How to Plan for Gardening Success
Hello food garden enthusiasts. It’s time to start thinking about the season of light and warmth and growth. However, before you run out to your local garden supply shop, to begin planting your favourite herbs, veggies and flowers you must consider one integral piece of the garden success puzzle: The Plan.
Garden failure is all too often a result of poor or lack of planning. It is very easy to get excited and over confident when it comes to gardening. You decide that growing food is simple enough, you purchase a catalogue’s worth of seeds and soil decide to figure it out along the way. Sadly, this blind enthusiasm often results in low yields, dead plants and sad dejection. Lack of planning often turns the keen newbie food grower into a sour, dispirited non-gardener. The garden will become a nuisance demanding excessive work for little return.
There are four fundamentals that should be considered before embracing your passion and planting and sowing your seeds of love.
Wind and light are the most important elements to begin with when planning your garden. Which spots get the most light? Which potential planting zones get sun in the morning when it is weakest and which get the blaring, baking, afternoon beams? Do you have a sun drenched wall you can plant heat lovers against where they will get maximum warmth and wind protection?
Wind is also a key consideration because some plants do not like to be swept off their feet. Wind may disturb tender plants and can also rob those plants of precious heat. You wouldn’t want to plant tomatoes or a young fig tree in an exposed windy spot where they’ll be shivering at night and their precious branches may break if a storm hits.
Before you reach for compost and fertilizer, check the quality of the soil you will be working with. Is it hard packed clay? Is it loose and sandy? Is it a swamp of eternal sadness? Whatever soil you begin with will dictate how you proceed with your garden plan. You will either need to amend your soil for increased drainage, water retention or for fertility. The ideal soil type issandy loam, which means that it retains enough water and minerals for most plants but it still drains well.
A simple method to check what kind of soil you’ve been blessed with is the ribbon test. First wet the soil so it is moist but not soggy. Next, take a handful of soil and squeeze it. If you open your hand and the soil falls away, your soil is too sandy. You will need to add plenty of compost and fertilizer because that sand ain’t holdin’ no minerals for nobody. Alternatively, if the soil stays put in a tight ball, press it between your thumb and index finger. If it is malleable, creating a long connected ribbon, you have high clay content. Too much clay means that your soil is nutrient rich, but practically impenetrable so you will need to increase your drainage with sand. Now, if you press your thumb into the soil ball and it softly clumps away like Grandma’s apple crumble, you have hit the jackpot. Sandy loam. Add some organic fertilizer and off you go. Regardless of your soil situation, it is paramount that you test it prior to planting so that you may buy and apply the appropriate amendments.
Measure & Draw
Take the time to measure your garden area and create a blue print. If your drawing skills are less than impressive, you can use one of several simple, free garden design programs online. Draw out where your beds are going to be built. Map out your crop plots in accordance to your expert exposure and soil assessments. Plan the succession of your garden anticipate your crop rotation next year. It will take an evening to organize your design, but you will thank yourself when you have a thriving garden rather than a few sadly stressed out sprouts.
Before you plant your garden, take a survey of the existing creatures that call your yard home. Does your garden have a large slug population? If you plant now, will you be waging a salt versus slime war for the next three months? Have you noticed a sweet looking white, mothy butterfly fluttering here and there? Don’t be fooled by her lovely appearance, she’s the Brassica Massaca and because of her you can kiss your kale and broccoli plants goodbye.
To save your seedlings and transplants from becoming bug food, don’t wait until you notice the first signs of destruction. Research the best methods to deal with your specific pests and exercise preventive control methods before planting. Keep in mind that there are always set backs when growing a garden. Those hitches are all just a part of the learning process. If most
of your carrots came out as stumpy, mangled knobs this season, you’ll know to apply sand to your soil so they can reach the depth they need to next year. If your beet tops were eaten by slugs, you will zap those slime balls before they have a chance to feast on your sweets. After a couple of trouble shooting years, your plan will be airtight and your success levels will only increase. It is a great accomplishment to grow your own food and it is worthy of your time and effort. Food gardens can show returns in the form of economic gain, increased health and wellness, community building, decreased carbon footprint and a well needed supply of nature and outdoor therapy.