Growing a garden. Where do I start?

You start where you are with what you’ve got! Everyone is somewhere and even if you have nothing for starting a garden, everyone reading this can make the first thing they need: A PLAN.

Even if your desire it to grow  a single tomato plant or basil or a handful of strawberries you could benefit by learning about where you are and putting some sort of plan on paper. Do you need to know which tomato plant is “best” for your area? NOPE. Buy plants from local nurseries and garden shops. They usually have plants in stock that do well in your area. Do you need to know what amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) the plant likes? NOPE. Almost any dirt mixed with almost any soil from a bag will get you started with almost any edible plant. What really helps is knowing where in the world you are when it comes to climate and season length. Planting a pepper plant in the ground or a balcony pot too soon can result in sending the plant into a tizzy that takes weeks to recover from or worse, causes the death of the plant. Planting a melon in June that needs 120 days in the ground may result in getting no ripe fruit  because you planted it too late. I’m speaking from experience here.

Learning your last average frost date of spring and your first average frost date of fall and your “hardiness zone” can be informative for mapping out your plan and can greatly increase your plant options by helping you make an informed choice if ordering plants or seeds from another part of the country. Here are two links that help you find that information.

http://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/

http://www.americanmeadows.com/usda-zone-map

That helps us learn about where we are. Now we need a plan.

For the purpose of this discussion we will assume that you have a sunny place in mind for where the plant will reside. The particulars of how the garden is laid out can depend on what you plant. What you plant can depend on the space you have in mind. I like to put my wish list of plants together then worry about what goes where later. It is an important part of the plan but once I discover what my planting schedule is I might discover that I can put buckwheat in the garden after my letuce is done growing due to summer heat.

Most plants and seed packets tell us when to start seeds and when to transplant into the ground or when to begin “hardening off” our young plants to be placed outside. I personally like to write a list of the plants I hope to grow and then next to the plant name I like to write something easy to compare with as I scan my list, for example:

Tomatoes      Seed I 8-6 BLF  H 1-0 BLF T ALF

This means (to me) My tomato seeds get started Indoors 8-6 weeks Before Last (spring) Frost, Hardening off begins around 1 week Before Last Frost and Transplant to ground After Last Frost (for my area).

Some people like to make a chart or get a dedicated calendar where the steps for each plant are written on the projected dates. Whatever works best for you is fine but to be able to plan what goes in in which order will help with making a garden that has a strong start and ample time to reach maturity. If you save this plan until next year you can correct schedules and overall plans for a better subsequent garden. This should be getting better all the time.

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For help making a plan here is a planting calendar to check out.

Seed starting calendar help.

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