Landscaping and Garden

Garden Growing Guide: How To Prepare Your Garden

Preparing Your Garden

If you are a newbie to gardening and hesitant about how to prepare your garden, then worry no more. I’m here to ease a bit of the worry you may have and build your gardening confidence through practice so you too can join the masses who get out and grow each season.

This garden growing guide comes from years of experience and my passion for the outdoors which should help guide you in the right direction. If you have an inherent green thumb or simply want to experiment the time is here to put your gardening plans in motion. Begin the process by figuring out how and where you will plant your vegetable garden this spring.

If you are planting a garden to grow your own food for the first time I’d recommend starting off small, get your feet wet before you jump right in. Building up gardening experience over time will lead to a more rewarding experience.

How To Start A Garden

The first step before even deciding what you are going to grow in the garden should be picking a good location. In an earlier post I talked about growing a garden in a small space if you didn’t have a large area in your yard to get started. Based on how much space you have and the amount of sunlight the area gets, you can plan your vegetables accordingly.

A garden planted with north-south facing rows will get more direct sunlight. Also consider other environmental factors in your area. I live in farm country and no matter what location I choose I will be surrounded by worked fields.

I have to keep in my mind that my garden could be exposed to pesticide drift. Pesticide drift simply means that pesticides used by the farmers for pest management in the farm fields may drift as vapours and particles in the air or through the soil.

So I will be keeping my garden as far away from the fields as possible, but I also plan to plant a small evergreen border between my garden and the field to keep the drift away.

Gardening Tip-Grow your garden a good distance from Walnut trees as they contain chemicals that can kill your vegetables.

Digging the Garden Soil

Preparing The Soil 

So now you’ve picked your location and you know what you’re going to plant. It’s time to get out there and start getting the area ready. Vegetables will benefit greatly from good soil conditions. The soil needs to be well-drained and nutrient rich.

Take a good look to see what’s in the soil in your garden. If you have sandy soil you will have to water more often, working in some peat moss or compost will still allow for proper drainage but will increase the water-holding capacity of the soil.

Soil with lots of clay will not drain properly, working in some compost even just 4-6 inches deep, will make the soil more porous and allow better drainage and increased oxygen for the roots. Compost is an excellent choice for amending any garden regardless of what soil type.

You can make your own compost at home in the backyard if you have a compost bin. If you have leaves that come down in the fall you can also add them to your compost heap to break down over the winter to give you a dark, nutrient rich soil.

Many cities offer free compost, check locally to see if yours does by contacting your city hall. You are usually required to do the work yourself, such as bagging it or putting in a container, but it’s free! Free compost means that’s one less thing you need to pay for and you can designate the money towards something else for your gardening project.

Manure can also be used to improve your soil. It can be purchased from garden centres or you could even ask a local farmer for some. If it is obtained from a farm it needs to be well-dried out before it can be used, otherwise it can have the opposite effect and be harmful to your garden. Using manure will give the best results if its applied a few weeks before planting, giving it some time to settle in.

If you heat your house by wood, you can turn in some of the ashes and it will add some potassium to the soil. Potassium encourages rapid growth, and can help to hold off disease.

Potassium can also improve the flavour the vegetables as well. Only a small amount of ashes needs to be used, and should be avoided where plants such as blueberries that require slightly acidic soil are being grown. It does not need to be applied regularly as potassium is a slow diminishing nutrient.

Young Seedlings In Pots

Transplanting Seedlings 

By this point you should have already started your seeds and they should be well on their way to making a transition out into the world. If you’ve grown your own seedlings indoors, the next step is preparing them for outdoors.

Plants that were started indoors can experience some transplant shock if they are taking directly from indoors and planted outside. This shock could be enough to kill the plant. Slowly exposing the plants to the temperature fluctuation is referred to as hardening off. 

Expose the plants gradually to the environment, the bigger the temperature difference, the slower the process should be. You can start by placing them outside for a few hours during the day, then maybe into the evening.

Then if the nights are getting warmer leave them out overnight, but not in the garden yet. If there is a threat of frost move them inside for the night. You want to disturb the roots as little as possible at this point. This process can also help with not planting too early which could cause some serious repercussions and heartbreak if you were to lose your seedlings.

I can remember multiple customers who came into the greenhouse looking to buy or re-buy their plants because they simply planted too soon! I can’t wait to get planting my and I look out my window every morning hoping to see green grass, but right now is definitely too early and even using the traditional May 2-4 weekend (in our climate)as a guideline may be too soon.

We often seem to get just one more frost when we all think the cold weather is gone. It’s better to be safe then sorry and hold off a little bit. They say the early bird gets the worm, well not in this case. Having to replace your plants is not exactly cost-effective for anyone’ budget.

watering the garden

Watering Your Garden

Don’t forget too that your garden needs to be watered, carrying  a watering can back and forth can be a daunting task. Planting closer to your home makes it easier to get access with a garden hose, and using a garden hose nozzle ensures not having to walk back and forth as far.

If you have a rain barrel set up on your property not only will it save you money on your water bill this summer but you will be giving your plants rain water and not tap water.

If using municipal water, filling up jugs of tap water and letting them sit open for 24 hours will allow for the added chlorine to evaporate. Chlorine can negatively affect the microorganisms in the soil, harming beneficial organisms that can help to fight off pests and disease.

Vegetable gardening is very rewarding when food from your garden ends up on your dinner plate but can also be time-consuming. Learning how to grow a garden in your backyard takes time and with proper research and trial and error over time you can have an abundance of vegetables and herbs to make tasty meals in your kitchen.

Planning ahead and taking the time to properly prepare your garden will get you off to a good start, and remember to start small if this is new to you. Don’t get discouraged right away if your first garden doesn’t work out,trial and error is the name of the game. A well prepared garden can be a great money-saving tool for your budget if you have some time and patience.

Questions:

What are some other ways you prepare your garden?

Do you have any tricks or tips you want to share?

If you have any gardening questions for Katrina feel free to leave her a comment.

Post Contribution By: Katrina is a horticulture graduate with over 10 years experience with landscaping and greenhouse production. Her goal is to share her knowledge and experiences through blogging in hopes of helping others realize their gardening abilities.While being a single mom of two and working in a sales and marketing position, Katrina runs her own Landscaping Services in Southwestern Ontario.

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Related Articles:

Photos Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net/ Watering the garden Feelart, Garden Sign by Simon Howden, Gardening By Dan, Seedlings in Pots by Sira Anamwong

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19 Comments

  1. Great tips shared by you in order to prepare our own Garden. I am going to build the garden in a small area, so I surely will keep these things in mind

  2. Getting your soil tested is the single BEST suggestion offered here. That has paid off for us in spades. We had a fungus that was killing our lawn – took a chunk of soil down to the local garden shop, they tested it for free, told us what the problem and cure was and $22 later our lawn was up and running again. Our neighbor had the same problem – we told him what to do, but he was sure he had to replace his entire lawn – which he did to the tune of several $1000. Too bad ’cause we got ours fixed for $20.

    Nonetheless, we are still at a loss as to how to get rid of the rabbits that are hell-bent on destroying our yard and veggie garden (short of shooting them – which spouse will not let me do). We don’t have dogs anymore and can’t ’cause grandchild is allergic to them so we need another solution. However, for those of you who don’t have kids that are allergic to dogs – they are the best rabbit deterrent out there! (and no, our dogs never ate them – they just chased them out of the yard).

  3. I keep telling myself to get started with gardening but it always seems to get put on the back burner. I have actually taken an interest in hydroponics. It looks really interesting and would be a much better fit as we do not have the room for gardening.

  4. Great post! We had a garden for a few years, then we took it down a couple years ago, after my little one was born, as we hadn’t the time to maintain it anymore. I had oodles of tomatoes and beans every year, but I could never get anything else to grow before the rabbits and other animals got to it. I remember I was about to pick some beautiful red lettuce I had growing, then I thought it just needed one more day or two. But obviously the bunny didn’t think so. We’re looking at starting up a garden again this year. Any tips for keeping away cute little bunnies from eating all my veggies?

  5. Loved the post!!! Our back yard is at the bottom of a hill and stays wet after a rain. I put in raised beds and filled with top soil for my perennials. I top it up every year with compost as much as I can. I think if I had the space I’d like to try square foot gardening for veggies… ever try that???? It interests me and I’d love to try it…..

  6. I would like to start growing a few things on our balcony. Maybe just an herb garden to start.

    I bought a great little live Christmas tree last year. When I set it up in the house it dried out no matter how much I watered it. When Christmas was over, I moved it outside hoping to use it again next year. It went brown and all the needles fell off. I can’t tell if it is dead or will come back.

    1. Scratch a tiny bit of the bark off on the trunk of you see any green then it has a chance if its all brown its dead.
      What kind of growing containers do you plan to use on your balcony?

  7. Personally, I’m not concerned about pesticides. While I don’t use them personally (a little dish soap mixed in water in a spray bottle kills insects on plants just as well as chemicals pesticides and is a lot cheaper), I don’t go all “it’s the end of the world!” when I’m exposed to them. When I was working in greenhouses, I was practically bathing in pesticides.

    1. Exposure to pesticides is certainly a personal preference. My kids get exposed to enough harmful things in this world and I like to control what I can. What kind of work did you in the greenhouse? Thanks for stopping in to read it 🙂

  8. I did not know that about Walnut trees. Not that we have any, but it’s still good to know. We’re going to be building our own compost pit for the first time this year. We have fund that we can get our soil tested at the local extension office and they can tell us exactly the composition make up we need to best foster a good garden.

    1. Having your soil tested is great thing to do. I have heard the term local extension office a few times lately, is that American? Here in Ontario I am most familiar with sending samples to the University of Guelph. When taking your sample, take multiple samples from the area you are testing and not all from the same spot, also avoid using any kind of galvinized container as it can alter the soil composition. Come back and let us know your results and what recommendations they gave you.

      1. We call it an extension office in Florida too. They seem to fill a bunch of random county responsibilities and soil testing is one of them. Our soil (if you can even call it that) is incredibly sandy and chock full of shells since we live so close to the beach. We’re thinking of trying a raised bed to avoid the sand, but missed the prime growing season this year.

  9. thank you for the tips! I see your seedlings are down to 1 plant per bag, in Mr CBB’s egg carton seedlings there were a dozen seedlings per unit, so when do you weed out? Do you keep them all while you do the temperature adaptation phase then only keep the biggest one? I read if you leave seedlings too close for too long they will stop growing because their roots have no space. What size do you know a seedling is viable?

    1. Hi Pauline, seedlings do not necessarily require thinning out. It all depends how you choose to sow them. If you choose to sow them in an open tray then yes thinning out will be required. If you sow them in a divided tray or egg cartons like Mr. CBB did then they can be planted as is from the tray. Each cell becomes its own plant. Planting 2-3 seeds per cell or even just 1 if they are big seeds, is enough. To determine which seedlings are stronger than others….any seedlings that appear to have stretched and are flimsy and lanky will make weak plants. Does that make sense?

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