Gardening can be a great way to help kids learn about where food comes from. However, it’s important to conduct research and make sure that your garden is the right size and location for what you’re growing.
The first tip is to choose a sunny site. Many vegetables need at least six hours of sunlight a day to thrive.
Choose a Location
If you don’t have a lot of yard space, finding the right place for your garden may seem challenging. It is important to choose a location that receives ample sunlight and has good soil.
It is also a good idea to check with your local agricultural extension office for free or low-cost soil tests that can help you determine the nutrient levels and PH of your soil as well as any pollutants.
Another thing to look for is whether the area you’re thinking of gardening is close to any puddles or runoff spots after rain. If so, you may want to consider a different garden spot as these areas can encourage the growth of fungal diseases like mold and mildew that can limit your harvest.
It’s also a good idea to avoid any locations where there are buried utility lines or fence posts. This can prevent you from accidentally digging up something you need or creating a dangerous situation for yourself when working in the garden.
Build Your Beds
Whether you grow veggies or flowers, you’ll need beds. Raised beds, a series of raised mounds of dirt contained by a frame, allow you to plant more densely and in the most ideal conditions for your garden. Digging disturbs the natural life beneath the soil, so no-till gardening is the best way to prep your planting area. Pull the existing weeds and cover with a thick layer of compost, then prepare to plant.
A good tip is to use a soil test kit, available for a small fee from your local extension office. This will identify the proportions of clay, sand and silt in your soil along with its pH level and any nutrient deficiencies or toxic substances.
If you choose to build your own garden beds, use rot-resistant wood planks, such as cedar or cypress. Avoid wood that’s been pre-treated, as the chemicals can leach into your soil. Also, avoid using cinder blocks, which contain fly ash (or coal particulates) and may be unsafe.
Plant a Variety of Vegetables
Choose plants that you and your family will enjoy eating, such as vegetables, herbs, or flowers. You might also want to plant vegetables with different maturation times, so that you can harvest them over a longer period of time (strategically known as succession planting).
Start the garden by clearing away weeds and grass from where you plan to plant. If you have a large area to cover, try using the lasagna gardening method, which involves covering the growing space with several sheets of newspaper and putting compost on top.
To help your vegetables grow, fertilize regularly with a balanced organic product or use natural pest-repelling methods instead of chemicals and harmful herbicides. Water the garden regularly and consistently, adjusting the amount to your climate zone and the season. Keep an eye out for signs of stress on the plants, such as wilting leaves or mushy stems. Mulch can help retain moisture and reduce weeds. Keep records of the successes and challenges you face, so that your garden gets better year after year.
Maintain Your Garden
Weeding, watering and pruning are among the essential garden chores. Prompt weeding prevents the weeds from stealing the moisture and nutrients needed by garden plants. Proper plant pruning allows the plants to better withstand stress.
Soil monitoring is another essential garden task. Healthy soil typically carries a reddish-brown hue and boats a rich, dense texture that supports a variety of microorganisms and insects. A soil test helps you understand your particular garden’s conditions, such as the pH level, which can help you choose what plants to grow.
Avoid overwatering by checking the soil’s moisture levels (push a finger a couple inches deep or one knuckle deep) before you water and by using a watering gauge on your garden hose to adjust days between watering. Be careful not to wet the foliage because wet leaves are more prone to fungal problems. Keeping up with these simple tasks will help your garden stay productive and healthy all summer long.