Starting a Garden

Introduction to Starting a Garden:

One of the most important factors you will encounter when creating your own garden, whether you are planning on growing flowers or vegetables, will be site selection. The ideal conditions that most plants look for are well-drained locations that get full sun all day long and have rich loamy soil. Unfortunately most of us are rarely blessed with this holy grail of gardening, so we are forced to work with what we have.

As you are evaluating a site for starting a garden, you will need to consider multiple factors such as drainage, sunlight, soil type, soil fertility, slope, access to sunlight, and wind conditions. If your garden is too heavy in sandy material, you will find the moisture and nutrients will drain out too quickly and your costs for irrigation will be much higher. Likewise if the soil is too rich in clay, the soil will drain very poorly and will bind up many types of plants, limiting your options.

Starting a Garden - Soil Amendments:

There are a number of different amendments that can be added to soil to improve a given situation. You can opt to have a soil test on your yard to see what amendments, is any, may be needed or used. Typically most gardens can be started by tilling in a generous amount of compost into the existing soil. This not only adds nutrients and organics to the soil, but it will offset any heavy clays or sands that might be present. Correcting the soil is always the first step to starting a successful garden.

The slope of a garden is another important piece of the puzzle when starting a garden. Slopes up to 10% are acceptable, however anything greater than that could lead to problems down the road with erosion and runoff. If your chosen site has low spots or dips in the grade, these should be corrected prior to planting to prevent water from pooling up in these areas. The easiest way is to simply bring in additional topsoil and fill in the low lying areas. You will want your garden to be as level as possible before planting time.

Starting a Garden - Raised Gardens:

You might find that some soil conditions would require too much work to get them to desirable conditions, or the expense to do so is just too high, but you have to find a way to make a given location work for a garden. If this is the case one solution would be to build raised garden beds. Raised gardens have a number of advantages over ground based gardens, the primary one being the fact that raised gardens allow you to customize the soil however you require. In these applications, the underlying soil conditions are really irrelevant.

If the site is heavily compacted, you will need to adequately till the area to improve the soil quality and drainage. If amendments are required to correct other issues with the soil, this is the time to add them so that they can be tilled in thoroughly with the existing soil. You can also install basic drainage systems during this phase to aid in the drainage of the garden. You should avoid sites that are subjected to heavy runoff from surrounding buildings and/or paved surfaces as well. Too much runoff will wreck havoc on your carefully planned garden.

Starting a Garden - Air Circulation & Sunlight:

Be sure to pay attention to the wind patterns for the site you are selecting as well. Starting a garden in a location that receives almost no wind could prove detrimental to the success of your plants and vegetables long-term. Air movement is essential in any garden as it helps reduce the risk of a great many diseases and it also helps reduce certain populations of insects. Likewise if your garden is subject to too much or too constant winds, your plants will dry out much faster and you risk having many of them damaged or uprooted. Take careful consideration regarding the wind patterns for a given location and offset excessive air movement by building garden fences or other similar structures to protect your garden.

Exposure to sunlight is one of the greatest factors of success in starting a garden. An ideal site should receive no less than 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. If your chosen site does not meet this requirement then you should really consider an alternate location for your garden. While there are a number of plants and flowers available that can thrive in partial shade, most plants will require at least 6 hours of sunlight to thrive. It is not unusual for the plants to determine the location a garden will go, so give some thought to what you want to grow first.

Starting a Garden - Choosing a Size:

Accessibility of the garden is another big concern that will affect your decision on where to construct it. You will want to choose a site that has easy access to a water source, as well as electricity if possible. You may not see an immediate need for lighting or other equipment early on, but as your garden evolves and your needs change, you will appreciate the foresight you had in making electrical connections available.

The size of your garden also comes into play here as well. Smaller gardens are extremely easy to maintain and are far more adaptable to less than ideal conditions, such as watering for instance. If you have a small garden located some distance from a water source, it is much easier practical to hand water than a larger garden. If your garden is too far away from a water source it is easy to neglect your plants and allow them to dry out.

Starting a Garden - Irrigation:

If you are forced to work with an undesirable location, as so many of us are these days, there are numerous ways that you can route water to a distant garden, as well as even automating the watering process if you cannot arrange daily attention. There are flexible water lines available in the greenhouse supply industry that you can use to route water to your garden. Combine this with one of the many entry level irrigation systems and you can automate the watering of any garden. Soaker hoses are a great way to supply slow, continuous water to a garden, while drip irrigation systems can be utilized with timers for more direct watering applications.

Starting a garden can be a daunting and yet exciting prospect, especially if you have little experience in this area. Rest assured however that there is no problem that you are going to come up against that countless other gardeners have not faced over the years. Online reference materials such as ours can be valuable resources as you are learning how to garden. You will also find your local garden centers to be fantastic reference points as well. Most garden centers employ people who are just as passionate about gardening as you are and the right person can take all your questions and answer them thoroughly and accurately.



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Starting a Garden
Starting a Garden
Starting a Garden
Starting a Garden
Starting a Garden