Gardening is a rewarding hobby that anyone can do. It still amazes me the abundance that can come from a few plants. Whether you are starting a small garden or planning a rather large plot, a little planning with this beginner’s guide to gardening will set you on the path to success.
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A Beginner’s Guide To Gardening
1. What Zone Are You Growing In?
First, look up your growing zone or sometimes it may be called hardiness zone. Your growing zone determines whether or not the plants you desire to grow will thrive in your climate.
Determine the first and last frost dates for your growing season. The last frost occurs in the spring and the first frost occurs in the fall. Each zone will have its own frost dates. Keep these dates in mind when scheduling the planting and harvesting of the vegetables and fruit in your garden.
2. Choose A Location on Your Property
Full Sun: Look for an area that has full sun exposure for a minimum of six hours a day. Be aware that some plants such as tomatoes thrive with eight hours of full sun.
Shadows: Once you have your garden space picked out, head out and observe it throughout the day. Is there anything casting a shadow on your garden? Do you need to cut back trees or bushes?
Well Drained: Also, wait for a good day of steady rain and observe your plot as to whether or not your soil is well-drained. A good two-inch rain will tell you for sure.
An alternate way to test if the soil is well drained is to dig a 12 inch deep by 12-inch-wide hole in the garden area. Fill the hole with water and wait for it to drain. Once it is completely drained, fill the hole again with water. Measure the depth of the water and after 15 minutes measure the drop in water level. Multiply this number by 4 to see how much water drains in an hour. Soil that drains 1 to 3 inches is suitable for most garden vegetables.
3. Test Your Soil
Now that you have chosen your garden plot, it is time to test the soil. There are several ways you can test your soil. You can get an inexpensive soil testing kit that shows the PH levels of your soil. Follow the directions from the kit to test the soil.
In Addition, you can contact your local county extension office to obtain a soil test or go online and use Redmond Agriculture soil testing kit. It is super simple and easy to read results.
Once you receive the results of your soil kit you can begin to amend the soil with compost and fertilizers at the beginning of the growing season.
4. Choose What You Will Grow
Choose what grows well in your area according to your growing zone and frost dates but also select the vegetables that you and your family are already buying at the store. If you regularly buy tomatoes, peppers, and green beans add those vegetables to the planting list. Grow vegetables and fruit your family already loves.
Also, take note the days to maturity for each plant. The days to maturity is the time frame between when you transplant the plant into the ground in your garden and the day you will harvest from that plant.
Do you have enough time between your frost dates to grow the plants you have chosen? If not, you may need to start the plant from seed indoors under grow lights (read my post on starting seeds under grow lights)
Starting seeds indoors gives the plant a head start by growing until the conditions are just right to transplant into the main garden. This way you have enough time to get a harvest before the first frost kills the plant.
5. Set Up Your Garden Space
Start small and build onto your garden as you go. A common mistake of beginners is to start out with too big of a garden. Halfway through the season you want to quit because it has become overwhelming. Start small and expand your garden as you expand your knowledge.
Do some research on the gardening styles. Raised beds, permaculture, square foot, no till, or traditional rows are just a few. Experiment with several options and you will get a feel for which style you enjoy the most. It may take several seasons for you to figure out which style of gardening you like the best.
6. Set Up a Watering System
There will be times during the summer that your farm may experience dry spells. Sometimes in our area, we go up to two weeks without any rain so providing water for our garden is a must.
You will need some type of watering system. Whether you choose a soaker hose or sprinkler plan to get water to your plants on a regular basis.
7. Schedule A Time To Garden
After all the hard work you have put in to planning, setting up, and planting your garden it is imperative to spend time IN the garden. Block out time in your schedule to work in the garden several times throughout the week.
The more your eyes are on your plants the faster you will see disease or insect infestation and stop the progress as quickly as possible. If you are not attending to your garden, they will take over very quickly and you may lose your plants.
8. Enjoy Your Garden!
Gardening is hard work, but very rewarding. It has become my quiet place where I can feed my soul and come back in the house refreshed from having my hands in the dirt. It is my time with God. I love talking to my Creator as I pull weeds or harvest the fruits of my labor. Don’t think of your garden as a chore but a place where you can enjoy the peace of being surrounded by nature. Enjoy!!