Planting a garden can be a great way to reduce your monthly food costs while ensuring that the produce you enjoy is organic and not coated with pesticides or other chemicals. Planting enough food to feed your family can be challenging and sometimes intimidating, but it's also rewarding. If you want to create your own garden, here are some tips and tricks to get you started.
Choose Your Location
First, you need to decide what part of your home or yard you're going to turn into a garden. Take a close look at the available area and ask yourself these questions:
- Does this area get full sunlight for at least six hours a day?
- Do I have the ability to get water to this area if it doesn't rain?
- Is the ground relatively flat?
- Are there any low spots that could trap cold air during the cooler months, creating frost pockets?
- Is the soil suitable for growing?
- Are there any rules against planting a garden in my Home Owners Association handbook?
Sunlight is the most important of these questions. Most vegetables require full sun for at least six hours a day - and some require more - so make sure you don't have any overhanging trees or branches. Water is also a necessity, so be prepared to lug a watering can if your hose doesn't reach. Flat ground allows for even water distribution and prevents rain erosion from washing away your plants.
Learn Your Growing Season
Your next step is going to be learning your local growing season. This will vary depending on where you live - southern states have longer growing seasons than northern ones, because they get warm earlier and cool off later. First, check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map - this will provide you with your growing zone. Next, take a look at this chart that will tell you your primary growing season.
You can figure out your own growing season by paying attention to the weather too. No matter where you live, your growing season starts after the last frost of the year and ends after the first frost of the new season. Anything planted before the growing season begins or after it ends might not germinate, and if it does, the plant itself will likely die in the cold weather.
Collect Your Tools
Once you've chosen a location, you need to start collecting your tools to get your garden ready before it's time to plant. Your exact collection may vary depending on what you're planting, but in general, you're going to need:
- Shovels, spades, rakes and other hand tools. Keep a sharp shovel handy to break up roots that you might encounter.
- A roto-tiller to turn the soil if you don't want to do it by hand.
- A wheelbarrow for moving large items like soil, or to collect your harvest.
- Gloves to protect your hands.
- An air compressor for powering tools, filling tires, and cleaning off ground-based produce like carrots and potatoes.
- At least one hose with a watering attachment, or watering cans.
- Stakes or trellises for plants like beans and tomatoes that grow upward.
Plant According to the Directions
Your next step is to sow your crops, but make sure that you're planting all of these fruits and vegetables according to the directions. Some require more water than others, and some need to be kept far away from similar plants.
Potatoes, for example, don't grow well around tomatoes, melons, or sunflowers. Keep your beans away from beets and peppers. Broccoli and cauliflower might grow well together, but they won't grow at all if you plant them near your squashes. Asparagus won't grow if your garden is too crowded, or if you plant it near any veggies that grow underground like onions and potatoes. Sunflowers release a chemical that prevents anything around them from growing - great for weed control, but not so great if you're putting them in an already crowded garden.
Plan out your garden accordingly. You can grow all of these things and more in the same garden. You just need to be a little more mindful of your placement.
Enjoy Your Harvest
Once you've got the plants in the ground, all that's left is to be patient. Vegetables and fruits can grow in as little as 30 days or as much as 120 or more, so you may be waiting a while. Keep an eye on things, make sure everything is watered and watch out for pests, but that's all you really have to do once the garden is planted.
At this point, all that's left to do is enjoy your harvest - and maybe learn how to can or preserve produce because you might have a lot of it leftover!
Guest Author Article By:
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington