DIY newspaper planting pots: 1. Cut out a sheet of newspaper. 2. Fold into thirds. 3. Wrap around small glass and tape the sides. 4. Fold the paper around the bottom of glass and tape. 5. Fill 2/3 with potting soil, place one to three seeds and top with 1/4 inch soil

Keith Rihm has seen community gardening bring his neighbors together. And he has grown to love Swiss chard.

“I’ve eaten things I never thought I’d like,” the Dayton resident said. Rihm was part of a group that built the Ft. McKinley Community Garden, located at Salem and Pittsburg avenues, on the former site of a dilapidated building. Today, the garden includes 17 plots with raised beds where neighbors grow rhubarb, zucchini, tomatoes and more.

“We previously had community garden beds, but this allowed us to have something more permanent,” Rihm said. “We’re expanding the garden a little at a time. It provides a nice green space and allows for quiet time with neighbors.”

Rihm is one of many who have discovered the joys of gardening. Growing your own food is relaxing, fun, rewarding — and healthy for humans and the environment. For the uninitiated, it may sound a bit daunting, but getting started is easier than you may think — and now is the prime time to prep for your summer garden. Five Rivers MetroParks Education Supervisor Betty Hoevel offers these to-do tips:

Take inventory. Check your stock of seeds, tools, garden gloves, compost and other supplies. Check and patch hoses and watering cans. Start checking prices and looking for sales.

Plan where and what you will plant. Attend a Five Rivers MetroParks program (see list below) and, if you don’t have a good site at home for growing, consider joining a community garden. Five Rivers MetroParks rents garden plots at Wegerzyn Gardens and Possum Creek MetroParks. Visit metroparks.org or call 937.276.7055 for more info about these and other community garden plots in the area.

Start seeds with longer gestation periods, such as tomatoes and peppers. Make your own planting pots from newspaper, which you can plant directly in the ground when the time is right. Check out the Seed Lending Library at Dayton Metro Library’s Huber Heights branch.

Speaking of timing, wait until after May 15 to plant anything. “The hardest part of gardening right now is being patient, but the ground is just too cold to plant anything,” Hoevel said. “Resist the urge to buy plants now unless you have a greenhouse.”

That doesn’t mean you can’t get your plants ready for their garden environs before May 15: Warmer weather really is coming and, when it does, take plants outdoors on sunny, breezy days to toughen them up.

“You’ll be taking the plants from these nice, warm containers and putting them in the ground so you want to ease that shock and strengthen their stems,” Hoevel said.

If you don’t have the room or the gumption to start plants from seed, visit the MayFair Plant Sale at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark the first weekend in May. You’ll find a wide selection of food and flower plants, along with master gardeners to answer questions. More at metroparks.org/plantsales.

Work on your lasagna garden. No, this doesn’t mean you’ll be planting tomatoes, noodles and mozzarella. With lasagna gardening, you build a sort of compost sandwich starting with newspaper and topping with alternating layers of brown material, such as leaves, with green material, such as kitchen scraps, to create healthy soil with no digging and few weeds. Indeed, any kind of composting will be good for your garden (and help the environment).

“Take 15 minutes each day and do what you can do,” Hoevel said. “If you are present in your garden, you are observing and understanding nature. Time in the garden doesn’t have to be all work. Be sure to enjoy and explore the sights and sounds of spring.”

Upcoming gardening programs for adults

Advance registration is requested for all programs, and may be required for some. For program info and to register online, visit metroparks.org or call 937.275.PARK.

This spring, Five Rivers MetroParks is launching a Guys Gardening series for dudes ready to start the manly art of gardening. The free programs are:

Seed starting basics (program M59)

Saturday, March 21: 10 a.m. to noon at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, adult classroom, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave.

Basic gardening questions (M61)

Saturday, April 18: 1 to 3 p.m. at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, adult classroom, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave.

Tomatoes, peppers and beans (M72)

Saturday, May 2: 10 a.m. to noon at Cox Arboretum MetroPark, Mead West­vaco Theatre, 6733 Springboro Pike.

Other adult gardening classes include:

Try It: Planting Potatoes (M125)

Saturday, March 21: 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Possum Creek MetroPark Farm, 4790 Frytown Rd.

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