Sometimes the biggest obstacle a potential gardener can have is simply starting a garden. The fear of failure prevents them from jumping right in. I’ve been asking various people a question. If they were to move into a new house, how would they start a new vegetable garden? Some said raised beds, others said cardboard and mulch. How would you start a new garden?
Traditionally, gardeners begin their years of toil by tilling a plot. Nothing like that fresh dirt in neat, long rows! But, then what happens? Shortly after planting, a myriad of weeds emerge, ready to drown out any small plant pushing through the surface. Better get out your hoe for hours of endless weeding! Let’s explore a few ways to start a new garden and how to minimize some of the work!
Raised Bed Gardens
If you’ve read my post Try Raised Beds For Easy Gardening, you know that I’m a huge advocate for the raised bed. I find that they cut my work literally in half. With the garden raised up above the ground about a foot, you can easily sit on the side to harvest and work. Weeding is minimal in a raised bed garden so most of your work will be planting, watering and picking.
Raised beds can be made from many different materials. Logs, cement blocks, pallet beds, brick. Wooden boards are probably the most common thing used for the sides. When the boards are 12″, the bed allows for growing longer crops such as carrots and parsnips. Cedar, pine and our personal favorite hemlock are often used. Hemlock boards can last for over 10 years. Never use treated lumber when building a food garden bed because the toxic chemicals can leach into the soil. Of course, if the soil is okay under the bed, don’t feel pressured to have 12″ beds. I’ve even seen raised garden tables for no bending over whatsoever! Talk about easy on your back!
Raised beds can be built with any dimentions that you like. Since boards often come in 12′ lengths, we have built 12’x3′ beds. A 3-4′ width across the bed makes for easier picking and sowing. Our beds are secured with 3″ screws. Lay one layer of cardboard in the bottom of the bed.
This will suppress weeds that may be under the new bed. Our boxes have been filled with garden loam and then topped with compost or aged manure, which get worked in over the summer. Every year, additional topdressing ensures soil fertility. Cardboard can be placed on the ground between beds to establish a weed free path. This can be covered with bark mulch or crushed rock.
Once you have your beds in place, many gardening methods can be used. Mulch or no mulch, square foot gardening, it works well for so many things. Worms can come right up from the ground below to start cultivating your soil. There is some initial cost up front but the rewards will outweigh this very quickly. I actually made a friend into a raised bed convert a number of years ago. Now her whole front yard is full of them!
Simple No-dig Method
The no-dig method is making great strides in the gardening world. There have been many similar garden types out there such as heavily mulched gardens and lasagna gardens. The idea is to cover existing weeds with a layer of cardboard or newspaper, then add your soil right on top. Compost or aged manure is then used to dress out the bed. Beds can be made with sides or no sides. In this type of gardening, no digging goes on. Put away your spade and tiller. Only a trowel is used for digging surface weeds. This idea appealed to me so much, that last year I began to implement Charles Dowding’s no-dig advice.
Many of us want to save money by having a home garden. If you are starting a new garden, try not to skimp on soil. I read somewhere recently to spend 75% of your garden budget on soil and soil amendments. That may seem pretty steep but in the case of soil you really get out what you put into it. For more detailed information on this topic go to No-dig Gardening or look up the expert himself, Charles Dowding. I’m really excited to see how the results turn out for us in the coming gardening season.
Incorporating Edibles Into The Existing Landscape
So, what if you can’t start a new garden but you want to grow more of your own food? Container gardening is a fantastic way to utilize deck or driveway space. Mix herbs into your flower boxes for an aromatic display. Try planting deck tomatoes. There are many self-watering planters on the market and the internet is full of do-it-yourself planter ideas. Check your shed, you may have some pots that you can use out there!
This picture above shows young pole beans planted in a horse grain container. Almost anything that will hold dirt and keep in some water will work.
If you have existing perennial gardens, could you make room for some edibles? Think about placing a few tomatoes or a bean teepee in between shrubs. A potted cucumber tower could provide plenty of cukes with vertical growing. Spots between perennial flowers can be cozy homes for clumps of lettuce, kale, carrots or chard. Ever-bearing alpine strawberries make an adorable garden edging. Add in a few high bush blueberries to the side of your yard. Get creative, the more you plant, there will be fewer places for weeds to come up!
Whatever you choose to do for a garden, why not try something new? Many gardeners are proving that these methods really work and make gardening a whole lot easier. One of the biggest rewards is the taste of homegrown produce!
We are in our first week of spring here at Everlongardener. The weather feels a bit more like January but maybe March is going out with a bang! Thanks for giving this a read this week and feel free to subscribe in the sidebar for more weekly gardening motivation. Leave a comment, I would love to hear from you. Remember, anyone can garden!