Gardening is incredibly rewarding! Your garden can yield delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs, as well as add to the aesthetic of your yard. Caring for a garden can be fun, as well as productive, and getting started is easier than you think!
If you have never started a garden before, it may seem like daunting undertaking at first. But fear not! This step by step guide can help you start your first garden with ease. Your garden will be blooming and budding before you know it!
- Assess the Space You Will Devote to Your Garden
Take some time to learn about the space in your yard which will be devoted to gardening. How much space to you have? How much sunlight does this area of your yard receive daily? These factors will impact your decisions on what you will plant in your garden. Keep in mind, most flowers and and vegetables will need a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight daily.
- Decide What You Want to Plant
Are you most interested in flowers? Herbs? Delicious Vegetables? Tasty Fruits? Perhaps a combination of these plants? Take some time to research which plants interest you. Find out how much spacing the plants need, as well as how much sunlight they will require in order to flourish. Additionally, learn about which plants are adapted best to the climate in your area. With this information you will be able to make an informed decision on which plants will grow best in your garden.
- Prepare the Space for your Garden
If the space in your yard which you have selected to plant your garden is currently covered with grass, follow the additional steps below:
- Cover the area with 10 layers of newspaper.
- Cover the newspaper with a 3 inch layer of mixed potting soil and top soil.
- Wait 4 months. During this time the newspaper will decompose, leaving you with a lawn-free space to start your garden!
If you do not have 4 months available to wait to plant your garden, you can simply cut out the selected section of lawn with a spade.
Once the area is lawn-free, you may choose to build raised garden beds if you like. Raised beds can be aesthetically pleasing, however they are not essential to a successful garden. If you choose to forgo raised beds, you can simply till the top 10 inches existing soil with a spade or, if the space for your garden is large, consider using a rototiller. You can rent a rototiller from most garden or hardware stores.
- Enhance Your Soil
The richer and more fertile your soil, the better your garden will grow. Add new topsoil to the existing soil in your garden space. Mix the soil thoroughly.
Extra Tip: If you want to give the plants in your garden an extra boost of nutrients, consider adding a 2 inch layer of compost on top of your soil. Earth worms will do the work of incorporating the nutrients from the compost into your soil.
- Start Planting Your Garden!
Early spring is the best time for most seeds to start growing. Some seeds will tolerate cold better than others. Be sure to read the instructions on the seed packet for information on when it is safe to plant seeds outdoors. In the case of plants that cannot tolerate frost, you may choose to start the seeds indoors, in a seedling tray, then transplant the seedlings to your garden later in the spring, when the danger of overnight frost has passed. Alternatively, you can purchase young plant starts at your local garden store and transplant these to your garden.
- Water Your Garden
Seedlings and transplants should be watered daily so they do not dry out. Once your plants have started to grow bigger, taper off watering. Watering once a week is a good starting place, although the amount of water that your garden will require will be impacted by temperature, amount of direct sunlight, soil type, and humidity, among other factors. So monitor your garden and adjust the watering schedule to meet your garden’s needs.
Extra Tip: Use your fingers to feel 3 inches beneath the surface of the soil. If the soil is dry 3 inches beneath the surface, it’s time to water!
Extra Tip 2: It is best to water your garden in the morning to reduce moisture loss due to evaporation.
- Add Mulch to Your Garden
Add straw, shredded bark, bark chips or additional compost to the top of your garden. This will help your garden retain moisture by reducing evaporation. It will also help prevent weeds from growing in your garden.
- Care for Your Garden
A healthy, successful garden requires care.
Frequently monitor your garden for weeds so you can pull them before they get big. Regularly check the moisture of your soil and water as needed. Watch for destructive insects and remove them by hosing them off your plants, or by using insecticidal soap (consult your local garden store) or neem oil. Tall plants, such as tomato plants, often need extra support. Use steaks and plant ties or wire tepees to give your plants tall plants the support they need. Harvest any vegetables as they are ready!
- Enjoy Your Beautiful Garden!