Gardening has always been a passion for the family, ever since an early age, I have had my hands in the dirt picking strawberries and tomatoes. This season seems like an especially hard one with all the water that keeps pouring in, but with a little preparation, you’ll be set to have the garden of your dreams.
Steps to Start Your Dream Garden in Springfield
Start Early! Plan it out!
Don’t wait until you see all the plants at the hardware stores in town, start the previous year if you possibly can. Lay down black plastic in the area you want your garden to be. The plastic will prevent too much water from being absorbed and will heat the soil up so you can plant sooner in the season. When you pick up the plastic you’re either ready to plant or start tilling up your soil, so easy!
Make sure you plan your garden out, don’t start throwing seeds. Read the spacing for each of your plants, and try to follow it as best as you can. A neat garden is a great pleasure to come home to in the evenings, so I recommend starting small then expanding the proceeding years. A large garden is not only a large chore to create, till, and plant in – but also weeding, watering, and picking your produce can make you feel like gardening is too much work. Grab you a few tomatoes, some potatoes, onions, lettuce, and some other favorites – plot your land out – and make yourself the best garden you can.
Use straw or some kind of mulch.
No one that I know likes to weed their garden. After you lift your black plastic up or you have cleared your garden patch, make sure and make some pathways to walk. For the pathways, I like to put newspapers down under the straw to prevent weeds, help lock in the moisture, and also prevent excess moisture. The straw that you put down over the newspaper will bring in a lot of beneficial insects like worms to help break down your soil giving those much-needed nutrients to your plants. It’s very nice to look at as well, instead of dry earth that is just losing nutrients to wind and weather. Having the pathways allows you plenty of room to pick and train your plants. I prefer straw, but I have used many different types of products for pathways. Just try and find something that you like, is inexpensive, and have some extra on hand for later in the season.
Make doubly sure you get straw! Do not get hay! Make sure your straw is seasoned as well, otherwise you’ll end up with a fine grass garden (the reason is hay has tons of grass seeds in it whereas straw does not). Trust me, this is not something fun to deal with – I know from experience. Remember hay is for horses! Not gardening!
Location, Location, Location!
This one seems pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how many gardens I see in odd locations. Remember the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so a good rule of thumb is to try and have morning and evening light as best as possible. Do not plant under a tree, or remove trees in your yard if you’re serious about your garden. If you know your land has a possibility of flooding then try and put it on a hill, or make some raised beds to ensure proper drainage. Make sure your garden is in reach of a water source, you don’t want to have to pull a hose out every day. Some people invest in soaker hoses, and that’s a great way to make your gardening easy later on in the season.
Watering and feeding.
Try and water often in the spring and lessen your efforts as the plants start to root out and grow. The plants will create their root system based on how you water them, so make sure you don’t overwater when the plants have developed. The root system won’t develop and will be too near the surface causing plants to either fall over or get dried out quickly in the summer. Check your tags and it will give you an idea of how much water per week that your plants require. Remember excess wind or sun can have detrimental effects on your garden, make sure you’re constantly checking your plants to make sure they don’t need any watering.
Feeding is pretty easy. You can do this a variety of different ways, but I recommend compost tea and composting in between your rows. This requires a composting bin. Ours is made of a few cinder blocks and we put most of our food waste in it. By the end of the season, the mulch is ready to be put on the garden between the rows (not directly on the plants). Alternatively, the compost tea is made from compost that is put into a cloth bag and then submerged in a bucket of water for a few days. This is awesome for your plants to not only fertilize them but also to prevent any kind of diseases on the leaves.
Harvesting and storing.
This is one of my favorite parts of gardening. Not only do you get to pull the produce you’ve worked so hard to create, but you get to make all sorts of products from them. Some of my favorites are strawberry jam, tomato sauce from scratch, braids of onions, canned greened beans, and much more. Remember if you planned correctly, you should have a manageable amount of fruit and vegetables to harvest. Decide and choose which vegetables can be stored and which ones are worth it for you as a gardener. Also, don’t forget to plan your harvest as well as your planting, don’t pull all your produce at once because more than likely it will spoil if you don’t allocate the time to prepare and store it.
Grab something you would love to grow, but never have before. This makes gardening fun and exciting every year for me and the family. Some fun favorites of mine are peanuts, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, and different heirloom varieties of your favorites. Amish paste tomato is a very nice heirloom variety that produces well, has very few problems, and can be canned later in the season.
Like I said, one of the most important points is to start small, and you won’t be exhausted when it comes time to harvest and store all your produce.
Make gardening fun, profitable, and exciting and you’ll be gardening for years to come. Hope to see some great gardens soon!
Your friendly neighborhood gardener,