Type of Garden bed: Raised bed, container garden, vertical garden, traditional gardening in rows, etc. Each type of bed has its pros and cons. It can be a preference of design, yield, as well as a space issue. Either way, take careful consideration when choosing the style of garden you will start. I chose raised garden beds for many reasons, garden design as I think raised beds have a nice visual appeal, as well as I am able to have more control of the soil composite.
Soil: My preference is Organic compost which I was able to get in a bulk quantity from a local company. I chose this route because I wanted a lot of really great soil and didn’t want to pay by the bag. Buying bulk is definitely a more cost effective way to go. Whatever soil you choose it is always important to have soil that is loose and drains well. You can amend and enrich your native soil by adding chicken or cow manure, compost, worm castings, and natural mulch etc.
Pollinators: Plant a lot of flowers! Flowers do more than just look pretty, they invite necessary pollinators to your garden. Many vegetables and fruits require pollination to occur in order to produce fruits and veggies. Hand pollinating is something that I have done in the past but I quickly learned just how important the pollinators are as they have a big job to do.
What to plant: The types of veggies and fruits to plant is a personal preference. When choosing keep in mind how much space these plants take up verses how much they will yield. For example: Watermelons and pumpkins take up A LOT of space. So think about how many melons you will get and how much space they will take up and that should help you determine what to choose. You may also want to consider choosing varieties that may do better in your growing zone or that may be more disease resistant in your climate.
Where to plant: Take a good look at your yard, balcony, patio, etc., to see what areas are getting Full Sun, Partial Sun, Indirect Sun and for how long they are getting this sun as the proper amount of sunlight is very important for your plants to grow to their optimal size/yield.
When to plant: Growing Zone and time of year do play an important role when planning your garden. I made this mistake when I first planted my garden and I planted EVERYTHING! This was a bad idea because I was quickly approaching peak summer in Florida which is way too hot for many vegetables and I was just asking for trouble. The good thing is I learned from my mistakes so I can share them with you and in return you can avoid the wasted time and effort.
Spacing: How many seeds or seedlings to plant in a specified amount of space is more important than you may think. I discovered that less is more as I initially wanted to plant a bunch of seeds in my garden. I soon came to realize that they would just choke each other out and not produce because there wasn’t enough nutrients for all of the plants to thrive. Also, improper spacing does not allow for proper airflow which is very important to help avoid diseases. It is very important to know how much space each plant requires before planting so take heed to the instructions on the back of your seed packet. Some plants grow outward, some vertical, some will be more like a bush when others will vine and can grow several feet in length.
Companion planting: Certain plants like or benefit from being planted next to each other and others can cause big problems whether it is competition for nutrients, or they both attract the same wrong insects, companion planting can be an excellent tool to use when planning out your garden. Bio Diversity is crucial when planting a garden as it invites a wide variety of good bugs such as lady bugs which in return helps to provide a natural protection for your garden plants from the undesirable bugs.
Watering: Under-watering or overwatering can cause a lot of problems in your garden. Boy I made this mistake in spades! It is possible to love your plants too much by overwatering them. I loved some of my plants to death! Overwatering can cause root rot and a multitude of problems with fungus’ and other diseases. Under-watering can basically choke and starve the plant of much needed nutrients. Balance is key for a healthy plant. I choose to hand water my plants as It allows me the opportunity to stay connected and observe the health of the plants on a regular basis. I also water at the soil level, watering the roots only and not the leaves, fruit or blossoms of the entire plant as this can cause health issues and get the plant sick.
Seeds, seedlings, and newly transplanted plants will require the soil to stay moist in order to “take root” or germinate. You should understand how much water each type of plant needs to stay healthy. Check the moisture level of your soil regularly. A good way to check the moisture content of your soil is to physically check to see how wet or dry your soil is. You can do this by sticking your index finger in the soil approximately 2 inches (up to your second knuckle). It may be wet, moist, or even bone dry. Whatever it is just stay on top of it and make necessary adjustments as the soil can dry up quickly depending the soil composite, amount of sunlight and/or rain it gets’, as well as how much the plants consume (some plants drink more than others).
Labeling: It seems so simple but it is easily forgotten. Label your plants when you plant them as you will forget what seed you sowed. I made this mistake with my tomato seedlings and some peppers and I had no idea what type I was growing…
ENJOY! Visit your garden daily if possibly as this is a way to get ahead of any problems like pests and/or diseases that may arise. Things can get out of hand very quickly if you are not attending and observing your garden on a regular basis. Once the pests locate your garden they can overtake it and kill off the plants that you have put much time, love, and energy into. This is a lesson that I learned the hard way. Love your plants and they will love you back. Feed your plants and they will in return feed you and provide sustenance.
Check out my PERMACULTURE section for tips on how to garden and develop a food forest naturally. THE PROBLEM IS THE SOLUTION!