Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Understanding a Garden for Beginners

There are many sources that are predicting food prices are going to start to go on the rise soon. This has caused many in the public to start to think about growing their own food. Many of you  have never grown food before or have done so in small amounts, so what do you need to know about starting your own garden next spring? What steps can you take now and through the winter to help get yourself on track? Well, let's discuss these things and see what we can do to help you in your decision as to whether growing your own food is what you want to do.

There are somethings that need to be determined despite the type of garden you are planning on having. These things are:
  • What is your level of sun exposure? Most vegetables like 6+ hours of full sunlight. 
  • How is your soil? You may want to have your soil tested.
  • Determine your garden placement, closer to the house deters wild animals, away from trees as trees can drain water and nutrients from plants. Keep in mind sunlight levels.
  • Decide your garden type (we will discuss these further in a moment).
  • Learn more about watering your garden so that you are prepared for next summer.
  • Make sure you have appropriate garden tools on hand.
  • Go ahead and get out the seed catalogs and start placing orders so you have what you need on hand.
  • Find out your first and last frost dates so that you know when to start planting and then when to have everything harvested by.

The best place for a beginner gardener to start is somewhere small. Many beginner gardeners start with container gardens, growing food in containers is lower maintenance than beginning with a wide row garden. Container gardens are also a great option for those with smaller yards, or no yards. It also allows you to grow foods to supplement your groceries without growing more food than you will need. If you want to preserve your own foods for the winter months it is possible to do with container gardens so long as you only want to preserve small amounts of food, otherwise you will need a lot of containers. With a container garden, there isn't as much prep to do during the previous fall or winter before starting your first container garden. However, if you want to use your own compost to fertilize your plants you will want to look into composting.

Another favorite gardening method for beginners, and those with minimal gardening space is raised bed gardening and/or square foot gardening. This requires a box of sorts to be built, your building material is your choice, some use boards, other use cinder blocks, etc. Determine the best area in your yard for your raised bed garden. A raised bed garden is also beneficial for someone who has very poor soil, as you can fill your bed with the soil that your plants need. Some benefits to having a raised bed garden are: less soil compaction since you will not be walking on the soil around the plants, higher yields of vegetables, saving yard space, easier to supplement soil, easier to control insects and weeds.

The Farmer's Almanac has the best information on planting a row garden for beginners, to find this information visit and scroll about 1/4 down the page under the heading: "Deciding How Big".

This fall and winter you should spend time researching your chosen gardening method, the plants you want to grow, learning how to compost, and getting your soil ready. By spring your soil will be ready, and you will have the knowledge you need to start getting hands on experience in a garden of your own.

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