Gardening is a great way to reconnect with nature, grow your own food, and positively contribute to your physical and mental well-being. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your plants grow and yield beautiful flowers, tasty fruits, or crunchy veggies.
So how should you go about starting your garden? What are the most important things to consider and the steps to take? There’s mulch to learn below!
Step 1: Decide on the Best Gardening Location
Do you want to start your garden indoors or outdoors? This will help you narrow down where you want to keep your plant. Deciding on the best location is crucial for your plants to thrive.
1. Pick Your Plants
First, list plants you want to grow according to your USDA zone because this will help you understand your plant’s soil, light, nutrient, and moisture needs.
If you’re growing them indoors, you’ll need to measure light, check moisture, understand your plant’s soil and humidity needs, and possibly invest in grow lights for healthy growth. If you’re tight on space, consider setting up vertical gardens or a kitchen herb garden.
When growing them outdoors, picking the best location is essential for your plants. When choosing a site, you’ll need to:
2. Test Your Soil
It’s essential to test your soil before you start planting. Doing so helps you understand your soil’s current texture, health, and fertility levels, and you can use this information to improve it. While some plants thrive in clay soil, many prefer moist, well-draining soils.
3. Consider Sunlight
The location you pick for your garden, indoors or outdoors, should get between four and six hours of direct sunlight, dappled sunlight, and partial and deep shade daily. All plants need some amount of sun to thrive.
Note that not all plants have the same light requirements. For example, the ZZ plant, Monstera deliciosa, and snake plant require low to medium light (under four hours), whereas Chinese jade, aloe vera, and Ixora plants require full sun to thrive (six hours and more).
But if all plants need sunlight to grow, what worse can happen if you position a low-light-loving plant under full sun? When this happens, your plant’s leaves may turn yellow or have crispy brown tips. Too much sunlight can cause shade-loving plants to wilt, dry, and ultimately die.
4. Lettuce Not Compete
Much like humans, plants don’t like competition. Your chosen location shouldn’t have mature trees, bushes, shrubs, or weeds. Discard weeds like thistle, but dandelions, mugwort, purslane, clover, pennycress, chickweed, and lamb’s quarter can be added to your compost pile as they’re soil-friendly.
Some weeds, like dandelions, butterfly weeds, and globe thistles, have thick taproots that penetrate deep into the soil. Plants with deep taproots can be very competitive, leaving your plants with very little moisture and nutrients to absorb, leading to stunted growth or premature death.
Remove the weeds naturally before starting your garden.
5. Location’s Water Supply
Start your garden next to a water supply for easy access. This will also prevent the annoying need to walk back and forth from the hose to the faucet. An excellent way to ensure you have water close to your garden is to learn how to harvest rainwater or create a rain garden. Plants love rainwater since it’s natural, slightly acidic, and soft compared to tap water in some regions, which can be hard.
Hard water contains a medium to a high amount of dissolved minerals like limestone, chalk, and calcium, whereas soft water contains a small amount. Invest in a TDS meter to test your water’s hardness level. If your water is above 7 grains per gallon, it’s hard.
Avoid irrigating your crops with hard water because the high amount of sodium in hard water can burn your plant’s roots and prevent them from absorbing the soil’s nutrients. This can cause stunted growth and premature plant death.
If the water in your area is hard, you can invest in a water softener or a water descaler and attach it to the tap you’ll be using to water your plants. Test the TDS before and after attaching it to see the difference, and note it for future reference.
6. Create a Layout Plan
When planning how big or small your garden should be, consider how much time you have to tend to your garden, the kind of plants you want to grow, and if you’ll make your own compost. You can try lasagna gardening if you’d like to garden and compost simultaneously.
You’ll need to maintain spacing between each plant. Spacing is different for each plant type and species. For example:
- The space between different plants should be about one-half of the total spread for both plants.
- Plant small shrubs at least 2 feet away from your house’s foundation, medium shrubs 3 feet away, and tall shrubs about 5 feet away from your house’s foundation.
- Plant an 8-foot shrub at least 7 feet away from a 6-foot shrub.
Knowing how much space you need to maintain between each plant will help you understand how much space you have in your garden and how many plants you can grow without overwhelming yourself and your plot! This layout plan will also help with crop rotation.
7. Containers vs. Raised vs. In-Ground Planting
Assuming you know how much space you have and the kind of plants you want to grow, you’ll need to keep your climatic conditions in mind. When you grow your plants in the ground, you’ll need to transplant them into containers with drainage holes and move them indoors before the temperatures drop during the cold winter.
If you grow them in containers and raised beds and can’t move them indoors, make hoop houses and cold frames to help them survive the cold. If space allows, you can even DIY a greenhouse to protect your plants from weather, pests, and diseases.
Step 2: Purchase the Equipment and Seeds
Now, invest in some essential gardening tools and supplies and either harvest seeds from your garden, ask your friends and neighbors, or purchase them online from reputable sites.
1. Gardening Equipment
Invest in essential gardening equipment, including a spade, rake, watering can or hose, measuring stick, hoe, hand cultivator, pruning shears, plant supports, and soil moisture tester. Trellises, cages, and plant supports will depend on the kind of plants you’re growing. Ensure your tools are clean and sharp before use.
2. Gardening Supplies
While it’s a good idea to make your own fertilizer, use homemade organic pesticide, make your own compost, and use fallen leaves as mulch, you can invest in these products online if you don’t have the time.
3. Seeds and Plants
To bypass the initial plant growth phase, visit your nearest nursery and purchase the plants you want to grow. If you’d rather watch the entire seed-to-plant process, purchase vegetables, fruit, and flower seeds from reputable online sites. Keep your USDA zone in mind before you make your purchase.
Prepare to Garden
To prepare your soil for a garden for inground planting, you’ll need to:
- Break the ground and remove the grass, especially if you’re currently using the location as a lawn.
- Dig between 8 and 12 inches into the ground, loosen the soil, and remove debris like rocks, stones, and other foreign objects.
- After amending your soil, let it sit for three weeks to allow it to absorb the nutrients you’ve added.
- After three weeks, till the soil into rows that should be 8 to 10 inches in height each.
- Don’t step on your garden now because that could cause compacted soil, hindering the soil’s ability to drain and retain moisture.
To prepare your soil for container or raised bed planting, you’ll need to:
- Decide what you want to grow and mix your potting soil accordingly. For example, the soil you use for vegetables differs from what you use to grow cacti.
- You can add garden soil only after amending and sterilizing it; however, using it for container plants is a bad idea.
All that’s left now is to maintain your garden. To avoid under and overwatering, use a moisture tester to test the soil’s moisture before you water your plants. Remember to deal with weeds and prune your plants when required.
Lettuce be Crop-timistic!
Starting your garden can seem challenging; however, it’s worth the hard work! Remember to start small so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Don’t forget to refer to your USDA zone before purchasing plants and seeds for gardening.
Leave your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the comment section! And share with friends and family who might find this helpful.