Fall planting made simple and on a budget

February 28, 2012

Fruits and Vegetables, Gardening

Why do you want to garden? For exercise, to relax and connect with nature, or to grow your own food and flowers?

by Doreen Pollack — 

Starting a garden might seem like a daunting task, but tackling the project over several weekends makes the workload lighter. Here is a week-by-week plan that even novice gardeners can follow:

Week one: Plan what kind of garden you want. Vegetables, flowers or both? Raised beds, pots or in-ground? There are many possibilities. Why do you want to garden? For exercise, to relax and connect with nature, or to grow your own food and flowers?

Mark the borders of your garden using natural items like river rock or bricks and take a break until the next weekend rolls around.

Week two: Prepare the soil. Remove all weeds and grass by old-fashioned hand weeding or using an herbicide.

Week three: Mulch and compost. If planting directly into the ground, spread a six-inch layer of compost, mulch, sand and topsoil. Dig down at least six inches (the depth of most shovels and spades) and mix in well. (Beds should have soil mixture at least six inches deep.) Then wet the area completely, making sure the water soaks down at least 12 inches. This guarantees good drainage and deep root watering.

Week four: Plant. Purchase your seeds or transplants at the nursery. When buying seeds, make sure they suit your garden location and that they are not past their expiration date. When buying transplants, make sure the leaves look healthy and the root ball is loose.

Allow space for the mature plant size. Many plants, especially vegetables, need room for their fruit. When planting from seed, read the seed packet for recommended spacing. To plant wildflowers from seed, mix with sand for easier scattering and then lightly rake soil over the mixture to protect them from becoming bird food. Water well after planting, then relax.

Now it is just a matter of time. Protect your garden as it becomes established. Keep birds, cats and other critters away by tying ribbons to sticks and placing them around the garden. For cats, consider laying down chicken wire over the soil after planting. The seeds will grow up in between the holes in the wire.

Water your new garden daily at first, keeping the soil moist until seedlings are a few inches tall. Once they are, test the soil to see how much moisture it retains, and water based on need. A soil probe, pushed one foot into the soil, will help with this.

Enjoy your harvest. The flowers will look brighter, and the food will taste fresher as a result of your tender, loving care.

 

Doreen Pollack is the Garden Goddess and owner of Down 2 Earth Gardens. 623-217-6038 or www.down2earthgardens.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number  4, Aug/Sept 2009.

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