Approximately half of all American homeowners have done some gardening in the last year. Gardening can be a fun activity with numerous health benefits. By growing your own food, you’ll eat more nutritious foods, get plenty of exercise, and reduce stress. A garden can even increase your property value. If you’ve never gardened before, there are a few things you’ll need to know before you get started. Here’s everything you need to know about growing a healthy garden.
Essential Equipment You’ll Need
Depending on the size of the garden you plan to create, you’re going to need some essential tools to help you out. For container gardens, you’ll want to have some containers, a watering can, potting soil, and a trowel. For raised bed gardens, you want to have a digging fork, hoe, shovel, watering can, and a trowel. Large gardens may require a rototiller to help you prepare the soil. A garden rake can be handy to help you clear leaves and other debris on a regular basis.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a quality pair of heavy-duty gloves to protect your hands while digging in the soil. Kneepads are ideal to give you some comfortable padding while tending to plants. If you would like to start seeds indoors instead of buying starter plants, then consider buying seed trays.
Depending on the plants you choose, you may also need to invest in support structures. This will help them from breaking or crowding other plants. By helping plants grow up instead of out, you’ll be able to maximize space. Some support structures you may need include cages, stakes, twine, or trellising. Make sure to clean your gardening tools and equipment after use to prevent the spread of disease in your garden.
Choosing The Best Location
Each plant type will have certain conditions that they thrive in most. Some plants grow best in the hot sun, while others prefer shade and moisture. The plants you choose will depend on where you decide to plant your garden. What areas of your yard are sunny or shady most of the day?
You’ll want to choose an area that will receive at least six hours of sunlight on a daily basis. Avoid areas where frost can settle or are prone to high winds. Look for areas that have plenty of drainage, grasses, and weeds. Avoid areas like old buildings that may contain harmful chemicals or areas that are prone to flooding. You can research various plants online to find out what plants will work best for your yard based on how much sun your yard receives.
Test And Prepare Your Soil
Before you start planting, you’ll want to know more about your soil. Soil can have acidic, alkaline, or neutral pH levels. Your soil can also be made from clay, sand, rocks, silt, or a mixture. The majority of crops perform well with a neutral pH. To find out more about your soil, you can have it tested through your local cooperative extension office. You can also purchase test kits at any local gardening store.
You’ll want to start preparing your soil by loosening it with a shovel, hoe, or garden rake. You’ll want the soil to be loosened to at least 12 to 18 inches deep. It’s also a good idea to mix the soil with fertilizer or compost. Spread about six inches of the organic material on top and wait a few days before mixing it into the soil.
Consider nearby watering sources when deciding to place your garden. If you don’t have a nearby water source, you’ll have to figure out the best system to transport water. You’ll want to make sure you don’t overwater or underwater your plants. Plants need proper water extraction in order to grow strong and healthy. You should give your plans about an inch of water each week.
Mornings are the best time to water because the chance of water evaporation from high winds is relatively low. If you water your plants at night, you risk exposing them to fungal and bacterial growth that can make them sick. Aim to water the roots instead of the greenery.
You can test how much water your soil has by placing a finger into the soil. You should feel moisture at least two to three inches down. If not, you can sprinkle a bit more water with a watering can. Aim to water your plants two to three times per week instead of every day.
Know Your Zone
Knowing what climate zone you’re in is critical for a healthy garden. You’ll want to understand plant hardiness zones and growing season length. These are both used to determine where a plant can thrive best and how long it will take for the plant to fully mature. You can find out what zone you live in by visiting the USDA’s website or checking the back of seed packets.
The best months to start your garden are typically March and April. This is usually when the last frost has taken place, which can vary depending on where you live. Avoid being in a rush to start planting. Wait until the soil is warmed up sufficiently that you can work it. The soil should have a dry and crumbly texture.
Plan Your Garden Beds
Once you know where your garden will be, decide what size and type of garden bed you want to have. Raised beds can be easy to work with but tend to dry out faster. Sunken beds can be ideal in dry areas to soak up more moisture. Consider planting your garden in blocks instead of rows.
A garden bed should be around four feet wide to make it easy for you to reach the middle from any side. The reason for using garden beds is to prevent you from compacting the soil by walking on it. It also helps maximize the available space for planting. Follow the directions on the seed packet for proper spacing and depth.
Determine What You Want To Grow
Now that you have a basic understanding of what a plant needs to grow, you’ll need to decide what you want to plant. What plants do you cook and eat most often? How much light and space do you have? How much time do you have to give to your garden? Answering these questions honestly will help you figure out what you want to grow and still maintain a healthy garden.
Herbs such as basil, cilantro, and arugula are easy to grow and maintain. They need plenty of sunlight and water each day. If you live in a warm climate, sweet potatoes and squash can be excellent plants to grow if you have a large space. They grow fairly quickly and only need to be watered twice a week. Tomatoes can be time-consuming to grow and prone to pests.
Seeds are typically planted in rows that are three inches deep and five inches apart to give them enough room to grow. Rows should be spaced between two to four feet from each other to avoid overcrowding. There are certain seeds you can plant every two to three weeks to extend your harvest. These include vegetables such as peas, carrots, lettuce, beans, and radishes. You can expect most fruit and vegetable seeds to become small plants within two to three weeks.
Once your garden is filled with your new plants that are starting to grow, your next challenge will be pest control and controlling weeds and diseases from killing them. Pest control goes beyond roach removal or hiring a bed bug exterminator. If you’re worried about a professional spraying dangerous chemicals, there are plenty of natural deterrents you can try.
You can use fence supplies to keep out animals. There are many available options for you to choose from. If you’re not sure what to use, you can consult professional fencing services for the best solution. Other natural deterrents include slug traps, floating row covers, and picking out pests by hand.
To take care of weeds, you’ll want to pull them out at least once a week while the soil is wet. Using a mulch service to cover the soil can keep it moist while reducing weeds. Eliminating weeds is a highly effective type of mold remediation to prevent unwanted diseases from developing. Be careful what you use for composting. Some composting material that hasn’t generated enough high temperatures for an extended period of time can carry pathogens that can introduce disease into your garden.
Decorate Your Garden
Many gardeners love to decorate their gardens with welding garden art. It can be a great pastime for hobbyist welding projects you can do with your kids while you’re waiting for your garden to grow. You can find many project ideas online along with the equipment you’ll need. It can be a great way to add a bit of fun and whimsy to your healthy garden.
Rotate Your Crops
Keep a notebook handy that details what you’ve planted each year as well as its location. You’ll need to do this so you can properly rotate your crops. Rotating your crops every year is important to help keep pests away and give your soil a much-needed break. If you enjoy the same crops year after year, you can just simply rotate them around so they aren’t growing in the same places as the year before.
Make Your Own Compost
You can make your own compost to save money and help your garden grow healthy and strong. The best compost features nitrogen and carbon-rich organic waste mixed with water, soil, and air. It will take at least two months to create a good compost heap. To make your own compost, start by measuring a three feet square space. You can choose to either contain your compost in a bin or have an open pile.
You’ll want to alternate brown and green material. Brown carbon-based material can be found in garden trimmings and leaves. Green nitrogen material would be things like manure and kitchen scraps. You want to have a thin layer of soil separating each layer.
Heap about four to six inches on top of the pile. Turn the compost pile when you add new layers and water to keep it moist. If your compost pile starts to smell, add more carbon material and turn the heap more frequently.
Harvesting plants frequently can vastly increase plant production. Check your garden every day during peak harvest season. Pick herbs right before they flower to get the most flavor out of them. The best time to harvest most herbs is mid-morning after the dew has evaporated. The only exception is basil, which is best-picked mid-afternoon.
Leafy greens should be picked sporadically. When picking produce, use a sharp knife or scissors instead of ripping at the plant. If you have an excess bounty, you can freeze or can it to enjoy it whenever you wish.
Care For Your Garden After Harvest
When you’re completely finished gardening at the end of the year, there are things you should do to get it ready for the next year. Clean up any debris and dead plants. Cover the gardening area with mulch, manure, and compost to give it a boost for the next growing season.
Consider growing a cover crop in order to return nutrients to the soil. Legumes, barley, clover, oats, and ryegrass are common cover crops to use instead of fertilizers. Keep in mind that this will take a garden out of crop rotation for a season but it will make your garden healthier.
Growing a garden takes time and practice. Not only will you enjoy the fruits and vegetables of your labor, but you’ll also get several health benefits. When selling property the garden is on in the future, you can also get more cash in your pocket. If you’ve never grown a garden before, you may want to start small to make it easy for you to maintain. Have fun watching your new garden grow!