Getting Started on Your Garden
The process of starting and maintaining a bountiful garden doesn't have to be intimidating. Research and adequate planning go a long way toward ensuring a successful harvest or colorful blossoms. Being mindful of your local climate, the yard space you have available, and the time you are able to dedicate to your garden will pay off in the end. Here are some of the best tips for beginning gardeners.
Plan Your Garden
First, determine what you would like to grow. Vegetables, flowers, and herbs all have different requirements and are suitable for a variety of conditions. Most vegetables require hours of sunlight and attention, while herbs take overall less maintenance. Flower gardens provide months of vibrant colors, but they require yearly planting. Perennial flower gardens bloom every year after initial planting, but the blossoms are relatively short lived. If you choose to plant vegetables and/or herbs, it's generally wise to grow what you enjoy eating. It's also wise to start small and buy started plants, rather than seeds. If you choose seeds, make sure they are high quality.
Next, pick a place for your garden. Most vegetables and flowers require at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, so it's recommended to monitor your chosen spot to see how the sun moves throughout the course of a day. If your chosen area is often shaded, ask your local nursery or garden center for suggestions on plants that thrive in the shade. Remember, your garden will need to be watered regularly, so choose a spot convenient to a water source.
Once you have a general idea of what and where you want to plant, consider what you are going to plant in. Choices range from directly in the ground to raised beds and pots. Raised beds often provide better yields and fewer weeds, but they also require initial set-up. Pots and planters are smaller, but they are ideal for novice gardeners. When choosing a planter, make sure you pick one with holes in the bottom to allow for drainage. Standing water can drown the roots and ultimately kill the plant.
Prepare the Ground or Soil
If you choose to plant directly in the ground, start by clearing sod and other debris covering the ground. Next, till the soil with a tiller or by hand. Once complete, enrich the loosened soil with compost or a potting mix and moisten the ground. Allow the soil to rest for a day or two before planting, and avoid stepping on the area in the meantime. If using a planter, fill it with a potting mix. Try to avoid using soil from the ground as it may contain weeds or fungus.
Care for the Plants
Plants generally thrive on a steady supply of moisture, but they are averse to standing water. Most vegetables require watering two to three times per week, depending on the amount of rainfall. You will also need to control weeds, as weeds compete for ground moisture and nutrients in the soil. You can either apply a thin layer of mulch or gently cultivate the very top layer of soil to break up weed seedlings every so often. It's also recommended to use some form of organic pest control.
Finally, it's time to harvest. Once your vegetables look ripe, don't be afraid to pick them! Many plants will continue to provide yields throughout the season.