Beginner's Guide to Building a Garden
It is not necessary to have a huge plot of land or a vast amount of time or money to invest in a garden and enjoy this popular hobby. Many people find gardening an incredibly relaxing hobby, despite any physical labor involved. Depending on your space, your personal preference and your ability, there are many types of gardens to suit your needs. A garden can be something as simple as a few pots or some raised beds. People with physical limitations need not worry either, there are table-height raised beds, perfect for those that are either in a wheelchair or can not take bending over for long periods of time. Gardening can be as simple or as expansive as you like and there are many easy-to-grow plants that are forgiving of even the most novice gardener.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson cautions you, "If you have animals or small children, be aware of plants that may be toxic. Never dig or till without first locating your underground utility lines."
Locate a Good Nursery or Join a Local Garden Club
This is where you'll head for ideas, tips and advice. Books are a good idea, too, but talking to someone who has local knowledge will likely work better for you. Then you can get advice in all areas, from what kind of plants, pests, and weeds are native to your area, to picking out good tools.
TIP: Susan adds, "Always choose plants that are appropriate for your growing region."
Lay Your Garden Out on Paper
If you plan on a rather expansive project it is always best to draw it out on paper first. Having a plan is essential to having a successful garden. Take it to your local nursery, a professional will be able to make life easier by helping to determine such things as choosing the right location for your garden and the proper amounts of sun and water. An expert might also see something that may prove difficult and cause you major headaches in the long run, such as picking out plants that don't go well together or plants that don't grow well in certain soils or at certain times of the year.
TIP: "Always keep in mind the mature size of trees, shrubs and flowers when planning your garden."
Going hand in hand with laying out your garden on paper is to start small. This will minimize maintenance and keep you from getting overwhelmed while you learn the basics. You don't want the garden to eat up too much of your time--this is the thing that frustrates most first time gardeners and prompts them to give up. When you've mastered how to handle weeds, watering and pests, then expand your garden's boundaries as you see fit.
TIP: Susan suggests, "If you are on a budget, consider starting a garden from seed. There are many beautiful plants that grow well from seed and can be self sown into the garden bed in early spring."
Pick Out Good Tools
Stay away from overpriced tools and gadgets. Since you're starting small, you may need all or only a few of these tools: shovel, garden fork, trowels of different sizes, a hoe, pruners, a rake, wheelbarrow/cart, a water can and/or a good hose. Look for tools with steel blades and handles that offer comfort. You also need to learn to care for your tools. Tools need to be cleaned after each use and certain tools eventually need sharpening or blades replaced. Tools stored for the winter require a protective coating of oil or wax before being put away.
Spend Some Time in Your Garden Everyday
A few minutes here and there during the week is better than waiting for the weekend to tidy things up. We all know how life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes, making it difficult to keep up with anything--let alone a garden. Spend a few moments to snag a few weeds, water and keep an eye on your garden's progress. It is always fun to go out and watch the progress each day. Many people find this extremely therapeutic.
Spend time watering your plants and encouraging your garden’s roots to grow deeply by soaking the soil. Too short a watering time will keep roots near the soil surface.
Pamper Your Soil
Avoid clumps. Don't work soil that is wet. Overworking soil into a fine powder is also a no-no. Soil is supposed to have particles of different shape and sizes. Try not to walk around in your garden too much. Creating rows in which to safely work keeps the soil around the plants from getting compacted and restricting growth.
TIP: susan advises, "Before planting have a soil test done so that you know what your soil may need to make it healthier."
Learn about compost. It keeps the soil healthy. If you can't make your own, there's always compost in a bag. Use fertilizers sparingly, but use the right ones. Take a sample of your soil to your favorite nursery for testing to see which type of fertilizer you will (or won't) be needing.
TIP: Susan adds, "If you have poor soil, consider building some raised beds where you can control the soil quality."
Prune, but Don't Over Prune
Try not to go crazy with the pruners. True, fertilizers and pruning produce a more luscious and tender growth, but that's something bugs are extremely attracted to. The last thing you want is to have to spend time fighting battles with pests. This can turn your garden into a chore.
Gardening is a wonderful and peaceful pastime, if not addictive. Many will find the time to work in their gardens despite the whirlwind of activity going on in their lives because it brings them calm and order. Perhaps you are seeking that calm for yourself. Perhaps you feel the need to give back to the earth. Perhaps you are seeking that special relationship with nature that comes from having your hands covered in earth. Or it could be you just wanted an excuse to wear silly hats outside. Whatever the reason, happy gardening!
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