You’ve decided that you want to start a new garden. Maybe you want to grow some herbs, or maybe some vegetables. But you don’t know where to start or what to do. Starting a garden can seem a little daunting to someone who has no gardening experience, but if you just stick to these common sense tips you’ll be off to a good start.
Choose Your Garden Area
Plants need food, water, and sunlight. Shaded areas under tree canopy won’t be any good both because of the lack of sunlight and because they might be blocked from the rain. You’ll want to make sure that your garden receives plenty of sunlight during the growing season, at least 6-8 hours.
Afternoon sun can be harsher, especially in summertime, so you’ll want to take that into consideration. And because the sun’s position in the sky changes during the year, a spot that gets 8 hours in spring and early summer may get less later in the year as the sun moves behind neighboring trees or buildings.
Test Your Soil
You’ll want to send off samples of your soil to get tested for pH and nutrient levels. You can do that relatively inexpensively at a local extension service. If you don’t know what your soil is like, you won’t know what kind of plants will grow best, or what type of soil amendments you’ll need to make.
If you don’t test your soil and your plants fail to thrive, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time, money, and effort trying to figure out what’s wrong through experimentation rather than knowing from the beginning what you need to do.
Raised Beds: Yea or Nay?
You also need to determine whether or not you want raised beds. Raised beds can be built up to near waist height so that you don’t have to bend down to harvest, but that will require a significant amount of money being spent on materials to build the beds and soil components to fill the beds. Smaller raised beds may make sense if you live in an area that has only a thin layer of topsoil. If your topsoil is rich and thick, you may not need raised beds at all.
Prepare the Garden Bed
You’ll want to prepare your garden bed by removing grass and weeds. Anything that remains in the bed will compete with your garden plants for water and nutrients. Grass needs to be completely removed, roots and all, as it will grow back like a weed. You may need to add back some topsoil if you remove grass. And if you need to add soil amendments, this is the best time to add them.
Figure Out Your Plants
Now you’ll want to plant your plants. Depending on what you want to grow, you may decide to start your seeds indoors in late winter, purchase seedlings from a nursery, or plant directly into the ground once the danger of spring frost has passed. You’ll also need to figure out how much space each plant will need and organize your garden accordingly.
Maintain Your Garden
Once your plants have started to grow, you’ll need to check them regularly to make sure they’re getting enough water. You may need to add fertilizer, particularly to heavy feeders like corn, artichoke, etc. Adding mulch around seedlings can help with water retention and also suppress weed growth. And if you compost, adding compost every so often can help give your plants much-needed nutrients.
While it’s getting late in the year for many crops, you can still plant fall crops in the northern part of the country and some warm-weather crops in the South. Or you can start preparing your garden beds in the fall so they’ll be ready to go come springtime. Happy gardening!