The beginning of a new year always carries with it the hopes and dreams of a better, healthier, and more fulfilled you. This is the year that you finally follow through with all of the items left half-completed or never started. This is it, it’s a new year and a new you, so let’s get started on the garden of your dreams so you can become the happy and healthy go-getter that you aspire to be.
Remember, the goal is to have fun starting your new project. Think of starting a new garden the same way you think of starting to cook a new meal. Before you turn on the burners and start cooking, you have to put in the prep time. You have to head to the store to grab all of the ingredients, followed by any pre-cooking preparations. The final product is still a ways off, but the work you put in will pay off in the form of a tasty meal for all to enjoy.
Now that we’ve got you interested, and maybe a little hungry, let’s get started. We’ll walk you through how to kick things off, one pack of seeds at a time.
Step 1: Choose your garden
The first step on the path towards a beautiful, lush, and flavor-filled garden is identifying what type of garden you want to create. There are multiple types of garden designs, but the most popular prospects are the boxed or raised garden bed, traditional in-ground gardens, and containerized gardens. We will be focused on the most common type of garden, however, which is the in-ground garden.
*Tips from the Tool Shed: You will need some basic gardening tools to proceed. Items such as a basic digging shovel ($16) are a must. You will also need gardening gloves ($4-$8), and a hand trowel ($8).
Step 2: Location, location, location
Step two is simple. Choose your garden location. Begin by making sure your chosen location receives plenty of sunlight and isn’t obscured by trees or buildings. Once you’ve settled on a location, it’s time to hone in on a size before you start digging up the grass. It’s recommended that beginners start with a 10’x10′ plot of land or 100 square feet. Use flags, markers, cones, or anything you have lying around to map out the future grow zone.
Step 3: Dig in!
This is a big step…no turning back now! Once you’ve identified a location and laid out your markers, it’s time to start digging out your garden. Plan on digging down approximately 12 inches, or the depth of an average shovelhead. Once you loosen the soil with the shovel, your hands, or a gardening hoe, you should spread out the loosened soil out evenly with a rake to create a smooth surface.
When your space is dug, loosened, and smoothed out, you can start digging out your rows. Rows help to make sure plants have the proper room to grow. It’s a general rule of thumb to create rows of approximately 18 to 36 inches, however, some vegetables will require more space. Take this into consideration while planning your rows.
*Expert Tip #1: Place your excess turf in a wheel barrel or a container to create a compost pile. The material will be an excellent addition to your compost pile. You can even add it back into your garden later on.
Expert Tip #2: It’s worth noting that not all soil is created equal and that test kits are available if things have had trouble growing in your yard in the past. If this scenario sounds familiar, get a soil pH test kit ($9.99). You can boost the pH and nitrogen levels in your soil by purchasing bags of nutrient-enriched soil from your local hardware store at relatively low cost.
Step 4: Choose Your Plants or Seeds
Depending on the plants you choose, you can typically grow 30-40 plants successfully in a 100 square foot space. Of these 30-40 plants, the variety of vegetables that you grow is up to you. However, it’s important to make sure that you do your research on each vegetable once you make your selections. For instance, tomatoes, beans, and squash vegetables prefer to grow on a trellis, which is something you may need to consider buying or making.
Growers Tip: Use this quick Companion Planting guide to ensure that the plants that you’ve chosen grow well together! For instance, corn and tomatoes generally don’t play nice.
Suggested Plants for Beginners:
- Zucchini Squash
Step 5: Time to plant
You’ve made it to step 5! With your tools and seeds in tow and your garden already carved out, it’s time to plant your seeds. Make sure to read the back of your seed packs carefully. Correct spacing is important. Larger plants have longer roots and will require more space.
Most people choose to start their vegetables from seeds, but there is another option. For those who want to move things along faster, you can purchase garden-ready fruits and vegetables. These sprouted and pre-grown plants are a sure-fire way to get your garden producing farm-fresh food quicker than ever.
Expert Tip: Place the tallest plants such as corn or tomatoes towards the back of your garden, or the space that will receive the least sunlight. This will prevent the tall plants from shading your veggies, causing their growth to stunt.
Step 6: Time to Water
You’re almost on your way to producing some of the freshest and finest fruits and vegetables that you’ve ever tasted. The final step to gardening success is to water your plants and seeds immediately after you put them in the ground. Start by showering the entirety of your garden with water. Make sure that every part of your garden patch receives a solid 30-60 seconds of soaking.
This initial soaking is important and helps make sure the new seeds or roots receive water. In heavy soil, water may take hours to seep down 6-12” so it’s important to make sure you are providing enough water to get each and every plant so that growth can start the right way.
Expert Tip #1: As the temperature increases throughout the spring and summer, water evaporates more quickly from the soil. To prevent water loss from your soil and plants, water 2-3 times per week in the early morning or evening when the sun isn’t as bright and hot.
Expert Tip #2: Once your plants have sprouted, you will want to make sure that they receive plenty of water in their early growth stages. Mature plants will let you know when they are thirsty so make sure to keep an eye out for wilting, especially when temperatures are high.
See? Starting a garden is easy! Enjoy the fruits of your labor while checking “start garden” off of your list!
If you enjoyed learning about fresh fruits, veggies, and gardening, we think you’ll really like The Hungry Gardener’s Guide to the Spring Harvest!