Grow Your Own Garden | Part One - Preparation

Have you noticed an increasing amount of ads promoting going green, using less and perhaps more and more notions of eating fresh, homegrown fruits and vegetables.  So have we and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the encouragement to get outdoors and make something of this beautiful earth.  We are going to start a series of posts for outdoor vegetable and fruit gardening from the novice to the advanced.  You can look for things to come such as building a garden, how to plant, watering, and more.  We hope you find these posts useful and inspiring to see what you can grow!

When it comes to the science of gardening, you can get up to your eyeballs in information, as there are many different philosophies and ideas surrounding the topic.  That being said, this series is to be used as a general guideline for gardening. We want to make this site into a user community, so please share what has worked for you and your gardening space.  We love to see what your are growing and appreciate your feedback!!  Feel free to comment on the post or head over to our facebook page and post your photos, questions, advice, etc!

Preparation

Brainstorm about your garden.  Before spring comes rolling in, start planning your garden.  Use this time to think about what size area you want to use for gardening.  What do you want to grow?  What does your schedule allow?  How often do you want to tend to your garden?  What will you do with your harvest?  How much do you want to grow, and how much is too much?   Things like these are important to decide before you get to digging.  Making the most of your garden by knowing what you want out of it will make this an enjoyable experience.   In years past, we like to plant an abundance of food, like tomatoes, onions, potatoes, etc. and store or freeze them to use for the winter months.

Plan your layout.  Maximize your space and get the most out of your garden by planning ahead.  Most new gardeners, and we have been there before, don’t know what the final product looks like when gardening.  Sure you know what a ripened tomato looks like, but did you know that tomatoes need cages and can grow to 4 feet tall?  Ok, so that was an easy one, I am sure most of you knew that.  But what about potatoes, garlic, squash, or even better, asparagus.  These plants need different spatial needs and it helps to know how to space them to maximize your ground.  You can fit 10 onions in the space it takes one squash plant to grow.  Also, when laying out your garden, think of the sun.  Afternoon sun is the hottest and some plants can handle it.  Place the more delicate ones to the east so they can possibly be shadowed through part of the afternoon.  If you have an existing garden, rotate your layout for the next season.  Some plants use certain nutrients in the soil and leave little behind for the next season. Changing areas can help keep a natural balance in your garden.

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Work the ground.  No matter if you have an existing garden or want to start from scratch, first things first, and that is soil.  It is where the roots get their nutrients to supply the plants and their blooms.  You want the plant to live in a good home, so surround it with the essentials, so it will produce well for you.  After a long, cold winter, your soil can get compacted and it needs to be broken apart.  Get some air in there, let it breath.  Aerating your garden helps tremendously with drainage, which is key to growing a bountiful garden.  Tilling up the ground also makes it easier for you to dig and plant your seeds.  It is a great form of weeding, as it grinds through the pesky eyesores that may have come up during the winter and can help keep the weeds at bay through the spring, breaking up their root systems.  You can also mix in some fresh additions to your soil at this time, bring us to our next point – soil prep.

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Soil Preparation.   Amending your soil with key ingredients promotes strong roots systems leading to healthier plants and prolific harvests.  The three main players in gardening soil are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  I know this sounds like a chemistry lesson, but once you know what each addition does, you can easily target what your soil is lacking.  The nitrogen can be found in blood-meal, which aides in the growing phase.  Plants use these nitrates to build a strong, healthy leaf and stem system.  Too much nitrogen can build big, beautiful plants, but restricts the blooms, which eventually bear the fruit.  Phosphorus, which is found in bone-meal, aides in the root system (starting your plants off right) and  in the flowering for tomatoes and such.  Which, by the way, since we all have to start somewhere, did you know that the flowers are the blooms that eventually turn into the fruit?  (You remember pollinations, bees??) This is the only time that I reprimand my toddler picking flowers for me! The last key ingredient is potassium, found as potash, which is added for overall health, helping to fight diseases and improve the quality of the fruit.   Now that we have sorted through the main components, this is something to keep in mind to help have a richer, healthier soil system for your garden.  Some plants deplete the soil of these nutrients, so rotate your plants. Any or all of these can be added to your soil, or in areas that need improvement.  You can also have your soil tested at your local extension office.  This is a great place to start, getting you off on the right foot for the growing season.

Fertilize.  In addition to the three ingredients above, you may look further, or actually closer, to help improve your soil.   Add organic matter to your soil by using leaves in your yard from the fall.  Start a compost.  Add manure.  Use old grass clippings.  Things like these are easy to find and usually cost free!  What more could you ask for?

These are a few things to get you started on either planning a garden or making the most of your previous garden.  Up next, building your garden.Gr