Essential Guidelines to Follow When Planning a Garden

Cucumber seedlings

The first thing that you must do when planning a garden is to figure out what it is you wish to grow. Is it aesthetics that you’re seeking… beauty over substance? Sustenance… plants that will feed generations to come? This is kind of the most important part of gardening. If you haven’t figured this out and remain unsure of what you’re planting, what’s your point? That’s like tossing strawberry seeds into the ground and expecting tomatoes to grow in the spring. An end goal is important, before you start digging.

Once you decide on what you will grow, you have to make sure that it will grow in your greenhouse. Many plants just don’t grow in certain regions; sun exposure, proximity to a water source, temperature and elevation all play a key role in what grows where.

Observe your garden. Watch it at different times of the day. Where and when does the sun shine the brightest? What other weather factors do you have to consider? Get to know the land that you are working with. Its positives and negatives alike.

Now that you’ve figured out what plants you can grow and you’ve learned the ins and outs of what is happening on your land, it’s time to check the soil. Is it clay? Sandy? Dark, rich and nutrient-filled? I cannot emphasize this enough… What your soil is made of determines what will grow in your garden. It’s your foundation, as important as where you are planting. The difference is that the content of soil is changeable. You can mix the right amounts of clay and sand to get your garden right.

Since you know what you’re planting, where you’re planting and have prepared the soil in order to begin planting your seeds, you’re thinking that it’s time to start dropping them in the ground, right? Not even. There’s a bit more you’ll have to do before you’re ready to break ground.

Plan! Plot out where your seeds will go. Since your delicate plants aren’t fans of direct sunlight, it’s best not to place them where they’ll be pounded by sunshine every day. Do your homework. Know in what conditions each plant thrives then create those conditions. Since beans don’t grow well near onions, separate them! It’s that simple.

And you’re still not ready to plant. You’ve got to prepare that beautiful soil that’s all balanced. I know. You already did that. But not for the seeds. Some seeds like to be planted in wet soil, some don’t. And get this, some seeds even require soaking before they’re ready to go into the ground. Know what each seed needs and be willing to give just that before tossing them into soil that may or may not be ready to receive them.

Plants require nourishment. Yes, the soil contains a few nutrients and a host of friendly fungi (if it’s healthy) that delivers goodies to your plants without help. But, they may not provide everything that your plants need. Feed them. Balance the amount of water given. Add compost to your soil. Be good to your plants.

Once your seeds are planted, the waiting game begins. Patient waiting. Some seeds will sprout right away. Some take weeks or months. You have to be sure that you’ve provided the right environment for your seeds to grow. Make adjustments. Slowly. You don’t want to undo all of your hard work in haste so take your time. Tend to your sprouts with care. Protect them from pests. Pull weeds. Perform regular maintenance to make sure that your vision is on track.

While you wait, it’s important to provide undivided attention to your garden. Because if you begin looking around at everyone else’s, comparing and judging what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, your garden will suffer. Your garden needs and deserves your constant attention. Neglecting to give it just that, while telling everyone else what their garden should be, could be and would be will serve to kill off all of the hard work invested in your garden up until that point.

And be careful not to destroy your garden by listening to people whose gardens are not in the best of shape. Not to say that you must ignore all advice from outsiders. You just have to develop discernment. The same way you wouldn’t learn to read from an illiterate, you can’t take advice from someone who’s failed to produce a harvest, despite trying year after year. You can, however, observe and learn from their mistakes. Which leads us to…

Harvest time! Of course, if you did everything that could be done to ensure that there is something to harvest. Think it’s time to sit back and relax? Nope. There’s a lot more work to do after the harvest, like planning for next season. Deciding what seeds worked for you and those that you won’t plant again. The cycle is never-ending.

Rachel M Walls is a human being who currently lives on planet Earth with her seven-some-odd-billion friends and family. She enjoys fresh air, healthy food, clean water, comfortable shelter, adequate clothing and the occasional spa day. Ms. Walls is often found breathing, living, loving,writing and sometimes dancing. This article was excerpted from Rachel M. Walls’ book all you need are seeds… a socio-political self-help memoir about organic gardening. Text copyright © 2012 Rachel M Walls. Buy the book on Amazon.
image: Breanna LaRow (Creative Commons BY)
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