Start a Garden

Planning the Garden

  1. Decide what type of garden to grow. What purpose do you want your garden to serve? Some gardens are functional, and produce fruit and vegetables you can use to feed your family or give away to neighbors. Others are more ornamental in purpose, serving to beautify your property and provide a pleasing sight to people passing by. If you’re not sure what type of garden you want, consider the following options:
    • Vegetable gardens can include peppers, tomatoes, cabbages and lettuces, potatoes, squash, carrots, and many other vegetables. If a vegetable is able to grow in your region, you can find a way to grow it in your yard.
    • In flower gardens, different types of flowers may be strategically planted so that something is in bloom almost all year long. Some flower gardens are structured, with flowers planted in neat rows and patterns; others are wilder in appearance. Your personal style and yard type will determine what type of flower garden you might plant.
    • Herb gardens often complement both flower and vegetable gardens, since they tend to flower beautifully and also serve the functional purpose of adding flavor to your food. Herb gardens might include rosemary, thyme, dill, cilantro and a variety of other herbs you may want to use to make dried spices and teas.
    • In general, vegetable gardens have the highest soil and maintenance requirements. Flowers and herbs can withstand more neglect than vegetable plants.
  2. Decide what specific plants to include in your garden. Find out what grows well in your region garden zone by using this zone finder to determine what zone you are in, then research which plants do well in your area. As you find out more about your options, make a list of the plants you want to buy and the best time of year to plant them.
    • Some plants don’t grow as well in certain zones. If you live in a place with mild winters and hot summers, you may have trouble growing plants that require a cold snap to grow properly.
    • Unless you plan to make your garden relatively large, try to choose plants that need similar growing conditions. Do they need the same soil type and sun exposure? If not, you may have to create a garden with several types of growing conditions, which can be complicated in a small garden.
    • Visit a farmers market or plant sale in the spring. Often, you can learn useful information from vendors and buy healthy plants that grow well in your area. GO EXPERT ADVICE Consider the season. According to the owners of Grow it Organically, a gardening company in California: “The best time to start a garden is after the last frost date in the spring. You can usually find that information out from the agricultural tables for the county where you live. And if you have a long season, you may be able to plant again in August or September.”
  3. Choose a spot for your garden. Take a look around your yard to assess the where you want the garden to be located. The location you choose should both help the garden serve the function you want it to have and also be in a spot that is conducive to growing strong, healthy plants.
    • No matter what type of garden you’re planting, most plants will grow better in rich, well-drained soil. Avoid spots in your yard where water seems to stand for awhile after a heavy rain, as this could indicate the soil there is too soggy or clay-based for healthy plant growth.
    • Most vegetables grow best with a lot of sunlight, so if you’re planting a vegetable garden choose a spot that isn’t shaded by trees or your house. Flowers are more versatile, and if you’d like a flower plot next to your house you can choose flowers that grow best in partial or full shade.
    • If your soil isn’t high quality, you can make a raised bed and grow flowers or vegetables there. Raised beds are planting beds that are built on top of the ground within wood frames that are filled with soil.
    • If you don’t have a yard, you can still have a garden. Plant flowers, herbs and certain vegetables in large pots on your patio. You can move them around according to the amount of sun the plants need.
  4. Make a garden design. Draw an outline of your garden or yard space. Map out different options where you want to plant various items in the location you chose. Tailor the design to fit the needs of your plants, making sure the ones that need shade will be planted in shade, and the ones that need full sun are in an area that isn’t cast in shadows during the day.
    • Take into account the space each plant will need, both at planting time and after it starts to mature. Make sure everything you want to plant will fit in your garden and have enough space to spread out.
    • Take the timing into account. Many plants need to be planted at different times in different zones. For example, if you live in a region with mild winters and hot summers, you may need to plant your flowers earlier than you would if you lived in a region with cold winters and shorter summers.
    • If you’re planting a vegetable garden, design it so that it’s convenient for you to walk into the garden and harvest vegetables as they ripen. You may want to make a path through the garden for this purpose.
    • Flower gardens should be designed with aesthetics in mind. Choose colors that look pretty together, and make patterns that are pleasing to the eye. Keep in mind when different flowers will begin to bloom.
    • Also take your lifestyle into account. Do you have children or pets who might run through the area? Is the garden within reach of your hose? Is it too close or too far away from your living space?

Getting Ready to Plant

  1. Buy gardening supplies. It takes a lot of equipment to plant a garden, but once you buy most of the supplies they will last through many gardening seasons. You’ll find the best selection at a home and garden store or a nursery. Gather the following supplies:
    • Seeds or young plants. You can choose to either start your garden from seeds or buy young sprouted plants that already have a head start. Check the list of plants you intend to grow and buy as many seeds or young plants as you need for the different components of your garden.
    • Soil fertilizer and topsoil. Bone meal, blood meal, and other fertilizers help your plants grow healthy, and a layer of topsoil is useful to have in case you’re planting something that needs extra protection.
    • Compost. You can mix compost into the soil to improve its moisture retention, buffer pH, and provide micro nutrients. You can buy compost or make your own.
    • Mulch. Many plants require a layer of mulch to protect them from inclement weather and extreme temperatures while they’re in the early stages of growth. Mulch should be spread on top of the soil to help retain moisture and reduce weeds.
    • Soil tilling equipment. If you’re planning to create a large garden, you might want to buy or rent a soil tiller, which is wheeled over the ground to break up the soil and make it into a soft plant bed. For smaller areas, a garden rake and hoe should be sufficient.
    • A shovel and spade. This equipment makes it much easier to dig the proper-sized holes for seeds or young sprouts.
    • A garden hose. Get a hose with a fixture that allows you to either lightly mist or fully spray plants, depending on what each one needs. Alternatively, if you are planting a large area, a sprinkler and even an automatic timer will save you time.
    • Fencing materials. If you’re planting a vegetable garden, you may need to construct a fence around it to keep bunnies, squirrels, deer, and the neighborhood pets from taking ripe vegetables.
  2. Prepare the soil. Use the soil tiller or garden rake to break the soil in the area you mapped out for your garden. Work the soil to a depth of about 12 inches (30.5 cm), making sure it is loose and does not have large clumps. Remove rocks, roots, and other solid objects from the garden bed, then fertilize it and work in compost to prepare it for planting.
    • How your plants grow depends on the quality of the dirt. You can buy a soil testing kit to find out the amount of organic matter, the amount of nutrients, and the pH level of the soil. Use the results to determine how much fertilizer and other ingredients to add. Alternatively, you can take a soil sample to your county extension office and they will test the soil for free or a small fee.
    • Don’t add more fertilizer than the directions tell you to. Extra fertilizer can be toxic to plants. Note that not all plants like very fertilized soil; some would actually benefit from poor soil, so remember to find out the soil preferences of the plants you choose.
    • If your soil test shows a pH level that is too acidic, add limestone to raise the pH. If your soil is alkaline, you can add cottonseed meal, sulfur, pine bark, compost, or pine needles to make it more acidic.

Growing the Garden

  1. Plant the seeds or young plants according to your design. Use the spade to dig holes spaced a few inches apart, or as indicated on the packaging of the seeds or young plants you bought. Make sure the holes are as deep and wide as they need to be. Place the seeds or plants in the holes and cover them with soil. Pat the soil gently into place.
  2. Fertilize as necessary. Depending on the plants you choose to grow, you may need to fertilize the garden again after planting. Some plants may need more fertilizer than others, so make sure you only use it in the areas that require it.
  3. Add compost, mulch or topsoil as necessary. Some types of plants require a thin covering of compost, mulch or topsoil to protect them during seed germination and while the plant is young and fragile. Spread the material by hand, or use a soil spreader to cover a larger area.
    • Some types of compost or mulch aren’t appropriate for certain plants. Conduct research on the produce you’re growing to make sure you use the right ground cover.
    • Too thick a layer could in inhibit growth, so make sure you add only as much as each type of plant needs.
  4. Water the garden. When you’re finished planting and treating the soil, use the garden hose’s “sprinkler” setting to thoroughly dampen the garden. Continue watering the garden every day, adding more or less water to different areas according to the plants’ needs, for the first few weeks after planting.
    • Over saturating the soil could drown the seeds and prevent the plants from growing. Don’t water to the point where streams of water run through the garden.
    • Never let the soil completely dry out. Watering once a day is sufficient.
    • Once the plants have sprouted, water in the morning, rather than at night. Water sitting on the leaves and stems all night can lead to the production of mold and other plant diseases.
    • After a few weeks, reduce how often you water the plants. Give the garden deep watering two or three times a week or as needed.
  5. Weed the garden. Sprouting weeds take nutrients from the soil, leaving less for your vegetables or flowers. Weed the garden every few days to make sure your plants get the nutrients they need – just be careful not to pull up sprouting garden plants.
    • A stirrup hoe will help remove weeds before they get too big. You can run the hoe along the soil beside plants and knock the weeds down.
  6. Consider erecting a small fence. If you see small animals such as rabbits, squirrels, deer, and gophers or voles in your garden or in your neighborhood, you may want to go ahead and put a fence around the garden to protect it. A two or three foot tall fence should be tall enough to keep small creatures out. If you have deer in your area, the fence may need to be as high as eight feet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *