How to Start a Vegetable Garden From Scratch
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Learn how to start building your garden step by step. This article details how to decide on the location of the garden and soil preparation so you can know How to Start a Vegetable Garden From Scratch.
Because of the dire economy of late, many people are starting vegetable gardens to supplement their food budget. This isn’t a new idea. Years ago, everyone had a backyard garden to do just that. It was rare to find a property without a garden growing on it. Gardens stopped being part of the family landscape when everything was readily available at the market. One didn’t have to put in all the time and effort into growing his food anymore.
How to Start a Vegetable Garden From Scratch
Size and Location
The first step in starting a garden is deciding how big you want it to be and where is the best place to put it. First gardens should not be vast as you need to ease yourself into the daily chores it demands. A 16 x 20-foot area is suitable to produce enough for a family of 3 or 4. You might want to start a little smaller if you have never gardened before.
You need to find an area that will get 6 to 8 hours of full sun per day. Watch how the wind flows over the area. If there is not adequate windbreak (ex: a building or fence), a high wind might topple your taller crops. Make sure there is a water source nearby. Gardens need to be watered regularly to produce, so make sure there is an outdoor water outlet nearby. Make sure the area is well-drained. Never put a garden in an area that floods. The area needs to be high and dry.
Digging the Garden
Now that you have a place to put the garden, you need to prepare the area. If the area is grassy, you need first to remove the sod. Get a can of white spray paint and outline the space for your garden on the grass. Hardware Stores sell aerosol cans of paint explicitly made for landscaping use, but they are expensive. Regular spray paint is cheap, and you won’t be hurting the environment with it because you will be removing it with the grass and discarding it.
Once you have the outline, you will need to take a sharp flat-edged shovel and dig at an angle outside the line to loosen the sod. Do this in a small area then begin to dig up the grass by placing the shovel vertically under the sod that has been dislodged from your first dig and loosen from the ground pulling it up.
When the sod is removed, dig and turn over all the dirt in the area. This is quite a project that will take a long time to do if you choose to build a large garden. Do yourself a favor and either rent a tiller or find someone that does tilling and pay him. It is worth it.
Soil Testing and pH
Before you rent that tiller, you may want to get a soil sample. This will tell you what kind of soil you have and if it is necessary to till additives into the earth to make your plants grow better. You can purchase soil tests at the garden center. The soil tested must be dry. Follow the directions, and the test will tell you precisely what you need to know about your land.
The amount of acidity or alkalinity of the soil is pH. Vegetable gardens should be around 6 to 6.5 pH. If your pH is lower or higher, you probably should put some additives into the soil. Your local garden center can usually help you decide what to add. Just remember to give them the dimensions or the square feet of your garden. If the soil needs to be more acidic, you can add sulfur. To raise the acidity, you add lime. There is a multitude of other additives, and the staff at the garden center will know exactly what you have to do.
If your soil is hard and clay-like, it will benefit from an addition of peat moss to make it easy for your plants to grow. Take a slightly moist handful of soil and crush it in your hand. It should stay together, but when you brush it with your finger, it should fall apart. You want to make it easy for your plants to grow through the soil and spread their roots. If your soil is hard as a rock, it will be hard for them to grow. You may want to have a load of topsoil brought in to spread on top of your garden. Just be sure to soil test the topsoil and make sure the nutrients are correct.
Your soil will also benefit from a dressing of compost and manure. You can purchase fertilizer in the garden center. The compost you can make yourself by layering leaves that you gather from your yard in the fall and other organic matter in a small fenced-in area. Your garden center should be able to give you all the information you could need on composting and sometimes even sell composting bins.
Now that you know How to Start a Vegetable Garden From Scratch, the next thing is to decide what you really want to grow!
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