Monday, March 3, 2014

7 tips to be a successful novice gardener

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We believe anyone can grow food. We also believe that it can be fun. And we know it is incredibly satisfying. However, like anything, it does require planning, practice, and a desire to learn by doing.  Over the years we have figured out that there are 7 things folks should do before they plant their garden. We've talked a lot about gardening here and in people's backyards, but these 7 things are really all you need to know and do.

Sunny Spot

Seems obvious, I know. But I have seen one too many gardens fail because they were not getting enough Sun. Go for 8 hours of sunlight. Sun is food, man.

Access to Water

If you have to haul around a heavy hose or make fifty trips with the watering can you may want to get better equipment. Or pick a new spot. All that work to water on a hot summer morning won't help grow your love of gardening.  Procrastinating with the watering (because it's too much work) won't help grow your garden, either.

Easy to Weed

Weeds are the farthest from our minds in May as we place our sweet little plants in the ground. Then the crabgrass and purslane threatens to take over in July and you just want to cry.  Container gardens and small raised beds are a cinch to weed.  Plastic mulch in the larger gardens is incredibly helpful and how a lot large scale producers operate.

Insect, Fungus and Pest Prevention/Treatment Plan

Do you have rabbits? Tons of birds? Does your neighbor's garden have a cabbage worm problem every year? Plan accordingly. Put up a fence or netting, if needed, while setting up in the Spring. Research your options for treating insects and fungus. Do you want to go organic? Make your choices BEFORE there is an issue. Then you are less likely to be left scrambling to save your garden. All gardens face one of these issues during the growing season. Preparation will mean you're eating good ALL season long.

Starter Plants

For novice gardeners I highly recommend buying starter plants as opposed to starting from seed and transplanting. Obviously, some varieties you will need to start from seed. Like radishes, carrots, etc. Buy your starter plants from a reputable nursery in your area. Stick with the plants in the outdoor area of the nursery center. They have acclimated to the environment and will have a better success rate. Buying plants from a local nursery means (most of the time) that those varieties are good option for your area.

Limit What You Grow

Take a moment to consider what your household consumes. Are you always buying greens and tomatoes at the Farmer's Market? Or perhaps you are the only one who likes beets. Think about what you all can logically consume, put up, &/or give away during the season. You don't want to be pawning off 4 foot zucchini all summer long. Once you have a list, make sure your garden space can handle it. Your people may LOVE sweet potatoes, but if you have a container garden on your balcony, sweet potato growing isn't going to work. It's  just as easy to get overwhelmed harvesting as it is to over buy at the nursery. Restraint will make you a successful gardener.

Amend Your Soil As Needed

Invest in a soil tester. Test your pH levels. Research what the preferred pH is for your chosen varieties.  Add compost to enrich the soil and decide on fertilizers, if needed. Till garden to loosen up soil. 

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