Gardening can be fun. A garden is a place for you to relax, bask in the sun, get some much-needed exercise, and tending a garden can be a fruitful hobby and produces some wholesome food in the process. A garden can be an interesting place for your kids to grow and play in where they can be one with nature. And the best thing about the whole arrangement is that it doesn’t tax the already fragile environment.
Location of the Garden
Now that you have decided to start your own garden, the very first decision you need to make is its location. Ideally, vegetable crops need direct exposure to sunlight for at least 6-8 hours a day. There are exceptions of course, in the form of leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce, plants that don’t need much sunlight. When evaluating possible sites for your garden, keep it well away from any deciduous trees around, as their shade can extend over the crops and so prevent them from growing well.
Type of Soil
Choose loose soil that has good drainage. This is because the roots of every plant need to breathe, something they cannot do if water stays on the surface of the soil long after rains. You can get an idea of how the soil drains by looking around for an area where grass or flowers flourish, a sure sign of good drainage. Or examine the soil immediately after a rain and look for puddles or wet areas. If you want to be scientific about it, make a hole, pour water into it, and measure just how quickly the water level drops. If the rate is less than an inch per hour, look for a better site. If you cannot find such a spot, then make raised beds for your plants.
Begin with a small garden at first, as too much of it might make it feel like work and spoil the pleasure. Rightly planned, a plot as small as 10 foot square can grow a lot of vegetables. After some time, you can make your garden bigger in a way that is in tune with your experience and enthusiasm.
Planning the Garden
Plan your garden in such a way that you can harvest more from the limited space. Instead of going for a single row, raise your plants in wide rows of 3-4feet. Go beyond ground level and train vegetable such as tomatoes and pole beans to climb up metal or bamboo poles. Let cucumbers and peas spread over fences. Reduce the time it takes for a young plant to bear fruit by using transplants for peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers. You can also grow short season vegetables like bush beans and follow them with those that start late, like lettuce.
The Fun Part
The fun starts when you begin digging. Gardening is never a clean affair, as you are sure to get dirty. Before digging, remove any debris, rocks, weeds, and grass from the area and dig around a foot or so deep. Then level the spot, adding minerals and compost as needed. If your soil is sandy, add peat moss; if it’s acidic, add some lime. Encourage plants to flourish in soils ranging from acidic to neutral by adding organic fertilizer such as compost or mulch; these will increase fertility and aid the soil in withholding moisture. Mulch can be in the form of grass clippings, pine needles, wood chips, leaves, or manure.
Once you begin gardening in earnest, ensure that the plants gets sufficient water as it is vital for them to grow. Hand watering is alright, as long as the plants are few in number. If not, sprinklers or hoses are necessary. Most plants need around an inch of water every week, but during hot months you should water them at least three times each week.
A Fence Around Your Garden
Fence your garden to keep it free of hungry animals such as rabbits. It will also define the garden visually. Using poultry netting can be both effective and inexpensive. Animals can also burrow underneath the fence; to prevent their intrusion, bend about one foot of the fencing towards the outside of your garden so that it lies firmly over the ground. If deer are present in the vicinity, your fence should be 5 or more feet in height; otherwise a fence of 2-3 foot high is enough.
Following the above tips will put you on the way of becoming a fine gardener and your first garden a resounding success.