Gardening Ideas: Planning Your Garden 101

| 4/19/2011 11:00:58 AM

B.WhiteBriscoe White is owner and master grower at The Growers Exchange, an all-natural online garden center that specializes in rare and traditional herbs for culinary, aromatic and medicinal use.  He has been in business for over twenty years. Member of many garden and nature-related organizations including the Garden Writers Association, when not tending his greenhouse or writing for his blog, Briscoe’s Seeds For Thought, he spends what little free time he has planning his next garden and playing with his dogs on his family farm in Charles City, Virginia. 

The first of many warm days are starting to arrive and we're all catching spring fever. Many of my friends have been bitten by the spring gardening bug and have begun flocking to local garden centers on the weekend to purchase every plant in sight—but there is a better way! Fight the urge to begin planting at the first whiff of spring and keep a level head. Planning is the key to a successful garden. Buying on impulse can be the bane of any gardener, so take a deep breath and a step back from your yard to assess what you're working with.

Location is Everything 

Where do you plan on planting? Consider your lifestyle and how you will be using your garden. If you'll be harvesting herbs for culinary use, you may want to plant in containers and keep them on your window sill or patio, or just start a kitchen garden within easy reach of your back door. If you plan on enjoying your patio, pool or sitting area outside, you may want to plant aromatic herbs that will attract wildlife like butterflies and birds for an entertaining time outside. Also keep in mind what wildlife you don't want to invite to your garden party and consider insect-repelling herbs such as scented geranium 'Citronella' or rue. The area that you choose should get adequate daily sunlight and have well-drained soil to allow most herbs to thrive. Before breaking ground, make sure that you have chosen your plants wisely; whether you are gardening with a color scheme or cuisine in mind, picking your plants early on will give you a better sense of the overall function or aesthetic of your garden.

Time for Spring Cleaning 

The first task at hand (And the first opportunity to get your hands dirty after a long winter!) is to clear out the space where your garden will go. Make sure to remove any lingering debris, limbs or weeds from your bed to ensure a fresh start. Check the pH of your soil with a test kit to determine what may need to be added to give your plants a healthy foundation, so that if you need to turn anything in while tilling, you can save yourself some work. Turn your soil well to break up the dormant dirt that has been frozen all season to allow warm air to breathe into your bed. This can also help to check the health of your soil by allowing you to see what critters may be living below the topsoil that will help aerate and maintain drainage for your plants, like earthworms. (Whenever I come across one inching across my sidewalk, I toss him into the garden—it's a win-win situation; he helps my plants and he doesn't get squished by people walking by!) Add organic compost to help infuse the soil with fresh nutrients. You can add comfrey leaves to your compost pile to quicken the decay of your material, or make a great liquid fertilizer from this herb's plentiful leaves, as they quickly breakdown into a very beneficial boost for your plants.

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