Hey y’all! Since we’re quickly running out of time before gardening season is in full swing, I’m going to be cramming as much information in as possible in the next few weeks, hopefully without burning anyone out on the topic. 🙂
To start off, I want to share some of the information I learned at the gardening lecture I attended with a master gardener. I was a few minutes late (trying to feed some kids some dinner!), so I may have missed some good details on the first two points she covered, but I’ll share what I’ve got! 🙂
7 Points To A Successful Garden
- Raised Garden Bed
- Excellent Soil or Compost
- Proper Germination
- Adequate Sunshine
- Even Watering
- Proper Fertilization
Raised Bed: As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of the ground here in our area is just clay. You cannot grow a garden in clay. Well, not a good one anyway. So if you live in an area with difficult soil, the very first thing you need to do is make a raised bed. I like having borders on mine to contain the area, but your raised bed could be as simple as dumping a bunch of good soil in a mound. The height of your raised bed will be determined by what you want to plant. If you want plants/crops that have a simple root system, then about 6-8 inches deep would suffice. If you want to grow root crops (carrots, potatoes, onions, etc.) then you will want your bed to be a bit deeper (around 12 inches deep or so).
Excellent Soil or Compost: I’m so bummed I missed her information on this because I think it’s where I’m lacking most. But yes, excellent soil that is nutrient rich is definitely a key to a successful garden. The plants must have nutrients in order to grow well. If your soil is depleted of nutrients, the plants won’t thrive. If your soil is too sandy, all the nutrients and water you put in it will just wash away. So get some great soil to start with and you won’t regret it. I overheard a comment the master gardener made during a break in the meeting, and she said you’ll likely know if you’re buying good soil because it will be expensive. The cheap stuff is just blech. Don’t waste your money on it. (Uh… that might have been one of our initial problems.) 🙂 There are things you can do to enhance the soil you’ve got to make it more manageable, but that’s a whole topic on its own (we’ll try and get to that sometime!).
Proper Germination: Crops should be planted as early as possible in the spring and fall so the vegetables can grow and mature during ideal conditions. Sometimes this means you will need to start your seeds indoors (or purchase transplants instead of seeds) in order for plants to be outdoors at the optimal time. A tip for planting seeds, soak your seeds for 1-2 hours before you plant. This speeds up the germination process. (I soaked my lettuce seeds for about 2 hours prior to planting and they were popping up out of the ground 2-3 days later! We were shocked!)
Adequate Sunshine: Most plants/crops need full sun in order to grow well. This means they need a minimum of 6 hours of full sun each day. (So make sure you pick your garden location appropriately.)
Even Watering: She kind of glossed over this part, I guess assuming it’s pretty self-explanatory? But some things to know about watering are 1) use enough water to wet the soil down to at least 6 inches deep; 2) most gardens need about 1 inch of rain or irrigation per week during the growing season; 3) light, sandy soils need to be watered more often than heavier, dark soil and hot/dry areas need to be watered more often than more moderate climates; and 4) avoid getting the plant leaves wet if possible (a drip system is best), but if not, be sure to water in the mornings so the plants have time to dry before night (this will help prevent diseases from developing).
Proper Fertilization: Fertilization adds important nutrients to the soil to help the crops grow. There’s enough information on fertilizing to warrant its own post at a later date, but until then I’ve got a few good homemade tips. Sprinkle epsom salts around your trees, vegetables (peppers and tomatoes to be specific), or mix it into your soil prior to planting for better germination and growth (click HERE for application tips). You can do the same thing with alfalfa pellets (you can find them at a feed store… they’re rabbit food). And don’t forget your eggshells from the kitchen! Crunch those up and add them to your garden soil or compost pile for a boost of calcium (more on this to come as well!). Banana peels, orange peels… they’re all good for your garden and free from your kitchen!
Mulching: Confession, I have heard this term in use ever since I started trying to learn more about gardening, but hadn’t a clue what it meant and was too embarrassed to ask. So forgive me if this is old hat to some, but now that I know what it is, I’ll explain it for anyone who doesn’t yet know. 🙂 Mulch is a lot like compost in that it is simply ‘stuff’ (preferably organic stuff- leaves, pine needles, newspaper, etc) you add to your garden to help it grow. Mulch, however, is only added to the top of your soil (kind of like a blanket- and you don’t mix it in) and it’s purpose is to protect the plants by preventing weeds, aiding in even moistness of the soil, keeping bugs at bay, etc. You mulch in between your plants, but not on top of them. I will do another post on mulching in the coming weeks as well for more in depth information and details.
So there you have it. Seven helpful points to a beautiful, bountiful, successful garden. Stay tuned for some super cool ideas, deeper details, and top secret formulas to help your garden blossom and bloom! 🙂