The first year or two invested in starting a garden may prove to be the most difficult ones you have. You should not let the early years discourage you. Starting a garden can be much more effort than maintaining one. You can not simply pick a spot of ground and toss a few seeds found in a free seed catalog, around to get a garden. There is a certain amount of preparation the ground will require the first year that it will not need every year. Soil that has not been gardened before may be hard packed and not have adequate drainage for gardening. This is a problem easily resolved with a bit of labor and planning. The first step is to clearly define your borders. Most gardeners will have pegs and string to do this and to make their rows straight.
The next step in starting a garden is to remove any sod or rocks from the spot you have marked off. You do not want to turn any sod into your garden area or you will be cursed with grass weeds for years to come. Grass can choke and take over a garden very quickly and cheat it of needed moisture. Removing the sod rather than tilling it into the ground can save you many house of weeding.
Starting a garden from a seed catalog can be a very exciting experience as you plan the design and plantings. Truly fine gardens have developed over many years and mature into a solid beauty as time goes past. A study of ancient gardens will show you the amazing longevity a well loved garden can have. Some gardens have plants in them that have witnessed many generations of the same family grow and pass on the garden to the next generation.
The Biggest Concerns are:
1. The amount of sun your garden will receive.
2. How often you will be able to water your garden.
3. The temperature range in your area.
4. Animals that may choose to make your garden their lunch.
1. Sun: It is vital that your plants get the appropriate amount of sun light.
Does the planting area receive:
- Full Sun
- Full Shade
- Partial Sun or Partial Shade
Plants at nurseries and garden centers often have plant tags which state their sun requirements. It is important to read these tags before you choose your plants.
A plant which requires “full sun” should be placed where it receives sun at least 6 hours a day. Similarly, plants requiring “full shade” must be protected from the sun all day long, particularly from the hot afternoon sun.
Other plants are not given such simple descriptions. Plants with “sun to partial sun” requirements should receive at least 4 hours of sun per day. A plant requiring “shade to partial sun” should receive only early morning or late afternoon sun, no mid-day sun.
Plants that receive too much sun can actually burn and plants that do not receive enough sun will not bloom.
2. Water: Too much or too little water is unhealthy for your plants.
Though this variable does depend on the type of plant you choose, it also depends on the weather and the amount of sun that your location receives. Containers can dry out very quickly, thereby placing stress on the plants. For large containers with a variety of plants, special care must be taken to water all plants, particularly the ones located on the edges of the pot.
As a rule of thumb, 1″ of water uniformly covering the planting area of a pot will water the potting soil to a depth of 6″. For example to water a pot that is 18″ deep it is best to cover the planting area with 1″-2″ of water. This amount of water should be applied three separate times, waiting 3-5 minutes between each watering. It is best to fill the entire pot with a layer of water so that the layer reaches to the edges of the pot. Before the water begins to spill over the side, move to the next pot and do the same thing. Every container, no matter what depth, should be watered at least twice using this method. The deeper the pot, the more repetitions.
Another important factor is the pressure and flow of water. Excessive water pressure causes dirt to wash away from the center of the pot, exposing plant roots. Many times the dirt even flows over the edge and gets stuck on the outside of the pot. When this is the case, little water is reaching the roots of the plants, especially those on the outer edges of the container. The water is merely flowing over the edges of the pot.
Container Gardening Tips
Though containers do need a lot of water, they can also be over watered. If your plants are not thriving or green leaves begin to yellow, you may need to reduce the amount of water you are giving your plants.
It is also important to watch the weather. In particularly hot weather your plants will need more water, and if it rains they may need very little watering.
3. Temperature: Some plants are not suited for the local climate.
Though the majority of plants at your local nursery will be suited to the temperature range in your area, some plants will be outdoor plants, while others are more suited for indoor temperatures. Thus, before purchasing a plant you should look carefully at its plant tag, or ask someone at your local nursery if the plant can withstand any potential rises or drops in temperature.
4. Animals: Local animals may find your garden to be a delicious treat.
Many animals, particularly deer, find certain flowering and non-flowering plants to be a very tasty treat. These animals will come right up to your front door or patio area to snack if you do not choose plants that are deer resistant. Another way to deter these pests is to spray your plants with a deer (or other pest) repellant.
Garden Seed, the First Step
Garden seed often found in free seed catalogs, is the first step you will need to take if you are planning a garden. Many plants can be started from seed in your own garden if you have prepared the soil correctly and have the right growing conditions. A seed will hold the promise of food or flowers and will produce for you if you tend it well. Just a bit of warmth, water and soil can bring forth amazing produce. It is part of the small miracles in gardening that holds a gardeners interest. Each season he plans, he watches the ground in the hopes his seeds will all germinate well and poke their heads out of the soil.
If they all come up as hoped he can enjoy tending them all season and then reaping a harvest of vegetables, fruit or flowers. If not, he will be faced with holes in his rows and beds and even consider replanting if it is not too late in the season. If they do all come up he hopes they are the plants he had hoped for. Seeds are very small often and can get mixed up with each other if the gardener is not careful of buys from a poor supplier. The gardener may get thin rows or rows full of weeds from seeds that were not clean.
You can buy seed products from garden supply stores or free seed catalogs each year. They will make available to you new varieties and offer planting hints. It can not hurt to get some free advice especially if you are a novice gardener.