I often get asked about where to start when gardening. It is overwhelming when you first decide you want to start producing fruit and vegetables for yourself or others. There is no need to stress it too much though it isn’t that hard. It just takes some planning and time.
Step 1 Deciding what you want to plant
Knowing what you want to plant is the first step. Different plants have different requirements. Some plants need I higher or lower pH. Some need shade and others need more sun. Do the plants you want need space? Watermelons and cucumbers need lots of space where spinach and carrots don’t. You will also need to take note of what grows well together and what doesn’t this is especially important if you are growing things organically. You will want all the help you can get with bug control and companion planting goes a long way in helping in that regard.
Step 2 Choosing your location
The second step is deciding the best location on your land. I was fortunate enough that most of that was already decided for me. Even so, each year I have I have to decide what else and where I want to plant. This year I am planning to expand my blueberry and blackberry bushes. I have also decided on a new location for my cucumbers when I plant them for this years summer harvest. The 2 most important things to know when choosing a location is how much sun does it get and how well does it drain. You will want to make sure there is enough sun or dappled shade depending on what you want to plant. You will also want to be sure there is good drainage; most of my garden spots are on a hill.
Step 3 Check your soil pH
Now that you know what and where you want to plant you will want to get your soil tested. You can usually get this done free at your local agriculture extension office. This is generally done in the Spring or the Fall. It isn’t difficult to do and it will give you important details you need to know and it will be a great resource for any additional information. Here is the link for the University of Arkansas
Step 4 Preparing your soil
Based on the information you received about your soil from your soil testing sample you will want to add any needed nutrients. Obviously, you can go buy what you need from your local store. I prefer to do this from natural locally obtained resources as much as possible. I keep my coffee grounds from our morning coffee, I keep the egg shells from breakfast and I keep the ash from my fireplace. I use all these things in my garden.
The egg shells add calcium and when crushed shells are put around your plants they help keep the slugs away so they don’t destroy your crop. The coffee grounds provide several nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, copper, calcium, manganese, zinc and iron. Not only does it add beneficial nutrients to the soil but it improves the overall composition to your soil, will improve seed germination and plant growth. Best of all coffee grounds help prevent disease like fungal rot, wilt and bacterial pathogens. As for the ash it helps provide soil nutrients also. It contains calcium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese and zinc. Wood ash does have the ability to change the soil pH so use sparingly and apply several weeks before you plant. Ash is great for pest control just be careful to avoid layering it to thick and spread it out thinly as its accumulation increases pH level and salts in soil.
Step 5 Composting
If you haven’t started composting then you need to right away. Composting is the #1 most important thing you can do to have a beautiful garden that has minimal problems. The better your soil the less disease, fungus and bug issues you will have. I get so excited when we are working on our compost. We have two different types of compost bins. One compost pile is for leaves, grass clippings, and any light paper products such as coffee filters, we put our coffee grounds in it too. The other bin is for our food scraps, egg shells. We have red wrigglers in this bin that help break everything down. This particular compost bin is in an old bathtub so the liquid that drains from it goes into a five gallon bucket that we then use to make a compost tea to fertilize our garden throughout the season. When we are ready to use we combine the resulting compost from the two bins and apply to our garden beds or seed starting trays.
All that is left is to get started. There is nothing better than growing your own food. It tastes so much better than what you get from the store and knowing it is safe for you and your family is so rewarding.