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Frequently Asked Questions About Gardening

What's my planting zone?

Check the USDA plant hardiness zone map, as planting zones have shifted over the years. Planting zones with higher numbers can plant earlier in the year. Increase your odds of successful gardening by choosing plants that are meant for your zone.

Can I just put seeds in the ground?

If the soil isn't frozen or cold, consider planting your fruit, flower, or vegetable seeds directly into your garden. This is called the "direct sow" method. The time to plant will be after the threat of frost is gone for the season, as seedlings and sprouts can't weather those conditions. You can also start your seeds indoors if you'd like. Consult your seed packet for how and when to sow seeds.

How do I plant flower seeds?

The best source of info is the seed package your garden-to-be came in. It's key to successfully growing spring flowers, fruits, and vegetables — indoors or outdoors. Requirements vary from one type of plant to the next. Certain seeds should only be planted indoors, and your seed packet will tell you that, too. For more details, check out how to plant flower seeds.

Should I harden off my seedlings before planting them outside?

Yes, for best results, if you raised plants indoors from seeds, harden them first before you transplant them. Hardening is the process of getting them used to the great outdoors. It slows their growth until they're strong and ready to take off during a spring warm front. Hardening also makes your plants more resilient to a sudden cold snap.

How do I plant a transplant or baby plant?

Squeeze the plastic around the plant to loosen the soil. Gently coax your transplant and the surrounding clod of dirt out into the palm of your hand, then place it into the hole you dug for it. Make sure the top of your transplant's soil is even with the garden soil, and carefully press the earth into place. Avoid mounding a volcano of dirt around your plant, and don't pack the ground too tightly. Your plant baby needs to breathe.

What are seed tapes?

If you want more guidance in planting or are dealing with extremely tiny seeds, consider seed tapes. They're biodegradable pieces of paper with tiny seeds affixed at regular intervals. Just bury the tape and water as directed. If all goes well, your perfectly spaced sprouts will pop up soon.

The Home Depot Garden Center at Port Richmond

On those beautiful days, clean up the yard before everything blooms in earnest. Lawn care is often a priority, as well. Plan your garden to make the most of your time and space. You can also add beauty and interest with hardscaping, stonework, and water features. No matter what outdoor projects you choose to tackle, The Home Depot Garden Center in Port Richmond can help you enjoy your spring activities to the fullest.

Plant Hardiness Zones Explained
The first thing to know when planting spring flowers, veggies, and other seeds is your planting zone. Every location in the U.S. and its territories is sorted by climate. Find your zone on the USDA zone map and learn when to plant seeds.

For example, you could plant bell pepper seedlings outdoors in mid-March in Zone 10, but not until the end of May in Zone 4. For best results, choose plants in your zone number or less. In other words, a Zone 5 garden can support plants listed as Zones 1–5. You can plant seeds indoors roughly a month before you can plant them outside, or direct sow. Always read your seed packet for details. If you start them later than recommended, it's not ideal, but it will even out as time passes.

Gardening in Your Growing Zone
In Zone 5, which includes parts of Pennsylvania as well as upstate New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and southern Maine, your best bets for veggies will be root vegetables like beets and carrots, leafy greens including lettuce, and cruciferous veggies like cabbage and kale. You can try squash, but prepare for additional warming upkeep when late frost is forecast. Planting dates are roughly mid-March through May 1st, depending on whether you're direct sowing or starting your seeds indoors.

Much of West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, southern New York state, and Massachusetts are in Zone 6, so planting can begin earlier there than farther north. Parts of Virginia are even warmer, coming in at Zone 7. The outdoor growing season doesn't begin until mid-March or even April, although you can plant some veggie seeds halfway through February. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, onions, and other classic garden crops will thrive in this region, and most of them can get an early start indoors before spring really moves in.

Plant Seeds Outside With Direct Sow
Planting seeds into your garden soil, or using the direct sow method, is an alternative option. There's less tending and planning than growing indoors. If you like to go with the flow, follow the instructions on your seed pack and try it.

Your seeds might struggle to grow or get washed away, or critters or bugs might eat the sprouts. But if you're really lucky, you might get a strong sprout from each place you sowed seeds, perfectly spaced and ready to grow all spring. The reality of your sown seeds will usually be somewhere in between, and spreading out tiny sprouts throughout the soil isn't so bad. You know those sprouts are hardy, although there are no guarantees.

Start Seeds Indoors
If you'd like more control over your seedlings' journey or you're eager to get growing, start your seeds indoors instead. In general, you can plant seeds indoors about a month before you can do it outside. Like direct sow, you push the seeds into the soil as directed on the seed packet, but that's where the similarities end.

You're responsible for giving them quality substitutes for rain and sun. Keep your seeds cozy with heat mats and grow lights, water them carefully with a mister or watering can, then thin them as they germinate in groups of three. Give them a boost with a gently blowing fan as they lengthen into sprouts if you'd like. Harden them off to get them used to outdoor conditions, then transplant them into your garden when they're big enough.

Transplant Young Plants Into Their New Homes
When your plants have three or four real leaves — different from miniature seedling leaves – transplant them. In quality soil, dig a hole the same size as the dirt plug where your transplant has been growing. If your ground soil isn't great, dig a slightly bigger hole and fill the extra room with nutrient-rich topsoil. Apply any fertilizer as directed on the package. Only apply as much as recommended, as you could burn the plant and kill it instead of helping it along.

Protect Your Garden With Mulch
Finish your flower bed with compost and mulch. Compost enriches the soil so your garden can grow even better. It may help foster larger and stronger plants that bear more fruit and flowers. Mulch keeps your soil moist and controls weeds. Mulch and compost can be DIY creations, but you can also purchase them in-store. The next time you're looking for "mulch near me," stop by the Garden Center to get the right amount.

Greet the Spring
Early spring is an exciting time in the world of gardening. Don't miss a minute of growing season. Plan your garden and landscaping, prepare to fertilize your lawn, and browse our garden center pages to find inspiration on which spring flowers to plant when the weather warms. Shop for the fertilizer, seeds, and soil you need in the aisles of your Port Richmond Garden Center, online, or on our mobile app. Let's get growing together.

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