Gardens are a beautiful sight to behold, but what if you don’t have a green thumb? You’d love to have a garden of your own, but simply can’t master the skills necessary? No worries. I was where you are once and I learned the secrets to a happy and healthy garden. I’m getting ready to begin planting my fall garden and if you’ll follow along, I’ll show you step-by-step how to get your garden good, green and growing strong. So what do great gardens have in common?
First on the list of things to do is to choose a list of delectable vegetables you would love to eat. Focus on what you like to eat, NOT what you think you can grow. Mind you, there’s an important difference. While the variety and color a bunch of different vegetables may add to your garden’s appearance, they’ll ruin the effect when left withering on the vine (because no one cared enough to harvest them). It happens. You’re in the garden, short on time, what are you going to harvest?
Your favorites, that’s what. Human nature, 101. So choose your seeds wisely.
Rule #1 – Food you’ll eat.
And hold those seeds tight. We’ll get back to planting them in a bit. But there’s something you must do before your plant. You must determine a spot for this wonderful new adventure of yours, and believe me when I say adventure. Gardening is nothing, if it isn’t filled with wonder and delight and yes, excitement. You’ll come face to face with more wildlife than you knew existed—most of it harmless. To you, anyway. Your plants are a different story.
But I digress (happens often when gardening). Depending on where you live, you’ll need a sunny spot for your garden. I say “depending on where you live,” because despite conventional wisdom, I’ve learned from experience that a little “shade” break during the afternoon in a hot sunny climate tends to do more good than harm. (Learned this little fact in a school garden, of all places.) Why does a shade break come in handy? Because too much sun can dry your quickly deplete your soil of moisture, burn your plant’s leaves, and generally stress its entire system. Sure, you watered it for an hour this morning, but in places like Florida and Texas where the sun shines hot and the clouds float dry… Come three o’clock your plants are acting as if they’d forgotten what water is let alone they received their daily dose!
Rule #2 – Sun, sun, but not too much sun.
Think: Goldilocks. Not too sunny, not too shady, but just right. Next, you’ll want to determine whether you’re gardening in containers, or in ground. Raised beds in landscape planters are lovely and can serve to ease the pain in your back, but they require construction. In ground gardens require a bit of construction as well, albeit more of the “weed-tearing” and “bed-building” kind. Back breaking, too, if you’re not careful, so be smart—kill the grass BEFORE you begin. Roots tend to lose their grip when dead. Most vegetables can be grown in containers on your patio, too.
Rule #3 – Plants like soft dirt.
For your plants to develop strong root systems, they must be able to sink deep into the soil. Take carrots. Nothing more depressing than spending months caring for your golden beauties, only to harvest a bunch of “bent” carrots. What happened?
They ran into trouble and went sideways–literally. Stunted carrots are no fun to dig up, either. So if you’re gardening in clay, or gardening in sand, beware. This could be an issue. The solution is to amend your soil with nutrient-rich organic matter. Compost is a wonderful soil amendment, as is composted manure, mushroom compost and the like. Check with your local garden center to see what’s available in your area. While you’re amending your soil, invite some earthworms to the party. They love gardens and do wonders when it comes to fertilizing your plants and aerating the soil.
Rule #5 – Make sure you have a reliable water source nearby.
Mother Nature is a wonderful gal, but she’s not always amenable to your garden’s needs, if you know what I mean. Rain water is “preferred” when it comes to my garden, but I’ll head to the well when the sun keeps shining and the rain won’t fall. And mulch. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the mulch. It comes in all forms, like hay, pine, newspaper–even special paper!
Once you have sprouts, you’ll need it to keep the weeds at bay no matter which method of gardening you choose. Organic mulch serves a dual benefit: it prevents weeds and eventually becomes a source of nutrients for your plants as it breaks down into the soil.
With a healthy start on the growing season, your plants will supply you with an endless stream of gorgeous, good-sized, deliciously healthy produce.
Still with me? Perfect. Next time we’ll talk seeds.