Gardening is something that I’ve wanted to get into for a long time, but I never had the space or yard to get started. But this year we have a yard, and both D and I would love to be able to grow some veggies and herbs ourselves even if we start out pretty small. The Internet is filled with resources on how to get started, but I asked my friend Jess to put together an easy how-to on how to get it all together. Jess currently lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with her husband and daughter and is the proud owner of a wonderful garden so she seemed like the perfect person to ask on how to get started. And without further adieu here’s Jess to share her wisdom…
Hello spring! As we are greeted with warmer weather a lot of people are thinking about getting their garden ready. I want to take some time to talk about how to start a garden. Sometimes it can be a bit intimidating if you have never gardened before, or if you have tried and it didn’t go well. I am going to break it down into five steps for you.
Step one: assess your area.
It’s important whether it be a patio, a third story balcony, three acres, or a backyard. You need to understand what you have to work with. Take some time, go outside and look around. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What does your area look like?
- How much room do you have?
- Where does the sun come up?
- Is there a lot of shade, or more sun?
- What kind of soil do you have? (Sand, or more dense/clay)
Once you have taken sometime to familiarise or perhaps refamiliarise yourself to your area you are ready to move on.
Step two: Decide what type of garden you can (realistically) do.
There are so many options out there! It honestly can be very overwhelming. What works for one might not work for others.
- Container Gardens – this garden is in containers, this is great if you are just starting out and don’t have a lot of space. An important thing to keep in mind is that the roots don’t have unlimited space in containers so make sure your containers are deep enough and wide enough for your plants, a good size to start with is 12″-14″ wide and 10″-12″ deep.
- Raised Bed Garden – This garden is great if you have a little extra space, you don’t want to bend down as far (great for elderly people, and children), or you don’t have great soil (you have total control of what kind of soil you use).
- Square foot Garden – This is a specific kind of gardening that is used in conjunction with Raised Bed gardening, or In The Ground Gardening. You section off your garden into square foot sections. This style claims to allow the garden to be able to produce more food than a conventional garden.
- In The Ground Garden – This is the stereotypical garden that most people think of when someone says garden. This works great if you have good soil and more space to work with.
In my personal backyard I do all of these besides square foot gardening, I have helped out with a square foot garden, but it hasn’t been the right fit for me so far.
Step Three: choose your plants.
Plants, oh man, can this be overwhelming. The first time I ordered seeds I spent over $100. Massive rookie mistake. I strongly suggest going to a local nursery to get your seeds if you are just starting out, and then as you discover what plants work well with your yard move onto seed catalogs.
I have two main criteria that plants must meet if I am going to give space to them in my yard.
– Do they taste better grown at home? For me tomatoes, peppers, and carrots taste a lot better from my yard.
– Are they really expensive at the store, and can I grow them cheaper? Rhubarb, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries are expensive at the store, so I grow those. Lettuce, is fairly cheap to at the store, so I don’t give as much space to those and I am fine with supplementing from the store.
As I have gained more experience my criteria have shifted a bit and I have started growing more because I just like to grow things, but that is what I always start with when deciding what to grow. I also have learned that some plants just don’t like my soil. Onions, they do not like my soil at all, so I don’t grow those. This is a list of plants that are easier to grow.
- tomatoes (buy one that is already started)
- salad greens
- summer squash
- beet root
- most herbs (again buy a plant that is already started)
When you buy plant starts I would strongly recommend going to a local farmers market to get them. I recommend this because the farmers will seek what works well in your area, you can ask about specific varieties, and you can learn a lot about your growing season from them. If you out do not have a farmer’s market I would recommend a locally owned nursery, they also will grow what is suited best for your area. If you are buying plant starts, buy ones that do not have roots growing out the bottom, this is a sign that the roots are too squished in there and they may make a harder time when you transplant them.
Step four: PLANT!!!
This is one of my favorite things to do. I just love playing in the dirt. If you are not doing square foot gardening then follow the instructions on the back of the packet, or what the planting instructions say for the plant start that you purchased. If you I are doing tomatoes I have learned to give a minimum of 3′ around them. I also plant egg shells with them. Be gentle with your plants as some of them have very sensitive roots and struggle with being transplanted (basil and tomatoes). After you plant them make sure you out give them plenty of water so they can easily take to their new home.
Step five: Monitor.
Watch your plants, add any additives that you wish (such as fertilisers). Watch out for any pests, or signs of pests. I grow 100% organically so this is a big step for me. I am in my garden every day (it’s also something I am passionate about so I just like to go out there) looking over each plant. My asparagus has had some issues with asparagus beetles in the past, and I just collect them and throw them on the roof for the birds, same with the slugs I find. It’s kind of fun to do.
Start a garden journal. Write down everything about your garden. What you planted, when you planted it, how much you had to water, what did well, what didn’t do well, what varieties you want to try next year, etc. it can be time consuming, but it also can give you a lot of insight if you run into problems. This is one thing I struggle with doing for my personal garden.
Good luck and happy planting! If you have any questions leave a comment and I will try and answer it to the best of my ability 🙂
And if YOU have any tips on how to get a garden started, please share!! I am in the process of figuring out what to grow and how to set up our garden this year. Watch for updates!