Friday, February 15, 2013

Beginning a Garden - Planning

 Yesterday the garden was covered with snow. Today the temperature is is near 50 and we are back to mud. 

So it  goes with late winter/early spring in Pennsylvania. 

The warm weather has me itching to start gardening. I've been able to spend a little time outdoors pruning the grapes, berries, and roses. I find myself gazing over the garden. In my mind's eye, I see a bountiful, weed-free garden untouched by ground hogs or blight. 

No garden is so lovely as the one dreamed in February. 

Since I'm asked questions by beginning gardeners, I'm going to share advice to those just beginning the gardening adventure. Today we'll talk about planning.

A garden should begin in February -  with wise planning. 

In Luke 14, Jesus speaks of counting the cost before starting a building project. Gardens benefit from planning too. 

A common mistake of beginning gardeners is to make the garden too large. Evaluate how much time you can invest in making your garden a success. An overgrown garden in August will only demoralize your desire to try again next year. Growing a huge market garden and letting it rot in the field is a waste of money and effort. If gardening is new to you, better to start small and increase slowly. Successfully grow one tomato plant, before planting a dozen.
Evaluate what your family eats. Do you like to eat a lot of salad? Or do you want to freeze green beans? If no one will eat brussel sprouts or eggplant, don't bother to plant them. 

There is also a limit to how much a family can eat at one time. One family is unlikely to eat a dozen cabbages unless you plan to preserve them. Stagger plantings so your produce is not all maturing at the same time.

Put thought into your garden location. Very few vegetables will grow in the shade. Choose your sunniest spot. If you have a spot where a thick stand of grass is growing, or even a healthy crop of weeds, underneath the vegetation is probably some good rich soil that will support a garden. 

 It is nice if the garden is handy to the kitchen, but more important is sunlight and good soil. My garden is behind our house and over a hill. Not handy at all but it is the best soil on our rocky acreage - so that is where we put our garden.

If your soil appears to be poor, only plant low demand vegetables such as beans, beets, and potatoes. If you attempt to grow a plant that demands highly fertile soil it will only be a waste of money. After a few years of soil building, you can tackle the more demanding vegetables such as cauliflower, peppers, and melons.

Next time we'll talk about buying seeds. 

What advice do you have to a gardener beginning their first garden? 


  1. A couple of years ago, you posted a video tour of your garden and other outdoor areas. It was great! If it's possible, I'd love to see a brief monthly video of your garden beginning when you prepare the land for planting. I know it's a lot to ask, so I understand if it's not possible.
    God bless, and have a lovely weekend!
    - - Philippa

    1. Philippa -
      Thanks for the suggestion. That might be fun! And it might motivate me to keep after my garden this year! Nothing like knowing the camera was coming turning on to get me to weed!

  2. Been dreaming garden thoughts since last year when we finally closed on the house, but given everything going on at the time a garden was neither wise or needed.. I made due with purchasing all my fresh veggies from our Pastor's family.. I didnt mind one bit.. I knew her labour was a blessing and she was blessed with the income that came by selling the excess... This year LoRd willing a garden will be in place on our now farmstead and I look forward to it.

  3. "No garden is as lovely as the one dreamed in February" ~ Oh so true! Big plans and grand ideas get second guessed come August and September when everything is ripe at the same time and needs canning. ~Alexis on behalf of everyone at A Moment with M.O.M.

  4. You're so right about starting smaller while you're getting your 'gardening bearings'. We usually add a new veggie to try every year. Some have been hits, others we never planted again. One thing that we've done for a couple of years now that has helped immensely is to cover the garden in a thick layer of straw. Not only does it cut down on mud, but weeds as well. It also keeps the moisture in the ground longer and cools the roots. Even with severe heat and a drought, our garden flourished last year. There is also a great documentary - - that I would recommend.

  5. Visit your local county extension office and pick up some free information. The work of the state extension service is some of the best use of taxpayer money I can think of. Their information is based on research under your local climate and soil conditions, and their recommendations are valuable. If you're lucky you'll get a monthly newsletter from there and get acquainted with the staff who is available to answer all sorts of questions as you go along.

    1. Miriam -
      I agree! The extension office is a great help! To beginners and experts alike!

  6. I really do need to spade up a tiny spot in our yard as it has good soil.
    Our cats might think it is a litter box area though.
    My husband insisted we move to the country (I can not drive!)
    but he will not garden. Now that I am more settled in,
    I could grow a bit of lettuce or something. It is extremely
    windy here with no windbreaks nor any planned. Flower
    pots have been knocked over by the cats but might have
    more good luck with a little patch. This neglected house/yard
    actually has great soil due to all the cycles of weeds growing
    then dying. The soil is so black!

  7. Thank you for this. I want to be a good/better gardener, but I've never done a thing about gardening in February! We always wait until MAY.

  8. One thing also, you have to know when to grow what! You can not plant tomatoes in March and lettuce in June. We always had gardens, in fact, three a year. Spring, Summer and Fall. Unfortunately, I am now physically unable to continue. Oh my, how I miss it. Gina, I am still reading your posts. God bless you in each thing you do.
    Debbie from East Tennessee.

    1. Hi Debbie, Glad to hear from you again!

  9. Hi Gina - we are moving house this year and one of the top requirements is a garden which we can use to grow food. We have a reasonable plot at the moment but its not big enough to grow enough food to keep us so we are really exciter about our new adventure. I am looking forward to reading your advice. Lily. xxx

  10. A recent tip I came across is if you grow it for fruit or root it needs sun If you grow it for the leaves, stems, or buds, shaded with 3-6hrs sun works.


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