I’m showing you how to start a garden from scratch. It’s so satisfying to start gardening and grow your own food… It engenders a sense that life is good, and life is simple! Gardening teaches us patience, hard work, and helps us get outside and enjoy the fresh air! And the reward for all your work… Is the satisfying fresh foods that nourish our bodies and soul.
How To Start A Garden:
Start a Garden in Any Size Yard!
Learn how to start a garden in your yard… No matter the size! For the last 15 years we’ve lived in several different homes where I have learned how to start a garden in different yards. Lately we’ve been on acreage where there has been plenty of room for a big garden… BUT we lived on a very small subdivision lot in Arizona for 5 years, and had a nice little garden that was only about 4’x12′. Although that isn’t even close to the size we have now, we grew tomatoes, squash, cilantro and mellons. No matter where we are there is always enough room for a garden!
We’ve also landscaped our yard (in Arizona) with several fruit trees that we really enjoyed including: a orange tree, a fig tree and a pomegranate tree that I LOVED! So, no matter where you live, there are so many ways to enjoy gardening and grow and your own food!
Step 1 – The Best Location To Start A Garden
The first, and most important, step in starting a garden is picking the right spot where it will get plenty of sun, water and where the ground is pretty level.
You want an area that gets lots of sunshine, has little shade, because most garden plants mature faster with full sun. Some vegetables like peas do alright in shady areas, but most vegetables, and mellons, need lots of sun to mature in season. You’ll want a place that has a water hose close by, or drip live that you can hook into close by.
I like garden areas with south and west sun exposure because we live in the northwest of the US and our sun shines from the south and west for most hours of the day. I actually do have shade in my garden on the east side, but it’s only there for a few hours in the morning during the season, so it still works great!
Step 2 – Weed Barrier & Making Beds
There are a couple of different types of garden beds you can use when you start a garden:
- The most common garden beds beginners use when they are learning how to start a garden are rows in the ground. These are the easiest to make, the cheapest because it only costs your labor, and they give you the most growing space because you are only limited to your location. All you need to do is line out your rows, most people use string to make sure they are straight, then till it up or soften the dirt with a pitchfork, and weed the area.
2. The second type of bed is containers, like pots, water tanks, boats, whatever you can imagine plants growing out of. Pot are easy but costs more. You are limited in space in pots but also can get more production in pots because nutrients don’t diminish into the dirt when you’re growing in pots. HOWEVER, plants in pots require much more frequent watering because they dry out much faster. So they take more attention on a daily basis unless you put your pots on an automatic drip watering system.
3. The third type of garden bed is raised beds, which I really like. I do use an automatic watering system which makes garden maintenance much easier. With raised beds, you have much less weeding than you have with rows strait in the ground. That’s because we line the walkways between the raised beds with weed barrier and rocks (or wood chips).
- Source wood to build garden beds.
- Build Raised Beds – Learn how I did it here.
- Install weed barrier to prevent weeds in walk paths.
- Plan how you’ll lay out your garden and arrange beds.
- Fill your garden beds.
- Install a drip line (highly recommended).
- Cover weed barrier in walkways! Learn in more detail how to build raised garden beds here!
Step 3 – Choose What You’ll Grow
The best advice for picking what to grow is to GROW WHAT YOU WANT TO EAT! Don’t waste time, space, and energy growing food that your family won’t eat. If you like spaghetti then grow tomatoes, basil, onions, and garlic! Want to make salsa? Grow Roma tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and peppers! If you love pumpkin pie, grow pie pumpkins! If you love squash, choose a few varieties of them!
When you’ve decided what you want to grow, make sure those veggies will grow in your area and climate. You should find a planting zone map to find your planting zone, and then read the details of each plant to make sure it grows in your zone.
If you live in cold climates with a short growing season, you can start your garden plants inside to give them a head start, and make sure you can harvest them in season… Before the plants freeze at the first frost.
Before you plant your seeds indoors, check out this resource! Just put in your zip code and it will give you the best time to start seeds inside and outside.
How To Start A Garden: Step 4 – Starting Seeds Inside:
- When the time is right for your area, start your seeds inside!
- Buy seed starting trays with peat moss in them, or just use shallow baking pans and buy the peat moss or potting soil to put in them.
- Make marked rows so you remember what plants are in each row.
- Plant each seed a couple inches apart so they will be easy to transplant without damaging another plant.
- Water your seeds and cover with a lid or plastic wrap to keep them moist but still let the sunlight in.
- Keep the soil wet, but not drenched, on a daily basis. The easiest way, I know of, to water seeds at this stage is with a spray bottle that we can just mist the soil with a couple of times a day.
How to start a garden – Step 5: Prep Garden Bed SOIL
Nothing fancy here… Just remove any weeds in your garden beds, and add nutrients. You want to make sure that the dirt in your garden beds have the nutrients they need to grow healthy plants. You can mix into your dirt beds: cow or chicken manure, mulch, or packaged garden soil (like miracle grow) before planting! This will ensure that you have plenty of nutrition for your plants to get a good start.
Step 6 – Planting Seeds or Starts Into Your Garden Beds!
I like to draw out on paper how I’ll organize my garden beds, and where each type of plant will go… TIP: I don’t put any of your mellons by cucumbers because they cross-pollinate and a cucumber tasting mellon isn’t what you want. So make sure your vine plant types are separated by space and other plants.
Read each seed package or plant label before plants to make sure you give each plant enough space.
Label your beds so you remember what you planted where and what your plants are before they start producing.
Check the Farmers Almanac and see when the right time in your area is to plant starts outside, or when to directly plant your seeds. Usually, you can safely plant your starts one to two weeks after the last frost date for your location.
BEFORE planting your starts outside… You need to harden your starts by bringing them outside for just a couple of hours every day for a few days before planting them outside. This helps tender starts develop harder stems so they are able to withstand the colder temps outside, especially at night.
Watering Your Garden
I really love using an automatic drip system for the garden! You set it up when you are building your beds, install the drippers or sprinklers and set it on a daily timer. This works great because you don’t have to worry about your plants dying from dehydration. This is a little trial and error with setting the duration of watering times… Make sure your soil stays wet, but don’t flood after it’s watered.
If you are going to water your plants by hand, make sure you set a schedule to daily water your beds. You want to make sure your beds stay moist but not flooded. So check the moisture levels daily and make sure your soil is wet, but not drenched.
Weeding The Garden
This is the part that some people don’t like, but I find that ten minutes in the garden a day, even weeding is refreshing and nurturing for my spirit! TIP: If you’re doing a raised bed garden, use a high-quality weed barrier like this one between rows to eliminate weeds in those areas!
“The Healing Garden” is more than a title… Gardens can heal the spirit! Some people might think of weeding as drudgery. However, after a busy day at work or with the kids, going into your garden and getting your hands dirty pulling a few weeds is satisfying! Soil is grounding in so many ways.
Weeding is something that yields results… AND those results last for a period of time, unlike cleaning your home. After you clean the house, it may stay clean for a few hours, but chances are, if you’re like us, things get left out or dropped on the floor and left there. Before you know it your house needs cleaning again, or the dishes need doing again. It’s inevitable.
The garden is different! When you weed your garden, those weds are gone for good… And new weeds take a week, or so, to grow! The results of weeding stay for about a week. You can look out on your beautiful garden daily and enjoy the fruits of your labor before harvest ever comes by just enjoying your weeded garden!
HARVESTING YOUR GARDEN!
You’ve worked so HARD and now you get to enjoy the rewards! This is when the fruits of your labors are actually edible. Your tomatoes are ripe, the squash is big and beautiful. All those peppers are big and juicy. Your carrots are big, orange, and stiff. And the list goes on! TIP: think of harvest times and when you want fresh veg… We plant things like kale because I can harvest it all winter long if I want to.
I also really like to harvest during the season as I’m getting ready to cook dinner! My entire family LOVES going out to the garden and picking the freshest ingredients for my chili, salad, or whatever I’m making! It’s the best feeling ever to know you are eating the most nutritious fruits and vegetables.
Harvesting the garden for storage crops depends on the growth of your plants. Make sure you harvest your plants at their peak of ripeness! And prepare them for storage in your root cellar, canning, or fermenting!
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