Friday, April 5, 2013

Five Steps to Consider For Your First Garden

So, you want to plant a garden this year. That is a wonderful idea. Nothing beats homegrown vegetables picked fresh from the garden. But before you go out to the garden center, you should consider five things.

1. How big will your garden be?

2. How big the plants will be at maturity?

3. How much time do you have to spend on your garden?

4. How much sun or shade will your garden receive through the day?

5. What is your planting zone?

Once you can answer these questions, you can make your way to the garden center.

Beginning gardeners skip this process. They go to the garden center where they see so many wonderful plants that they become overwhelmed. They fall in love with every plant and take them home. The plants are small in those little cell packs, and sometimes you don’t consider that the plants will grow. You have big plans. In the end, you buy more plants than you have room to plant.

When you get home, you think that’s easy to remedy. You can plant them closer together. This is not a good idea because plants need air circulation. Without that, they are prone to bugs and disease. You can just drag out the tiller and begin tilling up more soil.

What did you forget? Time management. On the plus side, more plants mean a bigger garden and more produce. The down side is having enough time to maintain a bigger garden.  

When planning a garden, you need to estimate how much time you are willing to spend to maintain it. All gardens take work. You'll have to water almost every day or sometimes twice a day when the weather is hot and the wind is blowing. Gardens require fertilizer for an abundance of fruits and flowers. The weeds need to pulling and then, and of course, there is bug control. If this is your first garden, take the advice of seasoned gardeners. Begin with a plan.

Photo by: byrev

Decide on the kind of garden you want. Different plants require different conditions. Vegetable gardens need full sun exposure. In my location, almost everyone has a vegetable garden. I live in the northern states and that determines which vegetables I want to plant. When choosing vegetable plants, pay attention to the maturity date. We shy away from growing big tomatoes with maturity dates over 90 days. Although we do get some big tomatoes from the plants, they have a habit of producing right before the frost comes to take them out.

Flower gardens vary in the amount sun exposure they need. Some flowers need full sun, while others need part sun, or full shade.  When you pick out the location for your flower garden, note how much sun the area receives. Then read the plant labels so you buy the right plants for the right spot.  

Finding Your Growing Zone
Everyone loves to grow flowers. You can't plant a tropical garden in cold northern climates unless you have a large greenhouse where you can control the air temperature and humidity. The same is true about desert plants. You can't grow them where it rains or where the temperatures fall below 40°.

You need to know your growing zones especially if you are ordering from a garden catalog or online. Check the plant labels before you make that purchase. Most garden books or catalogues will have a map showing the U.S. Department of Agriculture zones. You can also find it online. The website United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a user-friendly site. Simply put in your zip code and it will clearly show you the hardiness zone where you reside. My zip code tells me that I live in zone 5a.

Photo by: basdorf

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