1. Get and idea. Is this going to be a vegetable garden? An herb garden? A flower garden? If you choose to grow flowers, do you want annuals, which you must replant each year but give color most of the summer? Or do you prefer perennials, which have a shorter bloom time but come back year after year? You can mix any of the above! Our #1 tip? Start small. It’s better to succeed just a little, than to fail grandly.
2. Pick a place. Almost all vegetables and most flowers need about six hours of sun each day. Spend a day in your chosen spot and watch how the sun moves across the space. It might receive more sun than you think. But don’t despair if your lot is largely sunless; many plants tolerate shade. Check plant tags or ask the staff at your local garden center to find out how much sun a plant requires.
3. Clear the ground. Get rid of the sod covering the area you plan to plant. If you want quick results, you can dig it out, but it’s easier to smother it with newspaper. A layer of five sheets is uaully thick enough. Spread a 4 inch layer of potting soil/top soil on the newspaper and wait. It will take about four months for the compost and paper to decompose.
4. Improve the soil. Almost always, soil needs a boost. The solution is simple. Add a 2-3 inch layer of compost, decayed leaves or dry grass clippings.
5. Digging loosens the soil so roots can penetrate more easily. But digging when the soil is too wet or too dry can ruin it’s structure. Dig only when the soil is moist.
6. Pick your plants. Choose plants that have adapted to your climate, your soil and the amount of sunlight in your garden. You can even surf the Internet for plants to purchase. Here are some ideas:
- Annual: cosmos marigolds, impatiens, and geraniums
- Perennials: Russian sage, lamb’s ears and black-eyed susans
- Vegetables: lettuce, peppers and tomatoes
7. Put them in the ground. Some plants, such as pansies and kale, tolerate cold, so you can plant them in autumn or late winter. Tomatoes and most annual flowers, on the other hand, are touchy about cold, so don’t plant them until the warmer months. Midspring and midautum are good times to plant perennial flowers. Some plants, such as lettuce and sunflowers, are easy to grow from seed. You can sow them directly in the garden. Be sure to read the seed packet for information about when to plant, how deep to plant, and how far apart to plant the seeds.
8. Water. Seedlings should never dry out, so water daily while they are small. Taper off as the plants get larger. New transplants also need frequent watering - every other day or so – until their roots become established. After that, how often you need to water depends on your soil, how humid your climate is, and how often it rains.
9. Mulch. To help keep weeds out and water in, cover the soil with a couple of inches of mulch. All sorts of mulch are available, from pine needles to cocoa hulls to bark chips. For a vegetable garden or bed of annuals, choose a mulch that decomposes in a few months. For perennials, use a longer-lasting mulch, such as bark chips.
10. Keep it up. Your garden is on its way. Keep watering when needed, and pull weeds before they get big. Fertilize with a dry fertilizer about halfway through the season.
Remember to enjoy your garden… and stop and smell the flowers!