This How to Start a Garden series will teach you how to successfully get a great harvest from your vegetable garden, no matter how large! Planning is the first and most important step!
There are many factors to take into consideration, when planning your vegetable garden! Armed with professional information, you can have a succesful harvest!
Many of my return readers know that I have a degree in Ornamental Horticulture, from Cornell University. Using the knowledge gained from my education, I somewhat specialize in “Farm to Table” cuisines! I have had several readers request a post to help them be successful growing their own fruits and vegetables. So here is the first part of the series, How to Start a Garden, Planning!
Planning your vegetable garden is the place to start! With great planning, you can have an amazing harvest of fruits and vegetables the entire growing season and make more fresh, delicious, healthy food for your family to eat!
- Steps Involved in Planning Your Vegetable Garden
- Finding Out Your Soil Type
- Determining Your Gardens’ Orientation
- Choosing Which Crops To Plant When Starting A Garden
- Crops to Avoid Planting in the Home Garden
- Heavy Feeders
- Insect and Disease Magnets
- Large Crops that Require a Big Garden
- Watering Requirements
- Crop Rotation
- Companion Planting
- How Many Plants to Grow to Feed Your Family
- Can I Use a Raised Bed Garden?
- Container Gardens
- Summary of How to Start a Garden
- Delicious Recipes to Make with the Produce from Your Garden on Binky’s Culinary Carnival
- Tools I Use to Plant My Garden
- How to Start a Garden
- How to Start a Garden; Planning
Steps Involved in Planning Your Vegetable Garden
There are several things you need to do before you can sit down and actually plan though.
Finding Out Your Soil Type
Determining what soil type you have will help you decide which crops will flourish in your particular soil! There are many ways to find out what soil type you have.
- Many garden centers will run a soil test on your soil, at no charge. Some charge a nominal fee.
- State Agricultural Departments are happy to give you a soil analysis, for a small fee.
- Online Companies
- Do it Yourself
The 3 important properties of your soil to test are pH, Moisture, Nutrient levels. Having access to this information will not only help to pick the crops that are best suited for your garden soil, it will save you money on unneeded fertilizers and soil amendments.
Determining Your Gardens’ Orientation
After determining your soil type, determine the direction that your garden is positioned. Mine is planted north to south. You can plan a garden that also is layed out east/west, with some modifications.
Why is it important to know this? In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is stronger in the south than it is in north, therefore, you want to plan your garden, so that the tallest plants are on the North side of your garden. This way they won’t block the sun from the next row further south. (Reverse this for Southern Hemisphere. Closer to equator, it won’t matter)
This will help you with productivity and insect/ disease mangement, throughout the growing season!
How do you determine your gardens’ orientation? There are 2 ways.
- a simple compass (Your car probably has one!)
- Observe where the sun rises and sets. (Sun rises in the East and sets in the West, this will give you an approximation.)
Once you have these two major pieces of information, you can move to the plants to choose for your garden!
Choosing Which Crops To Plant When Starting A Garden
There are, again, several factors to consider when you are deciding which crops you want to plant
- Size of garden
- Ultimate size of crop plant
- Sun requirements of each different crop
- Moisture requirements of each different crop
- Fertilization requirement of different crops
All of the factors above will determine which, and how many of each crop you should consider growing, and where to place them in your garden. Crops that thrive in similar light and moisture requirements will ultimately be more healthy and produce more, than crops that are misplaced. 🙂
Deciding how big of a garden you want to deal with is the first step. My advice, and heed it well, is to go small and work your way up in later years. Gardens are a lot of work! It will take you time and experience to learn which weeds you can let grow a little bigger before you need to weed, how much to water, fertilize and monitor your plants for insects and diseases. Start Small!!
You will not be able to grow every every fruit and vegetable that you love to eat in your home garden, at first! (That is why farmer’s markets exist! 🙂 )
Crops to Avoid Planting in the Home Garden
- Cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts)
- Cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts)
Large Crops that Require a Big Garden
- Certain of the squash family, ie; Birdhouse Gourds
- Cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts)
Notice how some crops made it to all 3 lists above! My best advice is to stay away from them at first. This is not to say that you can absolutely NOT plant them, just know they will take extra care!
You can find the moisture requirements of every crop you grow, either online, or on the package of seed. They will say things like
- requires well drained soil
- will tolerate heavy soils
- keep evenly moist
Position plants that like the same amount of water near each other, to avoid overwatering some and letting others dry out too much!
Just as with watering, it is a good idea, when planning your garden, to group crops that are heavy feeders vs. light feeders in adjacent locations to each other. That way you can fertilize your heavy feeders, without overfertilizing the light feeders.
The choice of fertilizer you use is up to you. There are 3 basic types of fertilizers;
- Natural, ie; aged animal manure, food scrap compost, etc.
- Commercially available Organic
- Inorganic, man made chemicals
Crop rotation is the practice of moving the position of crops from year to year in the garden. It is good practice, to say the least. Rotating your crops will help you maintain healthy soil and lessen insect and disease spread from year to year.
Companion Planting, is another horticultural practice that places groups of plants that benefit from each other in certain ways, which will, again, increase your crops’ yield. The benefits could be improved growth, increased yield, attraction of predators of common pests and repelling pests, to name a few.
Examples of Companion Plants Include;
- Carrots and Radishes
- Tomatoes and Basil
- Cucumber and Nasturtium
- Lettuce and Chives
How Many Plants to Grow to Feed Your Family
Obviously, the size of your family and the quantities you can eat in a given period of time are huge factors here. The other consideration that you may not think of, are how much a single plant of a variety will produce. This, coupled with how much room in the garden your crop will take, can help you determine this when Planning Your Garden.
Certain food crop groups are very prolific suppliers. (the above photo is summer squash that got away from me and was too large to eat!) The first that comes to mind are the squashes. 3-4 healthy squash plants can literally yield 100’s of fruit. Plant these sparingly. For my family this is plenty, because summer squash (yellow and zucchini) is more difficult to process and has less uses, because they don’t freeze well.
Can I Use a Raised Bed Garden?
Raised gardens are great for older people, who can not bend as far, or as long, to weed and maintain their garden. They are also great for individuals with poor soils that are overly clayey (therefore don’t drain), sandy (require excessive amounts of watering) or low in nutrients, organic matter. They are perfect for singles, couples, and small suburban lots.
Add good organic matter and soil, peat moss and some sand to the mixture in the raised beds, to ensure a successful harvest. I could do an entire post on soil mixtures and will in the future.
There are several advantages to container gardening for planting your vegetable garden
- City dwellers
- Singles or couples
- They are totally portable from year to year
- You can rotate the crop from year to year to lessen feeding and pests.
- You can grow them right outside your door, with enough sun.
- Easy watering.
- Easy maintenance, ie; weeding.
Summary of How to Start a Garden
Now that you have all of the information you need, grab a sheet of graph paper and a seed catalog, and plan away! Draw each crop on the graph paper to scale. Do not overcrowd. Leave paths so that you have access to each plant to maintain and harvest the fruits of all of your labor! There are a couple of online sites that offer a design planner. The above plan I did in about 15 minutes at The Old Farmer’s Almanac! It is easy to use and free. If you buy a subscription, it will email you planting reminders and other important tasks. It will also help you with companion plant grouping and crop rotation, year after year, among other things.
Delicious Recipes to Make with the Produce from Your Garden on Binky’s Culinary Carnival
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I hope this article for How to Start a Garden, Planning was helpful to you!
If you have any questions, at all about how to start a garden, let me know in the comments below! I would love to hear from you, and I would be happy to answer your questions!!!
Don’t miss the next article in this series, Preparing your site. Thanks for stopping by today!
Enjoy! And have fun cooking!
Tools I Use to Plant My Garden
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How to Start a Garden; Planning
- 1 no materials required
- How to Start a Garden; Planning tipsTable Of ContentsSteps Involved in Planning Your Vegetable GardenFinding Out Your Soil TypeDetermining Your Gardens’ OrientationChoosing Which Crops To Plant When Starting A GardenCrops to Avoid Planting in the Home GardenHeavy FeedersInsect and Disease MagnetsLarge Crops that Require a Big GardenWatering RequirementsFertilizationCrop RotationCompanion PlantingHow Many Plants to Grow to Feed Your FamilyCan I Use a Raised Bed Garden?Container GardensSummary of How to Start a GardenDelicious Recipes to Make with the Produce from Your Garden on Binky’s Culinary CarnivalTools I Use to Plant My GardenTools to help you plan your gardenplastic (be sure you have a source to recycle it!)the best weeding tool on the planet!rototillerwheelbarrow
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