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Gardening for Newbies

I posted two weeks ago that I am starting a garden this spring! I also posted that I knew next-to-nothing about gardening and that I had a huge project ahead of me. I’m probably not the only aspiring gardener out there so I thought I’d share what I’ve been learning. And I’ll continue to update this post as I learn more both from my research and my own mistakes (and hopefully successes!) in my garden here.

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Steps to having a beautiful (and fruitful) garden:

  1. MAKE A PLAN!!! I cannot stress this enough. You have to know what kind of space you’re working with and what things you want to plant before you do any of the hard labor. Each type of plant requires different spacing, amount of light, or does particularly well next to other plants. In addition, some plants are better put in the ground after being started in a greenhouse or planter instead of being planted straight from seed (tomatoes are really hard to grow from seed, so those in particular I recommend buying plants). If you are starting from seed, you can see much of this information printed on the back of the packet as well as how long the seed takes to mature. Depending on where you live, you may be able to plant your garden sooner than later. Be sure to look up when the last freeze generally is in your area and plan around that. Bottom line: measure the space where you want to plant,
  2. Prepare the ground! The soil, if it could even be called soil, in the plot for my garden is especially terrible and I’m having to put a lot of time into this one. Begin by removing any rocks and weeds from the area you want to plant. If there are a lot of weeds, I recommend skimming off the very top layer of soil with a squared-off shovel and getting rid of it so the weeds are less likely to return and be a pest for you later. Once the rocks and weeds are gone, use a rake to turn the soil. Do this multiple times, adding in a conditioner (I was told Azomite, a trace mineral powder, is great) and maybe a top soil if you think the ground you’re working with is especially lacking in nutrients. If nothing has been done with your chosen area in some time and the ground is particularly hard, you may need to use a sprinkler to wet the ground before this step just to loosen things up.
  3. Plant!! Like I mentioned before, some plants take longer to mature than others, and some plants have a harder time surviving the cold. So make sure you pay attention,  if you’re planting seeds, to plant at the right time. It takes a lot of coordination and planning.  My recommendation, if this is your first garden, to buy all of your plants already started at your local nursery (or IFA, Home Depot, or even Walmart) and plant them all at once. This will make your life so much easier and, most likely, make your garden more successful.
  4. Water, weed, and repeat. This will be most of the rest of your life as far as your garden goes. Your little plants will require a lot of care and attention, but if you do a little bit every day, it will be much more manageable.
  5. HARVEST!! This is the most exciting part! Once your little garden starts producing, add harvesting to your watering/weeding routine and enjoy the fruits of your labor! Make sure you stay on top of this… If you don’t, you’ll have giant zucchini and mushy tomatoes.

Final tips: Make sure you have good tools, especially in the beginning when you really have to work the ground to get it ready. Take a class!  A lot of nurseries or farming stores host free classes that teach you what to plant and when, how to plot out your garden, and how to keep your plants healthy. Plant marigolds around the edges of your garden and in between your rows; they are great for keeping away bugs!

Like I said, I’ll keep updating this post as I learn more and I hope you’ll let me know in the comments how your own gardens are going!