I love gardening, and as any real gardener knows, planning, planting, weeding, and watering can take up a great deal of time. I prefer organic vegetables to those grown with fertilizers, and of course that’s one big benefit of having a home garden.
Here are five tips if you are a novice gardener:
1. Prepare for next year’s garden the fall before. You can put dead plants in your compost heap or bin. Add non-meat, non-fat kitchen scraps to this, as well as grass trimmings and leaves. Until the ground freezes, you can turn and water this compost. I always had ground bees trying to live under my compost bin, but I have not had this problem with a compost heap.
Tip: Tomato plants will not decompose and weeds should not be added to your compost, either.
2. Plan your garden. Decide how much space you want to devote to it, and then make a plan for what plants go where. Consider that you can plant plenty of seeds in a straight line. Make rows of those a foot apart, but plants need about 18″ of space around each, for things like pepper plants, peas, and some kinds of beans. Tomato plants need at least two feet around each one, and leave enough room to walk between rows to harvest. Use tomato cages or stake your tomato plants. Plants that have vines (all squash varieties, eggplant, cukes, pumpkins, and melons) need 10 to 15 feet of vine room from their base to the west because the vines grow toward the sun.
3. Till the soil. If it has not been tilled before, consider having a professional remove the sod in your garden area. If you have a tiller, you can till the soil yourself, and then rake out the sod using a landscape rake. Tilling the soil will give you about six to eight inches of soft soil.
4. Till in some of last year’s compost in your second tilling. Good compost will look like lumpy new soil, with bits and pieces of decaying material in it. The mixture will smell very earthy. You will want to till this in because it has the nutrients you need for a healthy crop, and it will mean you need not use fertilizers. Mark out rows where your things will go, with stakes and string, so you know where things are going to come up.
5. Plant seeds before the last frost and plants after the last frost. Things like beets, carrots, peas, lima beans, and more need planting early before the last frost. You can also plant lettuces, greens, kale, spinach and more about the time of the last frost. They need cooler days and nights. Plant potato seedlings in a hill (one or two potato eyes per hill) about eight inches high. This works for planting squashes, too. Squash and tomatoes do better if planted after dusk, so they don’t get heat shocked during the first day. Be prepared to cover them at night if the weather forecast calls for a frost or freeze.
If you are good at weeding, watering, and tending your plants, you will have a nice garden, with produce to spare.