Gardening Tips for Beginners
Grower shares gardening tips for beginners to help get their gardens off to a great start.
Gardening tips for the greenhorn.
Vegetable gardening is not for the faint of heart: I have learned the hard way.
For several years I tried to raise my own vegetables by researching what I thought I needed to know. Each time I applied what I learned, I was then thwarted by something totally unexpected.
Take my broccoli and cabbage patches, for instance. For two years, I planted broccoli and cabbage, and each year the plants grew beautiful leaves but no heads. After the first year, I changed seed companies, so I was frustrated the second year when I had the same results. After digging in with research, I discovered that the stress of extreme temperatures from planting too early or too late can result in beautiful leaves and no heads.
Not knowing what questions to ask until something fails is frustrating, time consuming and expensive.
Planning everything well in advance — from where to plant, how to prepare soil, what to plant, what not to plant near what, what kinds of seeds to buy, and when to plant what — is key to getting off to a great start. Here are some gardening tips for beginners.
Where to plant a garden
The actual spot you choose for your garden is not half as important as what you do with it. Choosing an area in the fall saves you time and money in the spring; when you prepare your garden soil in the fall, you can add nutrients in less costly ways. For instance, in the fall you can add matured compost with animal elements — like fish and dried horse or cow manure — on top of your garden area. This gives them time to break down sufficiently before spring tilling. At the same time, you can mulch fall leaves into the garden to add carbon and trace minerals to balance all the nitrogen.
All you need is a place that is relatively flat. It can’t be constantly shaded or swampy for long periods of time. The flat and swampy problems can usually be fixed with hard work, but the area must have full sun for most, if not all, of the day. Planting in long, narrow, rectangular beds from east to west usually gives you the best sun exposure for the longest periods of the day. This shape also lets you tend your beds without stepping on the soil.
Grass, weeds and good soil drainage can be handled by enclosing your garden bed areas with untreated wood, or bricks and stones. Place cardboard or newspaper inside the garden area to kill the grass several weeks before you trench or fall till, and then put your dried manures and fall leaves over your prepared garden. This all breaks down by spring and can then be easily tilled or hoed for planting.
For landscaping and practical concerns, if you put plastic down in between your bed areas (or around the outside of a single garden area) and cover it with straw or a large coarsely chopped mulch, grass will have less opportunity to interfere with your planting areas. This also will make it easier to walk around the area to weed after it rains, and it looks good, too.
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