IN THE GARDEN: Answer these questions before digging in
Before planning a garden, you need to answer some questions.
The most important question has already been answered: Should you plant a garden?
Hopefully, the answer is a resounding "yes!"
So, let’s get started.
First, it is perfectly OK to have several types of gardens growing at once. For instance: One of our favorites is a salad ingredient garden planted in a wheelbarrow. Using a wheelbarrow makes your garden mobile. You can move it close to your kitchen.
Ask yourself what you would like to plant in your garden. Perhaps start with a grocery list and choose the vegetables and fruits you most often purchase. Or, maybe grow vegetables you haven’t tried in awhile or your children's or grandchildren’s favorites. (Side note: We have discovered that little and big helpers are more inclined to help if it is their favorite food they are harvesting.)
Now that you have made a list of the vegetables, herbs, and fruits you would like to plant, how are you going to organize them?
ORGANIZING YOUR GARDEN
First, test your soil. Knowing the nutrient base of your soil before you plant is imperative.
Second, what type of sunlight will the plot you have chosen receive? Try this exercise to find out. On a day you are home, check the sunlight at all hours. Choose your planting spot and, each hour, go outside to see if it is still receiving sunlight. Remember to look up. If there is a nearby dormant tree that has lost its leaves for the winter, it could perhaps cast shadows during the spring and summer.
Next, determine the drainage of the soil. Dig several holes 6 inches deep in the garden area and fill them with water. Step back and watch. Is the ground soaking up the water or is the water standing still? If the water is still sitting in the hole after four hours, you’ll need to adjust for water drainage. Without proper drainage, you could encounter negatives such as root rot.
Now that you have checked soil, sunlight, and drainage, how would you like to organize your garden? One option is by meal. For instance: Place the vegetables and herbs you would use to cook an Italian meal on one side of your garden. Or, as we mentioned earlier, you can place all of your salad ingredients in one spot.
Another option is companion gardening, placing together plants that help each other. The classic example is Three Sisters companion gardening. Native Americans would plant together beans, corn, and squash. Beans are great for putting nitrogen into the soil. The corn stalk provides a pole for the beans to grow up and on. Squash shades the ground to regulate temperature and deter weeds.
You can also plant vegetables and herbs together with one repelling the insects that are disastrous to other.
A final suggestion is to have several patchwork gardens. Perhaps your favorite herb prefers a shady spot. Or, like us, you enjoy the beauty of a zucchini flower and would like to have a small section around your home where neighbors can enjoy the blooming yellow as well.
As you can see, there is no set way to organize your garden.
Now that you have your “theme” established, we have found it useful to draw a plan. Gentle reminder for when and where you place your fruits and vegetables: Leave wiggle room for runner plants. Last year, we placed cantaloupe, melons, and yellow squash at the corners of our gardens.
Until next time, keep your souls and soles in your garden!
Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1
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