"I Want A Garden, But I Don't Know Where To Start."

“I Want A Garden, But I Don’t Know Where To Start.”

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Ahhh summertime! The sun is shining, all of the flowers have bloomed, gardens are coming alive, and people are back to spending the majority of their time outside. Here in Alabama, we are spending most of our summer days by a pool, creek, or on the river and nights at the ballpark.

At our nursery, we are constantly encountering customers who are curious in starting a garden but aren’t sure where to start. As a matter of fact, most of those that are interested have said for years that they would like to start a garden! Instead of taking action, they say “I’ll do it next year!” 

Starting a garden can be a bit frightening because there are a lot of different ways to tend to your garden, and everyone has their own tips and tricks. The most important thing to keep in mind when talking to your neighbor whose backyard looks like a garden eutopia is that no garden is the same! A little planning can go long way for the success of your future garden. There are different types of gardens and sizes for different lifestyles. It is very important in order to have a successful garden that you understand the size and type of garden that is practical for you and your life!

1. Decide What You Want To Grow 

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When thinking of what veggies you want to grow, pick our foods that your household will eat. This makes things exciting when they are ready to eat! This may seem like a given - however we encounter many people who pick vegetables solely because they are easy to grow. That is fine if you have a lot of people to give your veggies away to! However, most people find that they are producing more unwanted vegetables than they can give away! There are many vegetables that are great for people that are starting their first garden.

Vegetables

  • Watermelon (1-2 seeds) 
  • Green beans (About 120 p. plant)

  • Cucumbers (About 10 p. plant)

  • Tomatoes (About 10-15 lbs p. plant)

  • Squash (About 5-25 lbs p. plant)

  • Peppers (Varies depending on type of pepper)

  • Corn (About 12-20 heads p. plant)

2. Where Do You Want Your Garden?

Generally most plants/vegetables need at least 5 hours of sunlight per day, but gardens in the south typically benefit from late afternoon shade. Make sure that you place your garden in a place that will be able to catch enough of that afternoon summer shade. If you have pets that could access your garden area, I recommend a fence to protect your garden from pets and wildlife that could come and eat your crops. Also, another thing to think about when figuring out where to place your garden is the accessibility. Is it close to the water facet? Do you see this area a lot so it’s not easy to ignore? Outside of your backdoor, mailbox, and your front porch are great areas to place your garden.

3. Test Your Soil

Do you know your soil type? It is important to know the levels of the soil you are going to be feeding your plants too. Is it acidic, alkaline, or neutral pH? What is your soil mostly made up of?  Does it have basic nutrients? Are there a lot of rocks in your soil? Most Garden crops are around a pH of 7. You can purchase a home testing kit around $10 and figure out exactly what you need to add or take away. If you are more of a DIY person, you can take a mason jar test!

Mason Jar Testing

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  1. Fill your mason jar halfway with soil from your garden

  2. Add water about one inch from the top

  3. Put the lid on the jar and shake

  4. Let it settle for about 4 hours

  5. Examine the layers that form

The bottom layer should be rocks and sand, next up is the slit layer, and then the top layer should be clay. There should be twigs and stems floating in your water also. Don’t forget when making your soil, to add natural manure, leaves, twigs, and earthworm castings, if you can get them, this will help your garden thrive.

After you have conducted a soil test and know what you’re dealing with we recommend using this Soil Calculator to perfect your soil.

4. Plan Your Garden Beds 

 A Green Valley Nursery hand-drawn, personalized plot for your garden!

A Green Valley Nursery hand-drawn, personalized plot for your garden!

Once you have figured out where your garden will be, the next step of course is what kind of bed you will have. One of the most common types are the raised boxes, these are great for easy access to work in your garden, but they do dry out faster. Having a small garden isn’t a bad thing, a well-tended produce garden can actually produce more than a large poorly-tended garden. When you are spacing out your plants make sure to give them enough space to grow. Our owner, Ken Irby, can create a beautiful handmade graph to help you plot out your garden.  Crowded beds usually struggle to thrive. You can design these beds out of wood, pipe, or old livestock water tanks. Be creative, let this garden express your personality!

 

 

5. Invest In Basic Garden Tools 

You will need the basics to get you started such as: Garden Hoe, Scuffle Hoe, Dirt Rake, Leaf Rake, Garden Shovel, and Hand Tools. We recommend avoiding cheaper, plastic tools. Gardening can take a toll on your body that you will feel the next day. When you have good quality tools it will save a lot of time, pain, and money of repurchasing items if were poor quality. A better set of tools can really help make the difference!

6. Care For Your Garden 

Now that you have done the groundwork (literally), you can now plant your flowers/vegetables. The right amount of sun and water is what it takes for your garden to grow. This differs in each plant, considering each one needs to receive different care.

Vegetables

  • Green beans (Easy)
  • Cucumbers (Easy)

  • Tomatoes (Easy)

  • Squash (Easy)

  • Peppers (Easy)

  • Corn (Easy)

  • Watermelon (Easy)

Regularly working in your garden keeps you ahead of the game and also lets you see the progress of your gardens progress very often. Be proud of your garden, big or small. This is a huge accomplishment and it takes a lot of hard work to maintain. If you have any questions or help along the way, Everyone here at Green Valley wants to see you succeed and love your garden! We will help you in anyway possible.

Stay tuned for our next blog post. We are going to be breaking down the vegetables mentioned in today’s article and tell you how to get rid of pests, save dying plants, and more.