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Monday, January 16, 2012

Your First Garden: A Challenge to You!

I am going to challenge new and old gardeners to start or expand their gardens. I understand it is different seasons in different places but you know what... no excuses. It is time to plant Your First Garden or try something new and expand.

I don't want to hear it is too cold or too hot or that you will do it next week. How long have you wanted a garden or how long have you been thinking about planting something new but needed a little more space?

Too Long! That includes me.

I will give you 5 to 7 days to accomplish each step. When you are done... you can eat and share the rewards of your hard work.

STEP ONE: (5 Days)

Find a four foot by four foot space in a mostly sunny location. If you don't have the room then it is time to call a friend and use their space. They will get to share what you produce.  You have 5 days to find the spot. Your not even digging, just finding a spot for a small four foot plot.

The first step was to find a 4x4 space in your yard or at a friend's house. I gave you 5 days and that was about 12 days ago. So... no excuses you had extra time.
I found myself a 4x4 plot.

STEP TWO: (14 Days)

For a 4x4 spot you need to go and buy 6 bags of the most inexpensive garden soil you can find. The bag should say Garden Soil or Premium Top Soil. Try not to buy the cheap $1.25 bags of just Top Soil. However, 6 bags of anything will work. The bags can be any size. Simplicity is the key. You also need to get a large Bail of Peat Moss. The size should be 3 cubic feet.

The cost for 6 garden bags of soil will vary based on what you buy but you should find them for $3-$6 a bag. There is no need to pay more. The peat moss will cost $10 to $15 for 3 cubic feet.

You can by them all at once or over time. You have 2 weeks to get them. When you buy them lay them UNopened on the 4x4 plot. Cover as much of the space as possible. Let them kill out the grass and weeds in your future garden.

This is the hardest part. Once you purchase and put the bags out, you will be compelled to open them and turn the ground.

STEP THREE: (5 days)
It hasn't been quite 14 days but the weekend is here. If you didn't get the 6 bags of soil and Peat Moss, get it this weekend. Because this weekend, you can also pick out your cool weather seeds for Step 3. They should be in all the main stores.

Your cool weather vegetables are but not limited to; lettuce, spinach, other greens, radishes, peas and that is what I have off the top of my head. A quick web search will give you plenty of ideas.

Your first garden gets planted in waves. Cool weather crops go first - followed by the warm season crops. You aren't planting for another month, but now is the time to think about cool season crops and buy some seed packs. The seed packs you get this weekend will be your motivator to get you garden ready.

I would suggest you get 1 pack of peas, 1or 2 kinds of radishes, 2 or 3 kinds of lettuces, 1 pack of spinach and a pack of something else planted in the cool part of the season.

The seed packs are you motivation. Put them in a place where you will see them everyday. They are your inspiration to stick with creating your first garden.

Good Luck!

STEP FOUR: (3 Days)
March is here and hopefully you have been building up to this weekend. It is time to turn the garden! It takes some effort but can be accomplished in under an hour. Once done... you will have a space to plant all year long. Don't delay!

Turn your 4x4 plot over to about a 12 inch depth. You can remove the grass and weeds if you want or make sure they get turned to the bottom of the garden. The lack of light will kill the grass and weeds.

After you turned the garden, open the bags of soil and spread it out over the top of the planting space. You should open your peat moss bail and pour out 1/2 of the bag and spread it evenly over the top of the garden. If you managed to buy some fertilizer and lime, spread that out too. You can use 3 or 4 handfuls of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 6 or 8 handfuls of lime. Spread them out evenly over the top of your garden.

Perhaps you bought some wood to build a raised bed. You would want to create the frame before you add the above soil. Once you empty your garden amendments, mix the newly added soil with the old soil to a depth of about 8 inches. If you removed the grass, you can mix the top level deeper into your soil. Once mixed, rake and smooth it out. You should break up any large clumps with your hand.

Planting is next. Admire your hard work!

Good Luck!

STEP FIVE:(3 Days)

The 4x4 plot should be dug and ready for planting if you followed steps 1-4. If you are like most of us, time slips away. You still have plenty of time to catch up and get the garden built. This weekend, in Maryland, will be sunny and in the 70's. If you haven't started the garden, get it done this weekend.

Step five is planting (and catch-up).

It is time to put your cool weather seeds in the grounds. You can put in radishes, peas, lettuces, mustard greens, kohlrabi, kales and a lot more. If you don't have seeds, go out and buy some this weekend and get them in the ground. To keep is simple, follow the directions on the seeds packs. Don't for get you can also plant onion bulbs/sets.

Don't worry about being perfect. You have the garden now! Plant and learn and have fun!

Good Gardening!


  1. Hi Gary. Just wanted to say I do enjoy reading your blog and I accept this challenge. This will be my first garden which I already have started but figure accepting this challenge will keep me motivated all the way through.

    I've put in 3 4'x8' beds and am to the point to of adding soil, fertilizer, etc.

    I'm also trying to grow indoor from seedlings and can already tell I'm going need build some shelving with grow lights. Live and learn.

    Thanks for all info and pictures of everything you are doing. Its been enjoyable.

    Atlanta GA

    1. Thats Great!

      That is a lot of room... 18 tomato plants or 24 pepper plants or a nice size garden. Good luck with it.

      The flourescent lights from Home Depot are cheap and effective. Just by the brightest basic tube. It is what I use in my closet. I also recommend the Homestead tomato. There is a video down the right side. It did great in our heat and humidity.

      Let me now how it goes. I think you can post pictures here come harvest time.


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