Having moved into a new house this past year, I’m facing unique decision: Where should I plant my garden?
Before you can pick that first lovely vase of flowers or add your own fresh cucumbers to your salad, you need to make an important decision. Read on for advice on how to find the right spot to plant your garden if you’re starting from scratch.
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What does your dream garden consist of and how much of it do you hope to grow? A good beginner’s plot is 10 by 16 feet, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. A garden this size will feed a family of four over one season, with a little extra to can or give away. If you’re only looking to supplement your food supply, or have fewer people to feed, you can go smaller. A garden as small as 4 by 8 feet will have enough room for the basics and will give you plenty of fresh veggies throughout the summer.
What you hope to grow will also factor into your space considerations. Every plant has its own space requirements, so be sure to read the labels before you buy. Growing tomatoes will be different than growing herbs, for example.
Some vegetables can even be planted separately in containers, so if you live in an urban environment or you’re low on space, you can still make a garden with planters.
The kind of ground you build your garden in will determine what comes out of it. You want soil that’s rich in organic material and free of contaminants. If you live in an area where soil contamination is a possibility, you may want to get environmental testing done on the area you plan to plant.
Keeping the soil moist—not too dry and not too wet—is just one part of soil maintenance. You should also use fertilizer and compost to feed the dirt that nourishes your plants.
Did you know plants can actually drown? It’s true! They need water but they shouldn’t just sit in it. That’s why drainage is an important factor in where you set up your garden. Planting your garden on a slope is an easy way to ensure proper drainage, but you can also add filler soil to any areas where water tends to accumulate.
Of course, make sure you choose a spot within reach of a hose or sprinkler. Plants need water every day and you can’t count on the rain to do the whole job for you.
The right kind of light, that is. You want your garden to receive a full helping of morning sun. That early light is like a cup of coffee for your plants—it gets them growing. Most plants need to receive at least six hours of direct light daily.
On the other hand, you need to shield your garden from the light that falls hot and heavy later in the day. Like exposure to solar radiation can damage equipment and gadgets, plants also need protection from the scorching afternoon sun.
The best way to accommodate both these concerns is to plant your garden facing east in a spot that receives direct sunlight. You may want to first spend a day or two watching the sun move across your yard. Then put up a barrier on the west side to protect your garden from the too-hot sun. This barrier can be an existing building, such as a house or barn, or a homemade solution like a trellis.
However, if you don’t have any direct sunlight available, look for plants that do well in partial sun or shade. There are many flowers, such as pansies, that can thrive in indirect light. There are vegetable options too, including leafy vegetables like kale.
Ultimately, the location you choose for your garden should keep it out of harm’s way. Avoid setting your garden too close to a driveway or sidewalk, so it doesn’t get trampled by wayward vehicles or curious children. Fences and row covers are additional steps you can take to protect your garden from animals and insects.
Now that you know how to find the right spot to plant your garden and keep it healthy, you’re ready to begin. Gardening may be hard work, but the rewards are many. Anyone who’s ever bitten into a ripe tomato, fresh from the vine understands why all the planning and sweaty effort is worth it.