Gardening in Idaho


There are few pleasures as simple and grand as working in the dirt with shovels and spades to bring a garden to life. You put so much time and energy into making something grow and when it does start to sprout and lift itself up from the ground there is no better feeling. Even just the little bit of physical exertion that comes from working in a garden can do a lot to lift your spirits and make you feel better about the general course life is taking. Of course, not all gardening endeavors work out and sometimes plants will die quickly after they begin to grow or just will not grow at all. Gardening is a labor of love and the labor part is definitely a key component to being successful in any capacity. People go around talking about the green thumb they were born with or developed but there really is no such thing as a green thumb. It is all about putting together the knowledge you need to make it happen along with a bit of experience in both success and failure. Idaho, beyond just being a rich land for the farming industry, is a fantastic place to have a garden and there are all kinds of things you can grow if you know what you are doing.

For those of you who have never planted a garden and are absolutely new to the whole process, there is not much I can do to give you a full rundown on what to do and what not to do, but there are a few things I can tell you that might make your initial experience better and which are not immediately obvious when you get started. Beyond just telling you not to over-water or under-water your plants, make sure that there is some kind of drainage in your pots that will let the water pass through and out of the pot when the plant has gotten its fill. Just planting in the big pile of dirt that is the planet Earth is going to avoid some of the problems that come from water pooling at the bottom of a pot but for everything that you do have in a pot, drainage keeps water from standing at the bottom of the pot and rotting things up. Plants need water but too much water when the planet has to sit in it for hours and hours can be harmful to the roots. One way to avoid this if you cannot add drainage is to put some kind of obstruction in the pot around which the roots will grow and then stop. Water can build up beneath the obstruction all it wants and you will not have a problem. It is not a perfect solution, but it can help.

Soil is also something you should have on your mind. Idaho is blessed with a whole lot of nice soil that is great for growing all kinds of things (All of it left over from some of the volcanic activity that has occurred in the region over the last few millennia. This does not mean that all the soil in Idaho is ideal for gardening. There is definitely dead soil that is useless for anything except trekking on which might be rejuvenated one day into something better for planting in but you are still better off getting something from the store that is good for nitrogen and oxygen and which plants will love far more than anything else. The nice thing about really good soil is that it is still just dirt and will never be all that expensive. There are definitely exceptions to that rule but most of the stuff you will pay exorbitant prices for is not worth touching. The benefits that soil gives you are not worth the extra price you pay for it. You have probably heard of composting, a method of turning plant matter and other organic materials including manure into something you can grow in. This adds a lot to the growth factors of anything you put in the soil and will result in a better experience for you.

But what do you grow? What is good in Idaho and what will last for which season? As you are probably well aware, Idaho is famous for its potatoes and while potatoes are not the number one product coming out of Idaho (That honor is taken by dairy products) there are still a lot of potatoes and potato farms to be found. So, maybe it would be a good idea to have a potato plant or two in your garden, both because the soil is good for the growth of potatoes and because they are a food product that goes well in pretty much any dish you might want to eat. Early in the planting season, once the weather has mostly gotten better and there are unlikely to be many more freezes, start planting things like lettuce, peas, spinach, kale, or the potatoes we just talked about. These are heartier plants that will do alright for the colder parts of early spring. Wait a little bit longer for carrots, sweet potatoes and beets (Beets being one of the other plants around which an entire Idaho industry has cropped up if you will excuse the pun). A strategy that you can employ to make sure certain, more vulnerable plants survive the slightly harsh conditions that come after winter is to plant them inside your home first. Put them in pots to help them stay warm inside and once they are past the initial stages that are most dangerous, take them outside and replant them. This can be a little bit of a dangerous process but it can do a lot to help plants that would otherwise die to unexpected cold weather. It also means you have a little extra time to get started and there is room for error when it comes to placing these plants where you want them to go.

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