Now is the time to learn how to start a garden from scratch! Having a garden has a lot of advantages. Growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs saves you money at the grocery store on food, jams and jellies, flavorings, medicines, and even homemade gifts. It also insures that all your favorites are always available. If you also learn how to preserve your harvest at the end of the summer, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor all year long.
Plus, food just doesn’t get any fresher, tastier, or healthier than picking it out of your own garden! Learn how to start a garden from scratch and enjoy being frugal while increasing your quality of life with a food garden.
Basic Tips for How to Start a Garden from Scratch
Laying the foundation
- Decide what you’re going to grow. What does your family like to eat? How long is the planting season for your climate? Consider that some foods have a long growing cycle (gourds, tomatoes/peppers) and some have a shorter season (peas, onions, lettuce).
- Decide how much you’re going to grow and how much space you’ll need. Keep in mind that some vegetables, like squash, tomatoes, and peppers produce continuously, while others, like carrots and corn, only produce once. Most new garden owners tend to get a little carried away and take on a garden that’s bigger than they need. Also keep in mind that certain vegetables need more room than others. For example, squashes are vines that need to be planted on a mound with plenty of open space around them. Most people do not have enough space to grow more than 1 squash plant, if any.
Then the soil…
- Find the perfect spot. In general, your garden will grow better if it receives a lot of sunlight. It also must drain well, so the soggy spot in the back corner of the yard isn’t what you’re looking for.
- Also, consider traffic in your yard; children and pets can be more harmful to the garden than a pesky rabbit. If you live in a dry area, you must locate your garden where you’ll be able to provide water.
- Good soil helps! Ask your local nursery for advice about the soil in the area. You can even have it tested. In general, you want soil that’s not too loose (sand) and not too solid (clay). Either sand or organic matter can be added to the soil to improve its quality.
- Prepare the soil. A tiller makes easy work of the job; rent or borrow one. A shovel makes for good exercise. Combine any sand or organic material with the soil and rake everything smooth.
Ready, set, go!
- Order your seeds and any soil amendments and fertilizers you might want. Make sure you allow enough time for them to arrive before planting season begins. Also include any seed starters. Some seeds need to be started indoors before transplanting them to your outdoor plot.
- Plant your garden. Follow the directions on the seed packets or seedlings. Be sure to space properly, plant at the proper depth, and plant at the proper time for your area. Check your hardiness zone and plant what will grow best in your region.
Learn more about:
- how to start a garden in a small space on Crunchy Christian Podcast.
- square foot gardening basics and detailed specifics on square foot gardening.
- Some great places to buy seeds, garden tools, fertilizers, and pesticides: Bootstrap Farmer, Botanical Interests, and Blooming Bulb
Maintaining your garden
- Gardens need three things after they’ve been planted: watering, pest control and weeding. Most new gardeners tend to over-water. Things have to dry out from time to time to prevent mold or fungus from developing. The soil should stay soft.
- Drenching it twice a week is sufficient in most locations in the middle of summer. A light watering every day tends to encourage shallow root growth, so deep watering once or twice a week is better for forming deep roots and healthy plants.
- Spend a few minutes each day pulling any weeds. They can take over the garden quickly. You can also lay mulch between the plants or a weed mat to help control weeds. Hint: if you have the space, plant your rows with enough spacing to allow your rake to fit between the rows. Then you can quickly drag the rake through to pull the weeds out.
- Consider organic sprays or beneficial insects for pest control. Remember that whatever you put on your growing plants will end up in your body, so be intentional about pesticides and such.
Having a garden is a fair amount of work upfront and a small amount of work each day, but you’ll soon find that your efforts are well worth it. Enjoy!