How to start planning for your garden.

Tomatoes did really well last year

Gardening is in my blood, well at least I like to think so, it took me a long time to get my green thumb, but I would always see my mom tending her garden and I always thought it be cool to have my own one day. Contrary to popular belief you can learn how to garden, you don’t have to be born with this mystical power to keep plants alive. I hate to admit this but I have killed many a plant, but I learned that it’s all trial and error. Eventually you’ll find your groove and discover that your green thumb has been there all along.

Now with that being said, it’s probably best that you do your research before planting your garden. First you have to figure out which zone you’re in, then you have to decide what you want to grow. Our first real year of having a garden we grew what we bought from the store, lots of tomatoes, basil, carrots, and thyme. Over the years we have expanded to more plants than that. This year I want to branch out and try to grow some more heirloom varieties, so I did some research and found two new seed companies that had some interesting variety of seeds. I really want to make sure that I have a high germination rate this year and decided to spend a little more money on seeds this year and not just rely on what’s available at the grocery store.

I chose these companies because other people I follow have used them and have had great success. One seed company that I’m using is Seeds Now and they have really great information and tools to help you have a really successful grow. The other site I decided to order from was Baker Creek Seeds. With me taking my photography more seriously, this year I wanted to grow funky produce that would be visually interesting. Their site has so many cool varieties of vegetables that it was hard not to want to buy them all. My wishlist on this site is definitely a mile long. Expect to see a lot of still life pictures of funky vegetables this year.

Things to consider…

  • Decide where to put your garden. Whether you’re planning to have a small herb garden, or a large crop you have to figure out where you’re going to put it. You have to take in to consideration how much sun does this spot receive, and how you’re going to water your plants.
  • Choose what to grow and order your seeds. This is where you want to refer to a grow zone chart and make sure that what you want to grow, will actually grow. You don’t want to grow a tropical plant when where you live has really harsh winters. Once you get your seeds check to see which ones you can start indoors, it’s often best to start your plants indoors when possible, this will insure that your plants will thrive during the growing season. Your plants will need to be harden off before you place them in their permanent home outdoors.
  • Decide where to put your plants. You want to make sure that you plant all your full sun plants in spots that receive 6 or more hours of sunlight. Also you want to make sure you’re not blocking any other plants from getting sun, for example don’t plant a bean pole in front of your tomatoes that need full sun. It’s also good for your plants to have company, this is called companion planting. When you pair up certain types of plants they help to keep away pest and encourage growth, plus it helps your garden look pretty. I like to use the growing guides here to figure out where I’m going to place my plants. The Old Farmers Almanac also has a plant growing guide that you could use as well, but it’s a 7 day trial. It looked really convenient for figuring out where to plant, but I like fussing over my hand drawn diagrams.
  • Prepare your soil.   You will need to amend your soil. I like to add compost to my raised garden beds to help add nutrients back in to the soil. Your soil should smell earthy and should be a rich dark brown color.
  • Waiting to plant at the right time. I know that whenever I get my seeds, I get really anxious and want to start planting them right away, but over the years I’ve learned that it’s best to wait until the appropriate time. Sometimes I will label the seed packets in bold to remind myself when to start them.
  • Plant the seeds according to their directions. Almost all seed companies will give you instructions on how to germinate their seeds and what conditions are best for each plant. It’s important to follow these instructions correctly, this will be a determining factor in making sure that your seeds pop.
  • Weed regularly. This is the part that I hate the most and I’m often guilty of not doing. You don’t want to let this chore go for too long, that’s why it’s best to do it everyday. Mulching and adding a layer of compost on top help to suppress weeds as well.
Watermelon blossom

A couple more pieces of advice…

  • Start small and don’t be to over ambitious. This is something that I’m definitely guilty of (especially this year with my she shed) I bite off more than I can chew and end up with really poor crops.
  • Grow tomatoes or basil if this is your first time growing anything from seed. I’ve always had luck with these plants, they’re very easy to grow especially for beginners. Another good plant to start with are beets, they have a short grow period and are ready to harvest within 45 days, this is nice if you’re an impatient person.
  • Don’t let not having a backyard stop you from having a garden. If you can’t have a backyard garden, you should have at least a container garden, either on your balcony or near a south facing window. There are so many thing you can grow in containers from vegetables to herbs and the best part you don’t have to deal with weeding!
  • Gardening is about patience. It’s easy for an antsy person either to get bored or forget about plants, so make sure you set reminders on your phone to water/feed your plants when you have to.

Really just try to have fun and most of all just enjoy the process. I promise you it’s not that hard. Happy planting!

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