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We’ve been talking about planting your first garden here for a few weeks. Today I want to share a few tips to help you plan for a successful first garden. These are things that we’ve learned from our years of gardening and will be doing again ourselves this year.
1. Plant in raised beds. Planting in raised beds gives you better water drainage. Starting with new soil also gives you a head start over keeping grass out of your garden. Grass in a garden is really, really annoying. Even if you can only afford to put one raised bed in your large garden, do it. You can always add more later. We hope to add more to the 15 beds we currently have.
2. Use mulch. Put down newspaper and a heavy layer of grass clippings on top of it around your plants. We didn’t have to weed our pepper beds AT ALL last year because of this.
3. Stay on top of the weeding. If you don’t use mulch or you don’t have enough, stay on top of your weeding. Weeds literally choke the life out of your garden plants. They take nutrients from the soil, crowd the space for poor air circulation, and create shade problems which prevent your plants from getting enough sun. It is much easier to spend a few minutes each day pulling weeds, than it is to do it once a week. Plan this time into your daily habit or you will forget.
4. Try a cool weather garden. If you can work your soil now (meaning it isn’t sopping wet), try planting lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots, bok choi, broccoli, or cauliflower. You may want to get seedlings from your local greenhouse for the broccoli and cauliflower, but the rest you can sow as seeds directly in your garden. These will be done before you need to plant your warm weather plants in May.
5. Keep a garden journal. Use whatever you want, but keep one from the beginning. In your journal keep these notes: what you grew (including varieties and where you bought them), what the overall weather picture is (was it a hot, dry summer or a mild, wet one?), what you liked about what you planted, pest problems you encountered, ideas for improving next year, tools that you need to purchase, and anything else directly-related to your garden.
Numbers one and two will give you a head start to a good garden this year. Number three will help you maintain it (along with keeping an eye on your garden’s water needs). Number four helps you take advantage of that enthusiasm you have right now (so does starting your own seeds). Finally, number five helps your future gardens be even more successful.
Gardening is a great healthy habit. You get exercise, fresh air and sunshine, and healthy, real food.
What healthy habits are you working on? Tell me in the comments below.