Gardening is a rewarding hobby and an excellent way to save grocery money and eat healthier food; but without proper preparation, gardening can also be frustrating, back breaking work. This article tells you how to prepare for a successful, low maintenance, high productivity garden.
Select a Site
One of the most important ingredients for a successful garden is sunlight. Most plants require a minimum of six to eight hours of sunlight per day; but generally speaking, you cannot have too much sunlight, so take a look at different locations and try to pick one that gets a lot of sunlight.
You should also select a location that has a gentle slope, if possible, for drainage. Do not select a steeply sloped area, as you will have problems with erosion and the area will become very slippery and difficult to walk on.
Evaluate Your Soil
Your soil needs nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, and other elements in order for your garden to be productive. Furthermore the required pH (acidity) level is different for each type of vegetable. So it is important to have your soil tested, and to amend it as necessary to compensate for missing nutrients, and to adjust the pH level. The article Evaluate Your Garden Soil has instructions for accomplishing this task.
Solarize the Site
Solarization is a great way to prepare your soil for planting. Basically solarization involves heating the soil to kill weeds, weed seeds, disease, and insect pests. For a complete explanation of solarization, see the article Solarize Your Garden to Control Weeds and Pests.
Till the Garden Area
In order to plant, you need to turn your soil over and break it up into fine particles. This not only makes the soil a better medium for planting, but it also kills weeds that will compete with your plants for sun, water, nutrients, and garden space.
There are many ways to till your soil. A rototiller is an excellent tool for breaking up the soil in a backyard garden, if you have one or can borrow one. A tractor with a plow attachment is another great way to till your garden. If neither of these options is available, a shovel and a hoe will do a good job of breaking up the soil.
If you have dense clay soil, you may wish to turn over only the soil in the rows where you want to plant, and leave the soil in between the rows undisturbed. If you do this, you will need to cover the area in between the rows with newspaper or cardboard and a layer of mulch, to hold down weeds.
Start Bedding Plants
You can purchase bedding plants (baby vegetable plants) at local garden centers, but it is cheaper and more fun to start your own. See Grow Your Own Plants from Seed for more information on how to start your own bedding plants.
Prepare the Rows
The rows in your garden should be elevated three to six inches above ground level. The best way to accomplish this is with a hoe. Finally, run a stick or hoe handle down the row to the depth required for the particular seed you are putting in the row; and you are ready to plant.
Mulch the Whole Garden
Once your garden is planted, put down a thick layer of mulch every place where no vegetables are located. As previously stated, this holds down weeds; it also keeps the entire garden area clean and attractive, retains moisture, and adds nutrients to the soil.