Starting a garden

So you’ve been thinking about starting a garden but you don’t know where to begin.  You might be thinking.. “Can I plant in the ground? Do I need to buy or build raised plant beds?” You walk into the Garden Center of your local Walmart or Hardware store and you are overwhelmed when you look at the different types of soils and seed packets.  You want to grow your food organically, but that sounds hard.  There are so many unknowns and so much to learn.

I call this analysis paralysis. And for the record, I do this ALL THE TIME.

I’m going to break this down for you so that you can start making some decisions and start moving forward on your dream of starting a garden.

I will talk about the following:

  1. Building or sourcing your garden beds

  2. Prepping your soil

  3. Tips for getting started growing organically

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  1. Building or sourcing your garden beds

    The first decision you need to make is whether you want to plant in the ground, raised beds, or in containers.  Your living situation may decide this for you.  For example, if you don’t have a large yard or a lot of space, you might choose to use containers or raised beds that add to your landscaping. For me, I chose to plant directly into the ground and add a wood border to deter small animals such as bunnies. You will also need to decide how large you’d like your beds to be.  I recommend making the width of the bed no larger than 4 feet so that you can reach your plants from both sides.

    Ground:

    When planting in the ground, you must first till the soil.  Ideally, you should loosen the soil about 6-12 inches below the surface.  You can do this with a tiller OR get an awesome workout in and do this with a shovel.  Next, you will need to mix in organic matter to properly prep your soil.  I touch upon this in the “Prepping your soil” section below.  If you are planting in the ground, you should also consider installing a fence to keep animals out such as bunnies!

    Raised Beds:
    If you choose to build or purchase raised beds, there are a lot of different materials available to you.  You can use wood, plastic timbers or containers, or recycled materials such as cinder blocks. If you use wood, consider using redwood or cedar as these two types of wood are naturally rot and pest resistant.  DO NOT use pressure-treated wood because it may contain toxic chemicals.  If you like the look of wood but don’t want to risk it weathering overtime, I suggest buying plastic timbers.  I used recycled redwood that we had sitting in our barn and it worked out great!

    Similar to planting in the ground, you need to properly prep your soil prior to filling your raised bed.  Make sure to mix top soil and organic matter to achieve the proper nutrition for your plants.

    Containers (such as pots):
    If you choose to plant in containers, make sure to buy seed varieties that lists “container variety” on the packet.  The seed packet usually lists the depth of the pot needed for the plant. 

    Once again, make sure to prep your soil!  I cannot stress this enough!

  2. Prepping your soil

    Prepping your soil is one of the most important aspects of having a successful garden.  You need to make sure that your plants have proper nutrients to survive.  You will need to take into consideration the pH, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus levels.

    pH
    All plants have a different preference of pH for the soil.  Don’t worry too much about this. Focus on getting your soil into a safe range for the plants to survive (ideally 6.0- 7.0).  You can buy a kit online to test the soil at home or ask your local garden center if they will test it for you. 

    Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus
    You need a balance of all three of these nutrients to grow healthy plants.  Similar to pH, you can test your soil for these nutrients and adjust as needed. 

    You have several options for adjusting both the pH and nutrition of your soil.

    You can choose an organic fertilizer that contains the correct amount of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to adjust the nutrition of your soil.  When choosing a fertilizer, you will see 3 numbers listed on the package such as 10-10-10.  This is the N-P-K percentage ratio (Nitrogen- Phosphorus- Potassium).  In this example, the fertilizer contains 10% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorus, and 10% Potassium. 

    There also are a lot of options for using organic matter to adjust the pH and N-P-K of your soil.  You can use compost filled with decomposed food, grass, leaves, coffee grounds, etc.  You can also use animal waste, crab meal, fish or seaweed emulsion, rock phosphate, or granite meal.  Each of these options will adjust the soil differently so do your research ahead of time!

  3. tips for getting started growing organically

    Growing plants organically may sound like a lot of work but if you do your homework up front, it can be less daunting.  Here are some of my high level tips when growing organically:

    • Start your own seeds

    • Make sure your soil is nutritious and at the right pH before you plant

    • Use organic plant food with the proper ratio of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus

    • Pair plants together to decrease the risk of certain pests/animals

    • Use natural remedies to deter insects and animals such as deer

    • Do research on plant pests ahead of time so you know what pests to look for

    • As soon as you see signs of a pest, take action!

I hope you found this article to be informative! This is just starting to scratch the surface of starting your own garden so if you’re interested in learning more about gardening, please subscribe below.

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