If you have always wanted to grow a garden and have put it off now is the time to start gardening for the first time. April and May are the ideal times to get your garden started in most parts of the country so you still have time as of this writing May 2nd.
If you have never gardened before and want to grow a garden I strongly suggest you start small to get your feet wet. Gardening takes time, planning the area that receives 8 hours of sunlight, prepping the area by digging or tilling the soil, and removing all the rocks and grass.
Amending the soil to provide the correct PH and soil make-up.
Planting the vegetables and staking them.
Watering and weeding the garden area.
Removing pests that are invading your garden
So that you do not get overwhelmed with all the work that goes into having a garden start small and work your way through the first year.
Designate an area for your Garden
To do this you need to make sure the area has 8 hours of sunlight and preferably a south-facing area to receive the best sunlight.
Once you have determined that the area receives adequate hours of sunlight and intensity, you need to prepare the area for a garden. You can purchase sunlight meters or be observant of how many hours the area receives direct sunlight.
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Prepping the designated garden bed area
This is where the hard work begins. You need to remove all grass, weeds, and debris. Once you have done this you need to dig the area either by hand turning the soil working at least the top 12 inches of soil.
The next step is to test the soil for PH and what you need to amend the soil with to maximize plant growth and production. Ideally, you want a PH between 5.5 and 6.8 depending on the vegetables you are planting.
Once you have completed this you can Dig the garden by hand or use a tiller to prep the garden bed for planting. The tiller below is one I purchased and highly recommend for your garden tilling.
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Plan the layout of your vegetable garden
To maximize the garden space to get as much out of the area it is best to plan out where you will be planting the vegetables before you purchase them to make sure you have enough room for all of them. Also, I recommend you look at what vegetables are good companions to be planted next to each other.
When planning your vegetable garden bed out remember to look at where the sun is coming from so layout the garden bed. If possible use vertical garden structures to allow you to plant more plants to increase your harvest.
When planning your vegetable garden you should plant lower-growing vegetables further to the south and taller vegetables behind these, this way you do not block out the sun for the ones behind.
An example of this is basil or carrots can be planted in front of the tomato plants which are good companions and they do not block out the all-important sun for the tomatoes.
Remember to leave enough room between rows to harvest so that the plants can grow and spread out not crowding each other, it also is important that air can flow in and around the plants to discourage diseases.
Preparing the soil for planting is the next step
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I recommend you add some organic compost and natural product to the soil throughout the planting area. I would also suggest you add COF to the hole you will dig for each plant to make sure it has all the nutrients to support them.
As we have discussed you can have your soil tested to know what is needed to make it as nutritional as possible for your plants.
The ground should be worked so that it has good drainage and is loose for roots to grow freely, worm castings are a great additive to aerate your soil.
The two best ways to do this are either shoveling by hand turning over the soil 12-18 inches deep or using a tiller to turn the soil.
Planting your garden
I would suggest that you plant in the early evening to give your plants plenty of time to adjust when it is not so hot from the direct sun which can distress your plants when first planted.
Another good technique is to muck in your plants. What this means is to dig your hole and mix in some of the dirt you will be using for your plant with the amended soil, add more water until it is thick soup so that when you put your plant in and cover it with soil and more water so it has plenty of moisture to help the plant adjust.
After planting you need to stake them or place cages around to support them as they grow.
If you have a drip system or other water system it is a good time to lay this out either just prior to or just after planting to make sure you have plants set up for watering.
To prevent water evaporation and reduce weeds from growing it is very important to add Mulch around the base of the plants. Here are some suggestions for mulch, mint mulch, straw, wood chips, grass clippings and even large flat rocks. The goal is to shade the plant’s roots and prevent weeds from growing.
Two W’s Weeding and Watering
To allow your plants to grow and not compete for nutrients in the soil or sunlight you need to keep the garden weeded, it is best to do this weekly to keep the job smaller and keep the weeds from going to seed.
The best way to water your plants is to water weekly and water deeply so that the soil and plant hold the moisture needed. If you water too frequently you can cause blossom end rot on many plants.
Now that you have all the details on starting your garden adventure it is time to get started. Remember if you have never gardened before start small and build year after year.
Happy Gardening from the Urban Gardener