I am finally getting around to a spring garden post- this post in picture form, has been sitting in my Que for far too long. One thing after another has prevented me from putting my plan into action; we ordered new lights for the grow house (awesome lights, so worth the wait!), the snow just barely disappeared and my work/life schedule has been full of craziness!
So want to start a garden of your own? It only takes a bit of planning, seeds, soil, water & loads of light - today I am going to walk you through my garden planning process.
Most successful gardens are ones that are planned for and researched in advance . Each year, typically in March I dig out my seed bin & start sorting. I am a total seed hoarder- it can be a problem, this year I have resisted the urge to purchase any new seeds and use the ones I have on hand. After I have sorted my seeds I start my garden plan - I look back at last years layout, garden notes and think back to what was successful and what didn't do so well. Do I really want to fight off the squash vine borers for a 4th year in a row or do I want to grown something different in place of summer squash and zucchini? Did 8 cavern tomato plants make sense last year or should I try fewer plants in multiple varieties? I also take in consideration what and where I grew items in the garden last year- crop rotation and companion planting are a big part of my garden plan and something you should consider too especially if you plan on growing your own garden for more than one consecutive year.
Once I have anwsered those questions I sort and pick out the seeds I plan to grow and begin the actual garden layout. You can simply use graph paper, a digital layout or garden layout software. I prefer graph paper and a pencil and chart my layouts in a garden journal along with various notes I take throughout the year documenting my gardens progress.
Every year I make a point to try out a new variety, last year it was Ragged Jack Kale ; amazing! This year I will be trying my hand at Baby Bok Choi, Cauliflower & Broccoli.
Once you have your seeds picked out and your garden map completed you can begin noting your veggies on the garden map- there are several companion planting guides online, I would suggest having one handy prior to starting. Some vegetables love being near one another and actually help each other grow, others want nothing to do with the other one which can hurt the growth of both veggies. Another thing to consider is inter planting flowers with your veggies - some flowers have the ability to repel bad bugs and attract good ones; marigold help repel cucumber beetles and squash bugs as do nasturtiums, plus they are really beautiful in the Garden. Sunflowers & Borage are also known to help tomatoes and the bees can't get enough of Borage!
So you have your seeds picked out, the garden layout completed and assigned your veggies their new home on paper. The next step is to start your seedlings- on the back of your seed packets you will find super helpful information on when to start your seeds and whether they do best directly sown into the soil/garden or started indoors prior to the last frost. I tend to start everything inside and will also do successive plantings throughout the season to ensure a harvest in the Fall. Once they have outgrown the grow room they will be moved outdoors to a green house, then slowly hardened off and transplanted by the first week of June.
Before you plant in the garden I recommend performing a simple soil test, kits can be purchased at a local garden shop or online- this will provide you with valuable information as it pertains to your soil. You may need to add certain elements to amend the soil to ensure it is in tip top shape for your veggies. Every year I always add a bag of compost and manure to my garden - when I first began my garden I also added several bags of pro mix to each garden bed to build up the soil. Tip; do not plant carrots or root veggies in freshly manured or composted soil- work these into your beds a couple weeks prior to planting.
So are ready to dig into your first plot!? Here's a quick recap:
1. Determine the location of you garden plot - a sunny well drained area is ideal
2. Decide on the size & type of your garden- raised beds, row garden or planters, if you are dealing with a smaller space check out square foot gardening
3. Research what plants thrive in your area- talk to a local garden center or farmer
4. Decide what you want to grow in your garden and pair them up with companion plants- don't forget to include some flowers!
5. Start your seeds indoors according to the back of each seed package- you can also but already started plants from a trusted garden supply store, coop or farm stand, try to but organic!
6. Prep your garden beds with plenty of organic material- compost & manure are a must
7. Harden off your seedlings by introducing them, a little bit at a time to the outside world. Seedling can get sunburn, they are very sensitive when first taken out from the protected grow room- make sure to give them time to adjust. One of the gardeners I follow closely actually puts them in a wheelbarrow and gives them a ride around the yard the first couple days.
8. Once your seedlings are adjusted to the outside world, plan on planting them in the actual garden after the last frost date in your area. When transplanting I like to have a bucket of water next too me, after I take each plant out of its holder I completely submerge the root base/soil into the bucket, when the bubbles stop coming I know it is good and ready to be planted into the ground- don't worry you won't over water them.
9. Monitor your seedlings and make sure they are getting enough water. Look out for bad bugs (I keep a laminated double sided good bug/bad bug chart out in the garden) and any signs of sickness- never compost any sick plants.
10. Speaking of compost- start a compost pile near your garden!
For some awesome gardening links and ideas check out my Garden Pinterest Board!