Gardening 101: a guide for beginners

Image of couple of farmers seedling and watering sprouts in the garden

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- Spring is in full bloom around West Michigan and it’s a great time to exercise your green thumb and plan a summer garden.  It’s easy to get over-ambitious and bite off more than you can chew.  Use these tips to get you started for a successful growing season.

LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION!

gardening 101 planting

The secret to a great garden is choosing the perfect spot.  The National Gardening Association agrees, ” Your garden will do best if it gets full sun; 6 hours a day of direct sun is the minimum needed by most vegetable plants for optimum growth. However, if your site for a garden gets less than this, don’t give up. Some crops, especially leafy ones like lettuce and spinach, produce reasonably well in a partly shaded location.”

SIZE MATTERS

gardening 101

Decide how big your garden will be based on how much space you actually have and how much time you have to maintain it.  The average garden is around 500 square feet.  If you know you want to can a pantry full of tomato sauce, green beans, corn and pickles then you’ll want to make sure your garden is large enough to yield the harvest that you want.

If you have a jam-packed summer calendar or work long hours you may want to opt for something smaller like a 10×20 garden.  You’ll find you need to tend to the garden for about a half hour every couple of days.

RAISE IT UP

Vegetable garden in raised boxes
Vegetable garden in raised boxes

If your soil has poor drainage (i.e. there’s a lot of standing water after a good rain) or has too much sand or clay you may want to consider a raised bed garden.  You can use wood to build a frame and then fill your garden with planting soil.  Here’s a helpful tutorial we found on YouTube.

PICKING YOUR PLANTS

Food garden
Food garden

Now for the fun part, planning your crop!  Have fun and try new things while making sure to cover the staples like tomatoes, peppers and beans.  Be sure to read the tags stuck inside your plants and be mindful of the required sunlight and how large the plant will be.  This will help you determine how many plants you can fit in your space.  You don’t want to crowd the plants by cramming in every veggie you saw at your local greenhouse.  Remember pumpkins, melons and zucchini all grow on vines that spread like crazy!  Make sure you have enough room to let your garden grow.  Think about what you want to freeze or can at the end of the season and stock up on those items.

HELP YOUR GARDEN GROW

Image of couple of farmers seedling and watering sprouts in the garden

Until your plants establish roots you’ll most likely want to water every day.  You’ll also want to add support systems early around each plant before they grow, like tomato cages or trellis for melons and zucchini.  Once your plants are established keep the soil fertile.  Choose a fertilizer and follow the instructions thoroughly. Next you’ll need to control weeds and pests.  For the weeds, this is where the work really comes in!  You’ll want to hand pull them and keep it under control.  As for the pests? The best thing you can do is keep your garden healthy and maintained to reduce the bugs.

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