Today, we are going to get down to planting and organizing your garden, so grab your tools, and let’s get started!
Now you’ve picked out what type of garden you will have, where it will be located, and what plants you will be growing, you can really get started in creating your garden environment, and planting your seeds! (See previous post on choosing seeds.) There are several items you will want to address in this process.
First, you’ll want to select what your garden barriers or borders will be. What will separate your garden from the rest of the world? Next you’ll want to select the types of support needed for your plants. Often some kind of mesh, stakes, or other supports are necessary to keep your plant upright. You will also want to plan how much soil and fertilizer to buy, and how to arrange all the plants in your garden.
Choosing a border can be a fairly important step in getting your garden started. While it might not actually affect the health of the plants, many people enjoy a garden that is aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional. Metal, wood, brick, or stone can be used as attractive edging and border materials — that choice is yours, depending on what you want your garden to look like.
Finding something nice-looking to support your plants can be a little bit more challenging. Sometimes a short pole can work well, but often for larger and heavier plants, such as tomatoes, you will need a wire mesh for it to pull itself up on. You can find these at almost any gardening store, usually pre-shaped in a sort of conical shape well suited for plants. The plant will then grow up through it, and you can tie the branches to the cross spokes with twine if they need more support.
If your soil is poor, you may want to buy some soil and/or compost to add in, but the goal should be to build up your own soil over time, so that it will be able to support a garden without adding too much from outside sources. (Some people try to solve the problem of poor soil by loading up their plants with every type of chemical and fertilizer known to man. This usually works to some degree, but to me it seems kind of unnatural to rely on man made materials to keep your plants alive. Also, as a sustainable gardener, and especially if I’m growing vegetables, I don’t feel very comfortable eating something that is full of chemicals!)
If you must add outside soil, try to find a source of organically certified soil, so you are not adding toxins to your new garden right off the bat. (Scott’s makes an organic topsoil mix, and for a good organic fertilizer, try Rainbow Grow Mix.)
We will cover making your own compost in a blog post coming up shortly, so be sure to check back!
Arranging the plants can also be important to the success of your garden. I’m not talking about some kind of feng-shui thing, but depending on your watering, some plants might hog all the water and leave the other plants high and dry. Some plants have longer roots than others, and are more aggressive at seeking water. If you place one of these plants next to a plant with weaker, shorter roots, it will promptly hijack the water supply for itself, and can choke out the other plant.
Many gardeners live in areas where virtually anything can grow effortlessly. Just plant some seeds and water them for a few weeks, and you’ve got a beautifully lush garden. But if you live somewhere like Colorado, or other northerly climes, you’ll understand what its like to have a limited selection of plants that will grow naturally. It can be rather a challenge to facilitate the growth of a large variety of plants, especially when the very world you live in seems to be rooting against you.
This can be an important consideration, and one method that can work well in these situations is to create a “microclimate” for each type of plant. This is when you regulate the sunlight, shade, moisture, and wind factors for each separate plant. It sounds like a challenge, and it is. But you can regulate these factors in such a way that the plant feels just like it is in the ideal growing conditions. This can be achieved by the use of wind barriers, shading umbrellas, extra water, or different types or amounts of compost. This is fairly time consuming, but can be very rewarding if done right, and in some climates, it can be the best option.
I can’t explain every phase of this process, because everyone’s goals, climate, and setups are slightly different. But you can do research on every plant that you would like to have in your garden. Find out everything you can about the zone that it flourishes in, and ask yourself how you can emulate that zone within your own backyard. In most cases, you can take control of the environment and recreate whatever you wish. Ordinarily all it takes is some preparation and strategy. (If you try to find plants that will grow well in your area in the first place, though, that is the most sustainable option.)
In our next post, we will discuss watering techniques, and a couple of other important items, before wrapping up this series with a bonus lesson on that all-important topic — composting!
See you next time, and happy gardening!