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Garden Growing Guide:

How To Prepare Your Garden

If you are a newbie to gardening and hesitant about how to prepare your garden, then worry no more. I’m here to ease a bit of the worry you may have and build your gardening confidence through practice so you too can join the masses who get out and grow each season.

This garden growing guide comes from years of experience and my passion for the outdoors which should help guide you in the right direction. If you have an inherent green thumb or simply want to experiment the time is here to put your gardening plans in motion. Begin the process by figuring out how and where you will plant your vegetable garden this spring.

If you are planting a garden to grow your own food for the first time I’d recommend starting off small, get your feet wet before you jump right in. Building up gardening experience over time will lead to a more rewarding experience.

How To Start A Garden

The first step before even deciding what you are going to grow in the garden should be picking a good location. In an earlier post I talked about growing a garden in a small space if you didn’t have a large area in your yard to get started. Based on how much space you have and the amount of sunlight the area gets, you can plan your vegetables accordingly.

A garden planted with north-south facing rows will get more direct sunlight. Also consider other environmental factors in your area. I live in farm country and no matter what location I choose I will be surrounded by worked fields.

I have to keep in my mind that my garden could be exposed to pesticide drift. Pesticide drift simply means that pesticides used by the farmers for pest management in the farm fields may drift as vapors and particles in the air or through the soil.

So I will be keeping my garden as far away from the fields as possible, but I also plan to plant a small evergreen border between my garden and the field to keep the drift away.

Gardening Tip-Grow your garden a good distance from Walnut trees as they contain chemicals that can kill your vegetables.

Preparing The Soil 

So now you’ve picked your location and you know what you’re going to plant. It’s time to get out there and start getting the area ready. Vegetables will benefit greatly from good soil conditions. The soil needs to be well-drained and nutrient rich.

Take a good look to see what’s in the soil in your garden. If you have sandy soil you will have to water more often, working in some peat moss or compost will still allow for proper drainage but will increase the water-holding capacity of the soil.

Soil with lots of clay will not drain properly, working in some compost even just 4-6 inches deep, will make the soil more porous and allow better drainage and increased oxygen for the roots. Compost is an excellent choice for amending any garden regardless of what soil type.

You can make your own compost at home in the backyard if you have a compost bin. If you have leaves that come down in the fall you can also add them to your compost heap to break down over the winter to give you a dark, nutrient rich soil.

Many cities offer free compost, check locally to see if yours does by contacting your city hall. You are usually required to do the work yourself, such as bagging it or putting in a container, but it’s free! Free compost means that’s one less thing you need to pay for and you can designate the money towards something else for your gardening project.

Manure can also be used to improve your soil. It can be purchased from garden centers or you could even ask a local farmer for some. If it is obtained from a farm it needs to be well-dried out before it can be used, otherwise it can have the opposite effect and be harmful to your garden. Using manure will give the best results if its applied a few weeks before planting, giving it some time to settle in.

If you heat your house by wood, you can turn in some of the ashes and it will add some potassium to the soil. Potassium encourages rapid growth, and can help to hold off disease.

Potassium can also improve the flavor the vegetables as well. Only a small amount of ashes needs to be used, and should be avoided where plants such as blueberries that require slightly acidic soil are being grown. It does not need to be applied regularly as potassium is a slow diminishing nutrient.

Transplanting Seedlings 

By this point you should have already started your seeds and they should be well on their way to making a transition out into the world. If you’ve grown your own seedlings indoors, the next step is preparing them for outdoors.

Plants that were started indoors can experience some transplant shock if they are taking directly from indoors and planted outside. This shock could be enough to kill the plant. Slowly exposing the plants to the temperature fluctuation is referred to as hardening off. 

Expose the plants gradually to the environment, the bigger the temperature difference, the slower the process should be. You can start by placing them outside for a few hours during the day, then maybe into the evening.

Then if the nights are getting warmer leave them out overnight, but not in the garden yet. If there is a threat of frost move them inside for the night. You want to disturb the roots as little as possible at this point. This process can also help with not planting too early which could cause some serious repercussions and heartbreak if you were to lose your seedlings.

I can remember multiple customers who came into the greenhouse looking to buy or re-buy their plants because they simply planted too soon! I can’t wait to get planting my and I look out my window every morning hoping to see green grass, but right now is definitely too early and even using the traditional May 2-4 weekend (in our climate)as a guideline may be too soon.

We often seem to get just one more frost when we all think the cold weather is gone. It’s better to be safe then sorry and hold off a little bit. They say the early bird gets the worm, well not in this case. Having to replace your plants is not exactly cost-effective for anyone’ budget.

Watering Your Garden

Don’t forget too that your garden needs to be watered, carrying  a watering can back and forth can be a daunting task. Planting closer to your home makes it easier to get access with a garden hose, and using a garden hose nozzle ensures not having to walk back and forth as far.

If you have a rain barrel set up on your property not only will it save you money on your water bill this summer but you will be giving your plants rain water and not tap water.

If using municipal water, filling up jugs of tap water and letting them sit open for 24 hours will allow for the added chlorine to evaporate. Chlorine can negatively affect the microorganisms in the soil, harming beneficial organisms that can help to fight off pests and disease.

Vegetable gardening is very rewarding when food from your garden ends up on your dinner plate but can also be time-consuming. Learning how to grow a garden in your backyard takes time and with proper research and trial and error over time you can have an abundance of vegetables and herbs to make tasty meals in your kitchen.

Planning ahead and taking the time to properly prepare your garden will get you off to a good start, and remember to start small if this is new to you. Don’t get discouraged right away if your first garden doesn’t work out,trial and error is the name of the game. A well prepared garden can be a great money-saving tool for your budget if you have some time and patience.

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