- Step Number One-Choose a Location
They say in real estate location is everything the same is true of gardening. Whether you have a large space or a small one choosing the ideal location for your garden is the first step to a successful garden. Prior to choosing a location however it is recommended that you conduct a study of your yard to assess the movement of light and choose a location that gets at least 6-8 hours of sun daily. Choosing a sunny location ensures that your plants will have the recommended amount of sunlight. While some vegetables thrive in the shade, most prefer a sunny location for optimal growth. Deciding on your location will determine how you will garden as well as what you can plant.
- Step Number two- Determine Size of Planting Area
Although having a large lush garden is the dream of most gardeners, having a smaller space does not have to deter you from starting a garden. If space is limited, consider using containers, vertical gardening or square foot gardening. All three methods allows you to grow large quantities of food in a small space. Most gardeners without space constraints opt to grow in a combination of the following: grow boxes, containers, or directly in the ground. Each method has their own merit, review each method and choose what works best for your family, budget, time and health.
- Step Number Three-Decide what to grow
Choosing what to grow may be the most difficult step of starting a garden because there is just so many things that you can grow. One way to narrow down what to plant is to plant what you and your family love to eat. Do you love spinach, lettuce or broccoli then plant it! It is a known fact that if you grow vegetables that you like to eat you are more likely to stick with it and have a successful garden. Make a list of the foods you want to grow and create a layout of your garden. Consider how many grow boxes and containers or ground space you have and draw a layout of that to determine how much you can plant. Order your seeds ahead of your growing season to ensure that you will have what you want to grow. Do you value organic seeds? Will you be using starts? Will you be direct sowing seeds? Keep these questions in mind as you make your decision on what to grow. Once you know what you want to grow, it’s time to plan.
- Step Number Four- Create a garden plan,
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said that a goal without a plan is just a wish. Not planning your garden and hoping for success is in essence making a wish. Planning makes perfect and helps you to execute more efficiently. You can either use a garden planning program, an app or good old fashion pen and paper to draw up your plan. Keep in mind your space confines when planning to ensure that all crops have sufficient space. Overcrowding your garden beds can lead to decrease production, pest control issues and poor performance of your crops so a plan is imperative. Part of planning your garden is determining the layout of the garden. Keep in mind the size of plants, space, sun position and number of items being planted when planning the layout. A plan also helps you to develop a planting schedule.
- Step Number Five-Develop a Planting Schedule
Developing a planting schedule is a crucial step in planning your garden. A planting schedule helps you keep track of when and what you are planning to plant. It should include last frost date, days to harvest, when to plant, the size of the plant and when to start from seed. Most of this information is found on the seed package. Additional information can be found at your local extension office, Farmer’s Almanac, Mother Earth News or on many seed companies websites. Having this information in one place helps with the execution of the garden.
- Step Number Seven-Soil Management and Irrigation
Now that we are ready to plant let us talk about the soil that you will be planting in. Soil provides the nutrients for your plants so make sure to feed your soil so that it can feed your plants. Nutrient deficient soil results in smaller harvests, stunted growth as well as vitamin deficiency in your crops. Refer to my previous post for information on testing and amending your soil for planting. Another step to managing your crops is to decide how you will provide water to your plants.
There are two main ways that people provide water to their plants drip irrigation and hand watering. If possible set up your drip irrigation system at the same time your are setting up your containers or grow boxes. Retrofitting irrigation systems can be time consuming and frustrating. Hand watering is as old as time and is often the method used by beginning gardeners. It can be as effective as drip irrigation but uses more water and requires you to be present to water where as drip irrigation can be set on a timer. Hand watering is made most effective by watering at the end of the day, using a wand and watering at the base of the plant and not the leaves.
- Step Number Six-Pest and Disease Management
The final step in starting a garden is developing a plan for pest and disease management. Every healthy garden will have pests as part of its ecosystem. However, if left unchecked pests will cause significant damage and could potentially destroy your crops. Both pest control and disease control can be done organically and non-organically. Although I follow an organic treatment plan for disease and pest management in my garden I encourage everyone to chose a method that works for you whether it is organic or non-organic. Treat disease and pests at the first sign of trouble, the sooner you take action the less likely you are to lose your crops and have progression of disease.
Starting a garden can be a daunting task but with careful planning and by following the steps outlined in this post you will have a more manageable task a greater chance of success. Happy gardening!