It’s that time of year again folks… Time to get out your gardening gear, get down on your hands and knees, and get familiar with your soil. Will this be your first garden, or your 40th? Will you grow organically, or are you comfortable with spraying your family’s produce with nerve agents? I’m biased, of course. 😉
How big will your garden be and what will you grow?
These questions (and many more) are all things you will need to consider before you get started, so let’s buckle down and figure things out! Here are a few great reasons why growing a garden is a fabulous idea.
Why grow a garden
Ahhh gardening… How I love thee… Let me count the ways. These points are from my FCN thesis on the benefits of a garden.
- Saves you money. The cost of produce is on the rise, and growing your own not only saves you money, it also frees you from the worry of fluctuating prices!
- You control the pesticide use. Can’t afford to buy organic? You can now! This will be our third attempt at a garden, and we have yet to use any chemicals. There are many natural ways to fend off pests and disease. One trick that my wife and I employ is to plant a Marigold border around our garden.
- Fresh and ripe. Store bought produce is often picked before it is ripe. This is done to prevent spoilage and decrease damage. The problem is, picking produce before it is ripe reduces its nutritional value.
- Great taste. The taste of a fresh, organically grown fruit, vegetable, or herb far exceeds that of its store bought counterpart.
- Ability to preserve. Growing your own food gives you an opportunity to preserve your food for use throughout the year. This allows you to enjoy the fruit of your labors even in the dead of winter.
- Education. A garden is a great way to educate your children about health, independence, and hard work.
- Free therapy. Gardens provide you with an opportunity to commune with nature, which is definitely good for the soul.
Why are you growing a garden? Be sure to list your reasons before getting started. 🙂
Expanding upon previous garden experience
Was your last garden big enough? Did you grow the right foods? Do you wish you had grown more herbs? Did your soil have the right texture and nutrients? These are a lot of the questions we had to answer after our first garden.
If this is your first time I have some simple advice for you… Do NOT be intimidated. A simple garden is not as complicated as you might imagine. In fact, if you are like me, you may find that gardening is the easy part, and that food preservation is your biggest challenge! 🙂
If you are just starting, a solid game plan is to grow what you normally eat, while always remembering to expand your horizons.
Plan your space
Where will you plant your garden. How big should it be? What will you grow?
After 2.2 years of gardening, the best lesson I’ve learned is to give yourself more space than you think you need. Our 2nd garden was two boxes with the following measurements: 1 – 8×4 main box and 1 – 2×4 herb box. To our surprise, this was about half of what we actually needed.
Tomato plants should have a minimum of three feet between them but, because we shorted ourselves on space, we were forced to put plants about 1 foot apart. The result? Space-limited plants wind up being stunted and difficult to harvest.
Do you have enough sunlight? We didn’t. Make sure you put you garden in a south facing area with plenty of sunlight. If you plan to grow crops that require less sunlight, be sure to plan accordingly.
Prepare your space
Give yourself plenty of time to get outside and prep your garden area. Use the plans you set forth from the previous point to implement your strategy. My advice is to set aside more time than you think you’ll need because gardens have a way of becoming quite the time suck.
Ensure you have the proper tools, all the necessary supplies, and be ready to get dirty. 🙂
Determine your food source
Will you grow things from seed or buy plants? Should you get your seeds from an organic seed exchange, or are you cool with corporate seeds?
You should be aware that your opinions on this matter will change with time, study, and experience. For us, the more we learn about the precise source of your food… The more you will want to be involved in the process of growing it.
Determine fertilizer and water source
Will your garden be organic? How do you plan to fertilize it? How will you get rid of weeds, insects, and other pests?
This may sound simple, but like all aspects of gardening, it may not be. What water source will you put your garden near? Are you okay with using a city water source, or should you consider putting in a few rain barrels as a source of natural irrigation?
Plan for your bounty
What are you going to do with your harvest? Will you freeze it, can it, sell it? Do you have the necessary hardware for preserving your harvest?Â And do you know how to operate it?
Last year we purchased a pressure canner, but never ended up using it… This year will be different. We’ve already tested it and learned to use it, and have all necessary peripheral equipment.
When planning your garden please be sure you plan how you will harvest your bounty… Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
What will your garden look like?
If you’re planning a garden, what will you be growing? How big will it be? And what do you intend to do with your harvest?
9 Responses to “Start Planning Your Garden Now”
(I think I jinxed myself yesterday – we’re in Minnesota also and it’s been warm for about 6 weeks but tonight it is supposed to snow. So now I have to spend time out in the rain this afternoon covering the plants that are outside).
Great website lots of good info. Here is a little technique to check your soil:If youâ€™re getting ready to go on a new garden venture, you need to prepare
your soil to ideally house your plants. The best thing you can do in the soil preparation process is to reach the perfect mixture of sand, silt, and clay. Preferably there would be 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and 20 percent clay. There are several tests used by experienced gardeners to tell whether the soil has a good composition. First you can compress it in
your hand. If it doesnâ€™t hold its shape and crumbles without any outside
force, your sand ratio is probably a little high. If you poke the compressed ball with your finger and it doesnâ€™t fall apart easily, your soil contains too much clay.
I just started my first garden this year. A few months ago I bought a basil plant for $5 (basil in the grocery store was going for $4 a pack) and end up saving about $12 which I used to buy some raspberry and blackberry plants. I did have to buy some tools, dirt and another planter to move the basil too, I did also buy a tomato plant. Therefore I am in the hole by $35 but I am sure I will break even by the end of the summer.
I am focusing less on production than on structure this year.
I hope that some effort this year (putting in strawberries, which don’t have to be restarted next year; establishing some ground cover in shady areas; digging up the big flowerbed and putting it back together as half flowers (with weedcloth this time) and half veggies.
So: komatsuna, kale, and peas are in the ground (I’m in Minnesota) – we’ve been eating pea greens already. Strawberries and groundcover, likewise. Tomatos, squash, and melons are still in the unheated porch, waiting for it to get a little warmer out there.
I am planning on building and growing my organic garden in the back soon in Miami. I can not wait. I wish I can start now but I have to wait! This will be my first ever! I want to grow as much as I possibly can. The yard is huge so why not?!?!?!
I am growing my first “garden” this year. Techincally it’s 4 pots on a balcony but I find that it has been a nice break from the usual after work t.v. time. Cherry tomatoes, cherry peppers, jalapenos, cayanne, and red chili peppers have been chosen as my innaugural attempt.
This could be a good income source for you, provided you have extra when it comes time to harvest/pick.
You could sell the things you cant eat all of at once, freeze or can at your local farmers market. This can also be a great way to meet people in your neighborhood interested in local and organic food.
Great article about growing, I wish I could grow more, but the climate here is better suited for raising livestock, which takes land (that I dont have).
It’s actually going to be 90 degrees here today (in the South) so I would imagine that most people around here have a head start. In fact, our local “you pick” farm has been advertising strawberries for the last couple of weeks.
Even if you get a late start, we have a much longer growing season, so it’s possible to plant late and still have a great harvest. And, as Michael has pointed out, you can get pre-started plants at most lawn and garden stores. This cuts into the money savings, but it still gives you fresh, homegrown produce.
If you are in the Northern Midwest and if you wanted to grow everything from seed, you should actually have started your garden about 4 weeks ago!
With Minnesota’s short growing season, tomato, pepper, eggplant and several other popular plants should be started inside 6 weeks before the last frost (which is on average the 3rd week of May).
You can still get the pre-started plants from a hardware/garden store of course!