Are you interested in gardening but don’t know when to start? I was also like you before, interested in starting a garden but not knowing what to do. Luckily, I knew some seasoned gardeners who offered me some valuable advice. I also did some research on my own. If you also have the same problem, relax! In this article, I am going to give you some simple tips on starting a garden from scratch.
It is recommended to test the soil for its pH and mineral levels before you start planting. You can do the soil test in your nearby extension office. Choose the place which receives high amount of sunlight and is near water sources. Once you decided on the place, you can start collecting soil samples for testing. Dig six inches- deep holes and get 5-10 samples when the soil is dry. You have to submit the collected samples and get tested; either these tests will be free or affordable. These test results will give you a clear idea on how much compost you have to add and the pH level of the soil. Usually you may have to add sulfur or lime to alter the pH or change the nutrient levels by adding nitrogen or potassium.
Composting will enhance the entry nutrients and improve the fertility of your soil. You can add your kitchen waste, leaves and grass to the compost which will become natural fertilizer. For sandy soil, compost will improve water retention and will add enormous amounts of humus. In case of clay soil, compost will be helpful to loosen up the clods so that water can percolate easily. It is good to prepare compost as soon as you decided to start a garden. Your compost is ready when you cannot see singular objects like a twig or a leaf.
Mulching will provide a high nutrient layer of soil. Add a layer or manure and then cardboard and few sheets of newspaper in the selected garden area and soak it. And then add leaves and straw over it. Allow the whole setup to sit for few months which will kill grass and weeds and the cardboard and compost will breakdown and form a nutrient-rich layer of soil.
Draw a rough layout of your garden and mark the paths. Three feet wider and lengthy straight beds are the ideal size for a beginner. Your path should be a minimum of two feet-wide so that you can walk in freely with hose or a wheelbarrow. You will need gardening tools like water hoses, shovels, rakes, pots and gardening gloves.
For a beginner, identifying the right spot, varieties and even watering may be difficult. The type of plants that can grow in your location varies with other location, season and climate. So the best way to get clarified is talking to a seasoned gardener or farmer in your area.
Eggplants need more sunlight; tomatoes have more different varieties. These choices and requirements vary so you have to clarify all your questions including pest control, weeding, watering and harvesting with a seasoned gardener in your neighbourhood.
As of now you may get some ideas from your fellow gardeners and it is time to list out the plants you want to grow. Like how you will make a list for travelling, you have to write down the list of plants you want to grow and consume. Your list should include vegetables and fruits that you will eat and also herbs and decorative plants like pesto. This list will be useful for you to grow exactly what you want and how much you want. For example, if you are interested in making your own spaghetti sauce, you should plant more tomatoes.
At this point you will be having your soil test report in your hand which can tell the pH and nutrient content. The normal range of pH for vegetable growth is 6.5 -7.0. If your soil has lower pH you have to add lime and if it is higher you have to add sulphur. Make sure that you don’t add too much of lime or sulphur which may be toxic to crops.
Regarding nutrients you have to find which are deficient for your plant growth. Buy good quality fertilizers according to your needs to enhance the soil nutrients. Organic compost will be your choice if your soil needs only fewer amounts of nutrients.
Take the layout which you did in the step 4 and start measuring the garden area. Mark the beds accurately and also the paths. The easier way to mark and dig is using a piece of string tied to two stakes and stretching them along the to-be-dug paths and beds to direct you as you dig. This cautious approach will be useful to get a clean look and easier navigation for hoses. And this step is not going to be repeated once your garden is all set.
At last, it is the time to plant your seeds now. You can get the planting instructions in seed packets itself and you may be aware of them through your neighbourhood gardeners. Within two years of gardening you will learn more and you can guide a newbie gardener.
Starting a garden from scratch: This is the way we do at UGR. Happy gardening!
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