I started my first garden 10 years ago because I wanted to feed my new family without the worry of harmful pesticides. At the time, organic vegetables were scarce and very expensive. I didn’t have a clue about gardening so when everything survived I was pleasantly surprised. Gardening is a learning process and I have learned a lot these past 10 years. If you want to start a garden, now is the perfect time to begin. Let me give you a few tips to help you get started.
First of all, start small. An ideal size for a first garden is 100-200 square feet. Gardening is great fun, but it also involves a fair amount of effort. I definitely don’t want you to overwhelm yourself the first year. Also, don’t try to cram every type of vegetable in your garden. You won’t be able to grow them all. Grow the vegetables you know your family will eat. If you love green beans and tomatoes, plant plenty of those. Wait until next year to experiment with exotic foods like kohlrabi and quinoa.
Now let’s get your garden started. Scout out an area in your yard that receives at least six to eight hours of full sun each day. Don’t stray too far from your house, though. If you put your garden out of the way, you are more likely to forget about it.
Once you have found the perfect spot, now it’s time to get dirty. I recommend tilling the first year to break up the stubborn sod. After the tilling is completed, let the soil rest for a couple weeks. While the grass is shriveling up and dying, get over to Farmer’s Co-op and buy a bag of all-purpose, organic fertilizer (they have a great selection). You can then till the fertilizer in, but I prefer get some exercise and dig it in instead.
Now for the really fun part! It’s time to drive to your neighborhood nursery and choose your seedlings! Be sure to purchase some flowers to tuck in with your veggies. Flowers in your garden will attract the good bugs (the ones that eat the bad bugs) and they also make your garden more delightful. Then it’s time to hurry home and get those babies in the earth. Just be wary of the spacing requirements on the plant labels so you don’t crowd your plants. And if you are severely limited on space, don’t plant far-reaching vines like watermelon or pumpkin. They are tiny now, but they will take over your little garden.
Some vegetables need to be started from seeds directly in the garden. All root vegetables, like carrots and beets, need to be direct seeded. Corn and beans are also finicky and don’t like to be transplanted. I always buy packets of seeds when I grow these vegetables. Make sure you read the back of the seed packet for planting depths and spacing before you start. Then make a nice straight furrow in the soil with your hoe and sprinkle the cute little seeds in. Cover with soft, crumbly soil and water everyday. Your seedlings will start to pop their heads out of the soil in 1-2 weeks.
Make sure you water each seedling well immediately after planting and then water the whole garden again when you have finished. Take care of your new plants by watering them thoroughly every day (unless it rains of course) for at least two weeks. Seedlings are fragile. They will wilt in the sun very easily if they dry out. You’ll also want to feed them. Once a week, add a small amount of liquid fish emulsion to the watering can. They will thank you for this by growing up strong and healthy.
One more thing, I would like to suggest that you mulch your garden. Mulch is great for three reasons: It helps retain moisture, deters weeds, and adds organic matter to the soil when it decays. I always buy a couple bales of straw and cover the whole garden in it. It really does make a big difference.
Gardening can be a challenge, but it is definitely not rocket science. Anyone with enough want and determination can be a successful gardener. It’s a great way to fill your life with food, beauty, exercise and fun.
I hope you decide to plant a garden this year. If you do, you will have many rewards.
*Go ahead and get your garden planted, and then meet me back here in the next edition of the Pulse for tips on how to take care of your new garden! Happy gardening!