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Friday, March 16, 2012

How to Start Your First Spring Garden: Get Out and Dig It!

I recently wrote some blogs to challenge the new gardener to build a 4x4 garden over the last few months. I broke the building of the garden into 5 steps. This is summary of the steps and a basic plan to follow to get your 4x4 garden up a running over a weekend. There is no time like the present. Turning earth for a garden is not rocket science.

It is time to plant Your First Garden or try something new and expand. You have to make the time this weekend to knock out establishing a garden bed and planting space. We are our biggest barrier. Once you have the space, I promise you will really enjoy it.

How long have you wanted a garden or how long have you been thinking about planting something new but needed a little more space? A garden is relaxing, it will provide exercise, it will save you money and it is something you can do practically all year long.

I really want to get people to build a small garden. I find it personally rewarding to garden and hope others do. The hardest step for most of us and our friends is digging. If you like this article, I ask you to consider posting it to Facebook or sending a link to your friends. I thank you in advance.

STEP ONE: Locate a Space with Sun

Find a 4 foot by 4 foot (or is it 4 feet by 4 feet) 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 want a space that gets a minimum of 6 hours of full sun but try and find a site that gets 8 plus hours of sunlight.
I suggest starting with a 4x4 plot. Most people can find this space in their yard. It is easy to dig/turn and amend. Don't overwhelm yourself with digging a large garden, start this weekend off with 4x4 garden. You can always expand. The goal is to get a garden bed ready for planting.

STEP TWO:  Turn the Ground and Buy Garden Amendments

If buying garden amendments is the barrier to you turning the ground and starting a garden, well skip that step. You don't need to amend the plot to have a garden. You can do it over the season with grass clippings and other things. But if you have the time, a little extra won't hurt.

For a 4x4 spot you will 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.

Turn the ground in your  4x4 foot space. You need to turn a full spade/shovel worth of earth when turning your 4x4 plot. You have the choice to just turn the grass over and into the garden. It will die over time without sun or you can remove the grass and toss it in the trash. I don't want this to be a barrier for you to having a garden. Either way will work.

STEP THREE: Open Your Amendments and Evenly Spread Them Over the Garden

If you didn't want to buy the garden amendments break the first 4-6 inches of turned earth up so that it mostly crumbly and smooth.

You will use all 6 bags of  the garden soil and maybe half the bag of peat moss. There is no science to this. Over time everything will get nicely mixed together. To often, people fail to build a garden because they think or people make them think it is complicated. Vegetables are designed to grow and they want to grow.

To make the quick garden, spread about a quarter of the bag of peat moss over your freshly turn earth first. Let it fill in the cracks a crevices left from turning the earth. Peat moss is organic matter that will hold water. You will notice how dry and dusty it is in the bag. After you cover your garden, water it in nicely but don't make mud puddles.

The next step is to evenly spread out the 6 bags of garden soil over your plot. On top of the added soil, put another quarter bag or so of the peat moss out evenly over the plot. Mix the peat moss, added garden soil and few inches of the original soil together by hand or with a small shovel. You want it to be evenly mixed. This is your planting area for now. Lightly water the top of the garden when you are done. You just want to give the peat moss some moisture.

Let the garden sit for a day or a couple of hours. You don't want to plant seeds in a muddy garden.

STEP FOUR: Figure Out What You Want to Plant and Plant Your Garden

March is cool weather  vegetable time in Maryland area. Your cool weather vegetables are but not limited to; lettuce, spinach, other greens, radishes, peas and onions. A quick web search will give you plenty of ideas. The cool weather season is typically February to May and (again) late August through Novemember. You get 2 chances. Nice!

Your first garden gets planted in waves. Cool weather crops go first - followed by the warm season crops. Warm season crops typically are corn, tomatoes, peppers, mellons, squash and cucumbers.

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.

STEP FIVE: Plant Your Seeds - You Have a Vegetable Garden!

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. 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 a garden now! Plant and learn and have fun!

Good Gardening!

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