With the arrival of spring come the first thoughts of starting a garden. But like with many things, the odds of success are greatest if you take the right steps at the very beginning. Here are a few tips on how to properly start your garden. We’ll discuss what you should do now to maximize the odds of a successful harvest in the fall with minimal maintenance through the rest of the growing season.
Decide What You Want to Grow
Deciding what you want to grow is really the first step. The type of crops or flowers you want to grow determine how much light the spot needs, the drainage or irrigation requirements, and soil amendments that may be necessary. Vegetable gardens will need a different layout than a decorative flower garden. Plants that aren’t native to your area may require extra care, such as keeping them in a greenhouse until it is warm enough to plant them.
Companion planting is the practice of planting plants next to your garden rows that drive away insects or enrich the soil. If you want to use this environmentally friendly option, research what works well with the plants you want to grow. Then lay out the design of the garden so that you have the companion plants the right distance from the crops or delicate flowers.
Are you concerned about beneficial insects or the decline of bees? Now is the time to decide whether or not you want to plant flowers that attract butterflies or feed bees.
Pick the Right Spot
Pick the right spot means pick somewhere with the right level of sunlight and soil drainage for what you want to grow. For example, most fruits and vegetables need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. If you lack this, you either need to find shade-tolerant vegetables or trim your trees. Partial-shade is when the spot gets four to six hours of direct sunlight per day; you can plant a number of things here if it gets morning light and shade in the evening. Full shade is four hours or less of direct sunlight per day, and this should be avoided for most types of gardens.
The right spot will also depend on the amount of work you’re willing to do. For example, if you want a container garden, almost anywhere with enough light is a good spot. If you want a large vegetable garden, you need to find a spot with both enough space and light to work with. However, you want the garden as small and accessible as possible, since this will be easier to weed, water and maintain.
Before you do anything, test the soil. It is far easier to find a different spot than spend a growing season trying to amend the soil.
Prep the Soil
If you’ve found a spot with the right soil, you’re ready to start amending it with fertilizers like manures or compost. If the only spot for your garden is less than ideal for the plants you want to grow, you’re going to need to add amendments to the soil based on what the soil needs. For example, some soils need the pH corrected before you can grow what you want. If your garden will need irrigation, this is the time to put in drip hoses.
And now you’re ready to start planting your garden, once the weather is warm enough. You can find recommendations for equipment to maintain the garden or care for the plants on a site like mygardeningnetwork.com.
Gardening is a seasons-long adventure. However, a little planning and prep work eliminates the hassles of trying to make something grow in incompatible soil. It also maximizes your odds of reaping what you sow while enjoying your beautiful garden.