So nice to have you here. If you just bought a new house, a community plot, or decided to start a vegetable patch in an existing garden, we have some great advice for you. You have probably scrolled through countless Pinterest and Instagram pictures of pristine and well kept vegetable gardens, where every leaf is green and lush, and every squash hangs from a trellis like a beautiful exotic fruit.
But, when you face what might still look like a weedy patch on dry unused soil, you might slow down a bit and think about what you’re about to do with discouragement. How can you possibly accomplish what these life long hobbyist gardeners did without it taking years?
The answer is – although it won’t happen overnight, you will accomplish it. Of course building up a garden takes time. One of the greatest teachers of patience and introspection is learning how to grow vegetables. It makes us realize how fickle the fate of our ancestors was in the not so long a go past. Droughts, floods or pests could mean the difference between life and death.
Gardening is probably one of the best hobbies you can have. It makes you do physical work outside – pruning, weeding, lifting, walking, stretching. Something that an office bound person might be surpised comes hard after a week of sitting in front of a computer. It’s not a day at the gym, but a more real life down to earth work out.
Another benefit is the knowledge and the patience it will take to be successful. We can exercise our brains too – and in the end, we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. And share it with others.
Soil Preparation and Types
You must first consider what kind of soil you have. Is it dry, well irrigated, sandy or…? What is it anyway?
There are three major types of soil: clay, sand and silt. It’s best to have a silty soil, because it’s a good combinations of both clay and sand. Sand drain quickly, gets hot quickly, and is not ideal for most plants. Clay on the other hand stays soggy and doesn’t drain well at all.
You can test your soil with a simple test – simply fill up about half of the jar with soil and the other half with water and shake it! This professional method is called “The Jar Test”. The types of soil will seperate (their weight is different) and you will see the sediment layers clearly in the jar. You will be able to see the percentages of soil with your own eyes! Neat!
It’s also a good idea to test your soil for minerals. If you have a new garden or plot it’ also good to test if there aren’t any pollutants present in the soil before you start planting garden vegetables.
Once you know what kind of soil you have, you’ll be able to choose what treatment would benefit it most. If you are low on nitrogen, consider chicken manure. It’s available in most gardening stores. Any type of organic fertilizer is a great way to build up rich garden soil, and you should do it every autumn before your garden rests for winter.
Gadgets Beginners Should Consider
There are plenty of garden tools that are pretty useless – despite having a great marketing scheme. Then again, there are amazing simple tools and things that will really help you and encourage you to continue gardening. Here are a few:
- Stainless steel tools– a digging spade, a small trowel, a fork hoe, secateurs – whatever tool you get make sure it’s the highest quality. It might cost a lot more, but it will last. You don’t want to use four trowles in a season and then just throw them out because the metal bends and breaks. Whenever in doubt, go stainless!
- Cold Frames– if you have a larger garden, it’s best to start vegetables from seed. Unless you have unlimited windowsill space, a cold frame is a must have, unless you live in a Mediterranean or tropical climate. It will prevent your seeds from getting frozen with the last frost, and jumpstart your growing season. Also – it will keep gardening where it belongs. Outside. There are a very wide variety of cold frames available in stores – even ones that mount on walls. Those will provide you with extra room if you’re tight on space or planing on a balcony or a patio. Some cold frame designs are aimed especially at city dwellers who need multitasking gardening tools – they will double as a planting table and storage space as well!
- Gloves– this is the most forgotten accessory, but mostly by beginners. A lot of us like to dive into the soil head first. But it’s not until we are stuck cleaning our dirty nails for hours with no effect or hiding our hands under the table at a fancy restaurant that we vow to take better care of them. It’s best to choose durable cloth gloves, and forget about the one use plastic ones. The environment and your garden will thank you.
- Watering plan– Where will you get your water from? This is a question best answered before you start your gardening venture. Water has to come from somewhere. An obvious answer is a water hose – but if you don’t have an outside hook up what then? And if you do, is a hose really a good solution or is it better to get an irrigation system and set it on a timer? The answer is yes. If you are able to get an irrigation system, by all means do it. It actually saves water by targeting areas that most need it consistently, on a regular basis. If you don’t have a hook-up, consider drilling a well. If your water table is relatively high, it’s a perfect solution. Installing a rain collecting barrel by your drains is also very effective. (Unless you live in a drought prone area.) There are new types available with great designs – some of them even look like giant planters, and no one will ever know that it’s a disguised barrel!
Get to know your garden and you will develop a very special relationship with it. You will also get to know the seasons better, and feel spring in the air before it even starts. Use these tips as a starting point, and you will be well prepared.