By following a few simple tips, you can start a new garden space that is both attractive and productive. Picking and eating a tomato from your garden or snipping some fresh herbs for homemade salad dressing offers a treat on many levels. Fresh, homegrown vegetables are healthy and have a taste that is superior to vegetables purchased from the grocery store. Vegetables eaten immediately after picking are more nutritious and growing them gives your family a chance for outdoor exercise and a closer connection to natural processes.
Select a location that receives full sun for most vegetables and flowering plants. Nutrient-rich soil that breaks up easily – called friable -- and drains well is the most important element in a successful garden. When working with existing soil, request a soil analysis and follow the report’s recommendations on required soil amendments, including fertilizer, to help get your new garden off to a good start.
To prepare the soil for a new garden, turn the soil with a tiller and work several inches of composted, organic material into the soil. Adding peat moss to the soil mixture helps retain moisture close to the plant’s feeding zone. Make sure the organic material is completely decomposed before adding it, so that further decomposition does not rob plants of nitrogen. Add nutrients in the proportions suggested in your soil analysis report at least two weeks before planting.
Deciding what types of plants you want to grow is the fun part of starting your new garden. Choosing plant varieties adapted to your area improves your chances of success. Check with a local nursery for recommendations on the best variety of each plant type you want to grow. Besides selecting good varieties, you need to know when to put the plants into the soil based on their tolerance for cold and hot weather and the length of time it takes them to reach maturity. A local plant reference or your county agricultural agent can tell you the correct planting dates for each type of plant.
After purchasing transplants or seeds and putting them in your new garden, add pathways using stones, mulch or boards for walking around the plants to weed and harvest. Walking only on the paths keeps the soil around the plants from being compacted. Add mulch around, but not touching, the plants to retain moisture and moderate soil temperatures.