How to prepare a garden plot

Just follow our step-by-step guide to creating a vegetable garden from scratch. We will cover topics including.

  • Site Selection Considerations
  • Size considerations
  • Soil Preparation

If you are putting in a vegetable garden plot from scratch and have never done it before, you probably have many questions. How big should I make the garden? What tools do I need? How deep should I dig? Sit back and relax. We’ve got some answers for you.

How to prepare a garden plot

The first step in creating a vegetable garden is site selection. The most important factor in selecting the right garden site is sunlight. You need a spot that gets a minimum of 5-6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Ideally, your garden should be created on a flat spot of land. Sometimes this is not possible. A gentle slope is ok. If you have the choice between a shady, flat spot or a sunny location on a slope, always choose the sunny spot on the slope. Additionally, you don’t want to choose a location that is at the bottom of a slope. Water runs downhill and your nice, sunny, flat garden plot might be flooded before spring is over. Also, try and choose a spot that is far enough away from large trees. If you start digging up your yard and run into a bunch of thick tree roots, you are too close to the tree and should think about creating a vegetable garden a different location. Have a good spot in mind? Great. We’ll move on to the next step in a moment. If you have surveyed your property and determined that no good site exists for creating a vegetable garden, you still have options – you can always plant a container garden.

How to prepare a garden plot

The next consideration in creating a vegetable garden is size. How big do you want your garden to be? Your answer to this question depends on a lot of things. How much land is available? How much time and effort do you want to put into your garden? What types of vegetables/fruits do you want to grow? How many plants do you want to grow?

Creating a vegetable garden plot from scratch will require a fair amount of physical exertion – digging, tilling, raking, bending, etc. If you’ve never had a vegetable garden in the past, start with a small one – maybe 100-200 square feet. Go through the steps outlined below to create a vegetable garden of this size. If you have more land available, you can always add to it and make it as big as you want/need to. If you have some plants in mind that you definitely want to grow, you can now check out the individual vegetable links listed in the navigation bar on our Home page for information about space requirements for each type of plant.

How to prepare a garden plot

Or you can go ahead and follow the steps below to create a small garden. Once you have created a vegetable garden plot, you can then choose what you want to grow.

OK, so you’ve picked the perfect spot. Now you’re staring at a plot of land that probably has grass or other plants already growing on it. So how do we transform that spot into a vegetable garden plot? This is the soil preparation part and will require some physical exertion. But there is good news – once completed, you won’t ever have to do this much work again to get your garden ready to plant. For this process, you’ll need access to a shovel, a garden rake and a tiller. The shovel should have a pointed tip. The garden rake should have short, fixed tines (unlike the long flexible tines of a leaf rake). Tillers come in a wide variety of sizes. You need a tiller that goes at least 6 inches deep. You don’t necessarily have to go out and buy an expensive tiller. You can rent one, borrow one or hire somebody to do the tilling part for you. However, if you have the means, owning your own tiller can be cost effective in the long run and much more convenient.

  1. Use a stick, rock, stake, etc. to mark the corners of the garden plot
  2. Dig up the land. push the shovel into the ground up to the hilt (stand on it if you have to). Pry up the chunk of earth with the shovel and separate it from the rest of the ground. Turn the chunk of earth upside down and put it grass down into the hole you just created. Repeat this process until your entire plot is dug up. It’s important to remember to dig as deep as your shovel will allow. If you only dig a few inches deep now, your garden will under-perform later.
  3. Run the tiller over the garden plot, using it to break up the large chunks of dirt. Do this several times. Don’t worry about deep tilling at this point. Your goal right now is just to break up the chunks of earth you dug up.
  4. After you’ve broken up as many chunks as you can with the tiller, it’s time to pick out the remaining “unbreakable” chunks. You can pick up the big chunks that are left by hand. Use the garden rake to clear out the remaining smaller chunks, rocks and plant debris.
  5. Till again. Run the tiller over the garden several times, going deeper each time. Use the rake or your hands to get rid of any remaining rocks or plant debris that pop up. Till again. Till as deep as the tiller will allow. The deeper you till, the better your garden will perform and the easier it it will be to plant.

At this point, the soil should be relatively fine in texture – no big chunks, rocks or plant debris. You should be able to dig down 6 inches or so easily with your bare hands. Now the hardest part is over. As long as you continue to pull the weeds and till right before it freezes in the fall, you won’t ever have to do any more major digging (at least for this plot of land).

Congratulations! You’ve created a vegetable garden plot from scratch. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?

There are only two more factors to consider when planning your garden. plant selection and position.

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How to prepare a garden plot

Early spring is when people start thinking about what to grow in their gardens. Seeds are started, groomed for transplanting and then the magic happens. Size matters a lot in gardening. You don’t want to create a masterpiece that is impossible to take care off. For this reason people typically start small and expand a little each year until they feel confident that they can handle a larger garden. The great thing is plot gardening can actually help in all these areas. Read on to learn how plot gardening can save you time and maximize your harvest.

Plot Gardening for Beginners

If you are reading this it probably means you are new to plot gardening or at the very least you want a refresher course. Plot gardening means you map out your garden into blocks or large squares. Some people choose to use plywood to separate each square but most just use heavy gardening twine. There are a few that do raised beds for each square in the plot and they do well with this method, it’s really just about how much space, time and materials you have to build with.

You might be asking yourself why you should use the plot method. This method reduces the amount of space you need, it significantly improves correct planting and you can plant more in less space. Value for space rating is a good way to think of things. Use your space wisely for things you are going to eat. Leave room for one or two “experiments” each year so you try new things but don’t fill your garden with vegetables you are not even sure you are going to like. Nothing is worse than doing all that hard labor and discovering that you don’t like any of it. Experiment some but use the majority of your veggie space for things you know you like.

Prepare the soil. If your new plot is virgin soil, meaning it was recently covered in grass then you will need to dig deep and remove the top soil and replace with fresh gardeners soil. Here are some tips for prepping soil for a vegetable garden. You also must enrich the soil before planting anything. Use organic fertilizers, a nice rotting compost purchased from a nursery or your own compost from a aged compost pile that you created.

Set up the plot and section off using wood, twine or rope. If you plan to grow during the colder months you are going to want to set up a cold frame using PVC pipe and green house material. You might find your garden is attracting birds or other rodents. Use the PVC pipe frame you set up to cover in netting to keep those pests out.

Plan what you want to plant. Having a family meeting to discuss what, when and where you are going to plant is a good idea to do every year. If you have children they should be included in the discussion and they should be encouraged to help plan the fruits and vegetables you will grow. Having children decide your food future can be a little scary so give them as much control as you can comfortably allow but don’t be afraid to offer suggestions or alternatives. If little Johnny only wants to grow carrots and watermelon you are going to have to step in with some suggestions or starve.

Plan the layout of your garden. Use the Companion Plant Gardening method to plan which plants you plant near each other. You want to take int consideration, how much water the plants need, the type of soil they like, and if they can help provide best control for other plants when deciding which fruits and vegetables to plant next to each other.

More Gardening Tips

Emily is passionate about growing her own food, crafts, sewing, developmental disabilities and blogging. She holds a bachelors degree in psychology with a secondary in human development from Washington State University. She also holds an associates degree in horticulture from Clark College. You can often find her blogging over at Emily’s Frugal Tips, a frugal blog dedicated to teaching families how to live with more for less money.

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About Alea Milham

Alea Milham is the owner of Premeditated Leftovers and the author of Prep-Ahead Meals from Scatch. She shares her tips for saving money and time while reducing waste in her home. Her favorite hobby, gardening, is a frugal source of organic produce for her recipes. She believes it is possible to live fully and eat well while spending less.

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How to prepare a garden plot

Welcome. I’m Alea!

On Premeditated Leftovers I share simple recipes made with whole foods, practical shopping tips, time saving techniques, and meal planning strategies. I also share tips for minimizing food waste, so more of the food that is purchased ends up on the table.

While volunteering as a budget counselor, I realized that food is the element of most people’s budgets where they have the greatest control. I set out to develop low-cost recipes from scratch to prove it’s possible to create delicious meals on a limited budget. Eating well while spending less is about more than just creating recipes using inexpensive ingredients; it’s about creatively combining ingredients so you don’t feel deprived and are inspired to stick to your budget.

How to prepare a garden plot

The method of gardening we prefer to use in our garden plots is the no-dig or layering method. This method has been proven to protect the soil from erosion and keep it biologically active giving you healthier plants and fewer weeds. This method does not involve traditional tilling and working of the soil, but preserves the structure of the soil building up the fertility and health by top dressing with quality compost and amendments. You will find that your garden plot takes far less work to maintain and your crop yield will be better as a result.

The first step in creating an outdoor garden is choosing a location. Below are a few important tips to helping you choose a location:

-Close proximity to home. Gardens need regular care and attendance so its best to put them in a close location that is easy to access and visit.

-Not near trees and hedges. Trees and large hedges draw moisture from the soil and create shade. It’s best to have an area for your garden where it will not be competing for water and sunlight.

-6-10 hours of sunlight. Be sure the location you choose is not shaded by buildings and trees. Some shade is okay, but you’ll want your garden to be able to receive at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.

-Access to water. Regular watering is necessary during dry weather.

-Free from harmful pesticides and herbicides. If an area has been sprayed or treated with pesticides and herbicides, the soil life will have been effected and your garden won’t grow as well.

MAPPING OUT YOUR GARDEN

Once you have a location in mind, it’s time to map out where the garden will be situated. It’s helpful to mark out the size and shape using string and stakes. It’s important to design your space so that you can easily access your crops without needing to walk on your growing area. Garden rows should be no wider than 4 feet for this reason. Plan on having paths through your garden area wide enough to easily walk and kneel.

PREPARING THE SOIL

-In your staked out location, clear the surface of rocks and debris.

-Cut weeds down to the soil level and/or mow any grass that is present. Pull/dig out any thick, woody stems, disturbing the soil as little as possible.

How to prepare a garden plot

-Lay out cardboard thickly over the entire area. Make sure the cardboard overlaps so that none of the ground is exposed to light. This cardboard barrier is there to help kill off the grass and weeds below, and to do so must block light. If your garden location is mainly dirt with little to no weeds or grass, you can skip laying down cardboard.

(Note: use brown cardboard, not shiny, colored cardboard and be sure it is free of tape and staples.)

-Lay 4-6 inches of compost or a mix of healthy soil and compost on the growing area. It’s beneficial to lay wood rails or posts around the edges of your garden plot to keep shape and the compost depth even throughout the whole bed. These edges can be removed once the compost settles in more and become firmer.

SOIL AND WEEDS

Below the cardboard and compost the weeds and grass are beginning to die back as they are left without light. The cardboard and compost, besides blocking light, are feeding the soil and improving the biological fertility.

Some weed perennial weeds (meaning growing for more than one year) may surface through your bed and its important to quickly remove them. If weeds are quickly removed when they surface their vigor and strength will demising quickly.

PLANTING

Once the compost has been laid over the cardboard your garden plot is ready to plant. Plant seedlings directly into the compost. The cardboard will decompose in time for plant roots to reach further into the soil as they grow. Keep your garden well planted through out the growing season.

END OF GROWING SEASON

At the end of a plants life, remove the above ground part of the plant leaving the roots to decompose in the soil. The exception would be any root vegetables in which the whole plant is uprooted, such as carrots, potatoes and parsnip.

Put an addition 1 inch layer of compost over the beds to sit over winter. This will continue to feed the soil and helps to keep weeds at bay.

THE SECOND SEASON OF GROWING

Your beds are ready to plant straight into as soon as the new growing season begins. The beds are healthy and biologically active. The compost that was put on the beds at the end of last growing season has fed the soil organisms which in turn have improved your soils health and structure. The second season and each subsequent season of growing you will see marked improvement and health in your plants. This is simply achieved by leaving your beds undug and laying compost on them yearly.

Community gardens bring people of diverse backgrounds together to share their love of gardening. Gardening is a labor of love and includes equal parts of both. With all of the time and care that you put into your garden, you want it to lead to a successful harvest. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and things don’t go as planned.

Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to save yourself from such hardship. Preparing your garden bed properly, picking the right plants, and maintaining your garden plot will lead to a successful community gardening endeavor with higher yields. Follow these tips on how to make your community garden plots thrive!

How to prepare a garden plot

How to Prepare Your Community Garden Plot

    . When you are introduced to your new garden plot, you are likely to be presented by weedy overgrowth and expired plants from the year prior. Try not to get overwhelmed, but be diligent clear away all plant foliage and clear the garden plot thoroughly. You don’t want diseased foliage in your garden bed.
  1. Amend the soil with well-decomposed compost and other organic material at least two weeks before planting.
  2. Spend time with your garden plot and watch the path of the sun and determine the layout of your garden bed based on sunlight and shading patterns.
  3. Select low maintenance plants and start planting.

How to prepare a garden plot

Selecting Plants for your Community Garden Plot

There are so many plant varieties out there that it can be hard to choose. Ask veteran gardeners in the community garden what has worked for them and what hasn’t. Start simple. It’s best to grow a few things well to gain some confidence, which will encourage you to stick with it. Here are some things to consider when selecting your plants, as well as some suggestions for easy growing vegetables to help get you started.

Follow Community Guidelines

Become familiar with the rules and guidelines associated with restrictions on plants in the community garden. Some plants like mint varieties can tunnel in the ground and spread so quickly that they become a menace to the entire community of plots.

Practice the Art of Companion Planting

Select plants that work well together-companion planting. They will feed each other and protect your plants from garden pests. Companion plants will attract pollinators to your garden and deter unwanted pests from munching on your leaves and decimating your garden.

How to prepare a garden plot

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How to prepare a garden plot

Choose Low Maintenance Plants

Here are some suggestions for easy to grow plants to try as you get started with your community garden plot. They will all grow pretty well without the need for constant care. Keep things simple and celebrate successes. You can always try out some new additions next year once you get a sense of how your first year garden of low maintenance plants grows.

  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes, particularly cherry
  • Chives
  • Scallions

Grow Upward

Community garden plots restrict gardeners with certain boundaries for their garden beds. To get more out of your garden plot’s real estate, consider growing some plants vertically on obelisks, cages, teepees, and trellises.

How to prepare a garden plot

Practice Regular Weeding Habits

You likely won’t be visiting your garden plot every day, so it is essential to weed it when you are there. Weeds can compete with plants for nutrients, water, and sunlight and propagate very quickly once allowed to take root. Pesky weeds can take over your garden, and they can also release weed seeds that will spread to other garden plots, making them menacing neighbors in the community.

Weed whenever you visit your community garden plot. Concoct a bottle of organic weed killer made from 2 parts distilled white vinegar, 1 part water, and a couple of teaspoons of dish soap in a spray bottle and bring along with you on garden visits. Spritz the leaves of unwanted weeds and let the hot sun assist in withering nuisance weeds away.

Mulch

Use mulch around the plants in your community garden plot. Not only does mulch help to deter weeds, but it also can help keep your garden soil moist and protected while you are not there to tend it.

Seek Advice from other Community Gardeners

Part of the fun of being a part of a community garden is that it brings people together. Fellow gardeners who have had their plots longer than you may have already done some troubleshooting of their own at the location and can be a wealth of information on how to help your parcel thrive. Make connections, ask questions, and be open to learning some tips and tricks from other gardeners.

On this week’s episode, the guys talk about the different ways to prepare a garden plot for planting. They first discuss how to determine the appropriate size of the garden. They explain how they prefer small subplots versus one large garden plot. The subplots make the garden easier to manage and are more friendly to proper crop rotation. They’ve found that planting in long rows is not the best solution for crop rotation because you are limited to where you can plant year after year. They talk about different ways to prepare the soil on a new garden plot. These would include using a bottom plow, harrow, tiller or tarping. They suggest starting a couple of months before you intend to plant, as this will allow enough time to break up the grass clumps and get the tilth to a working state. Also, Greg says when you go to prepare a garden plot do not forget to do a soil sample test so you know what level of phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen you need to add to the soil before planting.

Show and Tell Segment

On the show and tell segment, Travis has a jar of pickled okra that his father-in-law made. The guys try it on the show and talk about their favorite ways to make pickled okra. Travis brought a head of white cauliflower that he harvested from the demonstration garden at the Sunbelt Ag Expo. Although it can take a while to produce, cauliflower is one of the best-tasting treats from the cool-weather vegetable garden. He also has a head of purple cauliflower called Graffiti. With the purple cauliflower, you don’t have to worry about much discoloration because of the darker color. This is a great variety that is rich in antioxidants and holds its color when cooked. We also carry a yellow to orangish, Flame Star Cauliflower that is a hybrid and has great heat tolerance. Greg talks a little bit about when you want to use calcium nitrate and ammonium sulfate. In the southern climates, you should use some ammonium sulfate on onions because it is a nitrogen source that contains a lot of sulfur which onions love. In the northern climates, you should use calcium nitrate to help supplement your nitrogen source to onions.

How to prepare a garden plot

Some community gardens keep plots open to the public instead of assigning them to individuals.

Courtesy of Wangari Gardens

I spent two years dreaming of sun-warmed tomatoes, towering sunflowers and home-grown salad greens before a spot opened in my community garden in Washington, D.C.

When I first met plot 56 in September of 2015, it was a mound of grasses, vines and cilantro gone to seed.

I had no experience with a vegetable garden of my own, but I knew I was just the person to tame this 4- by 8-foot raised bed. I grew up watching my dad grow veggies. I worked on a flower farm in high school. And I trained as a plant biologist. So I know something about encouraging a seed to grow.

Here I am in 2015 confidently posed by the weeds I was ready to conquer.

How to prepare a garden plot

How to prepare a garden plot

And here’s a photograph of the same plot, one year later — sent to me by the president of our community garden, along with a friendly reminder that if I didn’t tend to my plot ASAP, it would go to someone else.

How to prepare a garden plot

How to prepare a garden plot

Yeah, my first year was a miserable failure, and not just because I let the weeds win.

Community gardens are rapidly gaining popularity. In my city alone, the Department of Parks and Recreation oversees more than 30 community gardens made up of about 1,200 individual plots. But coaxing tiny boxes of land to produce quality vegetables in urban settings requires real skill.

This summer, I righted many of my wrongs from last year and also made some fresh mistakes. In the hopes of improving next year’s yield, I reached out to community garden experts for help. Here is their (and my) best advice for getting the most veggie for your effort in a community garden.

How to prepare a garden plot

This is the year; you’re going to do it! This year you’re going to put in a vegetable garden. The only problem is you have no idea about planning a vegetable garden layout. There are several types of garden layouts, each with different advantages. In the following article, we’ll take a look at different vegetable garden layout ideas and which garden layout plans might work best for you.

Layout Options for the Garden

Before planning a vegetable garden layout, there are a few things to consider. The garden will thrive in well-draining, nutrient rich soil. It’s probably a good idea to perform a soil test to determine its composition. Once the results are in, you will know if and with what the soil needs to be amended. At this time, you can add compost, sand, humus, fertilizer or other ingredients.

The garden should also be located in an area of full sun. If there is no adequate area in your landscape, vegetables can be planted in containers on a deck or patio that receives sun.

Situate the garden near a convenient water source. Young plants will need to be watered often and you don’t want the watering to become such a chore that the task is abandoned altogether. Also, the garden site shouldn’t be near established tree or shrub roots that can steal moisture from the vegetable plants.

If you have black walnut trees nearby, a lack of sun in the desired garden area or inadequate soil, try planting in raised beds. Raised beds have the advantage of providing better drainage, warm quicker so you can plant earlier in the season, and the soil stays warmer than a garden plot which will bring the crops to maturity sooner.

Types of Garden Layouts

Here are some of the most common garden layout plans for growing vegetables.

The most basic garden plan consists of a design with straight, long rows running north to south orientation. A north to south direction will ensure that the garden gets the best sun exposure and air circulation. A garden that runs east to west tends to get too shaded from the crops growing in the preceding row.

Grow tall items such as corn or beans, on the north side of the garden to keep them from shading smaller crops. Medium sized plants like tomatoes, squash and cabbage, should be grown in the center. Short crops like carrots, lettuce and radishes should grow in the southern end of the garden.

Four square

Another vegetable garden layout idea is called a four square garden plan. Imagine the bed divided into four quarters, as if you have a piece of paper and have drawn a square on it and then a cross inside the square. Each square within the larger square represents a different bed. There are four categories of beds based on the amount of nutrients they need.

Heavy feeders like corn and leafy greens need lots of nutrients and will be included in one square bed. Middle feeders, such as tomatoes and peppers, will be in another. Turnips and carrots are light feeders that like potash in the soil and will be grown together accordingly. Soil builders are those veggies that leach nitrogen into the soil, such as peas, and will be grouped together.

This type of garden layout has the advantage of forcing you to practice crop rotation. The layout is generally from top-left and counter clockwise: heavy feeders, middle feeders, light feeders and soil builders. After harvest, plan on rotating each group to the next square the successive year. This crop rotation will help reduce pests and soil diseases.

Square foot

Square foot garden plots are generally set up in grids of 4 x 4 squares with strings or wood attached to the frame to divide the bed into equal square-foot sections. One type of vegetable is planted in each section. If vine plants are grown, they’re usually placed in the back with a trellis to allow the plant to grow up.

The number of plants per section can be calculated by dividing the lowest number of spacing inches you need into 12 inches, which makes up the individual square-foot plot. For example, the closest spacing for carrots is normally around 3 inches. Therefore, your calculation would be 12 divided by 3, making the answer is 4. This means that you fill the square with four rows of four plants each, or 16 carrot plants.

Block

Another garden layout plan is called the block style garden layout. Also called close row or wide row planting, this method increases yields significantly over a traditional row style garden. It also suppresses weeds. The idea is to plant vegetables in rectangular beds or blocks instead of long single rows, similar to that of the square foot but with whatever measurements you need. It eliminates the need for surplus walkways, thus maximizing premium gardening space.

The plants are grouped together densely and, therefore, need fertile, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. They will need fertilization due to the high density. Try not to overcrowd the veggies when using this method. This reduces air circulation and can result in disease. The bed should be 3-4 feet wide and any length desired. This width makes it easy to reach into the bed to weed, harvest or replant. Walkways should be minimal and about 18-24 inches across. Mulch the walkways with grass clippings, wood chips or another organic mulch.

Plant crops with equal space between adjacent plants in both directions. For instance, space a carrot patch on a 3- by 3-inch center – visualize the layout as running rows spaced 3 inches apart across the bed with thinned carrots within the row to 3 inches. A 24-foot long traditional garden row of carrots will fit into a 3-foot by 2-foot bed.

Vertical

Growing vegetable gardens vertically is yet another option. These gardens are designed for people having little to no traditional garden space. Rather than planting in your typical garden bed, you take advantage of vertical space, growing plants along trellises, hanging baskets or even upside down.

There are even stackable containers available that allow you to grow a number of plants in one area by simply stacking the pots onto one another like a tower. Speaking of which, planting towers are another vertical option for growing plants and popular for potatoes.

Raised bed/containers

Again, for those having little space or even inadequate soil, planting veggies in raised beds or containers is a great alternative. With this layout option, the sky is the limit, as you have the flexibility in moving the garden around and making use of all available space, including vertical areas.

Get creative with your gardening project. Next season is a whole winter away. This gives gardeners and farmers alike ample time, roughly 3-4 months of composting that otherwise cannot be done during the productive months of the year.

How to prepare a garden plot

Are you preparing a plot to raise vegetables, or fruit on for next year? Search around the property for old containers of soil, logs rotting down into a mulch texture, leaves, grass clippings, pine needles, and even your personal compostable trash such as paper, cardboard, leftover food, and ashes. At Growers Solution, we have many containers around that contain soil, and other possible soil amendments. I used what was laying around from the unused soil containers. I also added additional amendments such as worm castings, lime, pine bark, mulch, and even topsoil, which are always worth the effort and cost.

How to prepare a garden plot

Preparing a hoop house in the autumn is a great opportunity to gain a lot of work with less effort. Mushroom compost and manures should be used sparingly. Remember that hay, and horse manure can be one of the best additions to any garden plot. Typically, the fall is a dry season, allowing the removal of plants to be easier than if it were started in the summer, or early spring. We dumped countless bins of unused soil in areas of the ground that looked heavy with red clay. Evenly rake them out with a yard rake. A tiller was brought to thoroughly mix the surface of the soil. After the ground was tilled, I dumped two yards worth of mulch in the center, and raked out a path between two large beds.

How to prepare a garden plot

The last step always involves planting. For instance, here in the hoop house we are preparing it to be wrapped with greenhouse film for the winter. If you are unable to prepare a greenhouse over your newly established plot, sew cover crops such as barley, wheat grass, buckwheat, rye, clover, or an assortment of flowers like comfrey or nasturtium. These will begin to develop the important soil structure, and prevent nutrient loss from water and wind. Good luck next season and begin next year this moment.

Fall is an important time to lay the seeds of success for next year’s garden. By taking some time to clean up your garden and tools and make a plan for nutrient management, you can save yourself time and energy next spring.

Sanitation and crop rotation

Make a map of your garden with this year’s crops

How to prepare a garden plot

Do you have a map of this year’s garden? If not, make one now while it’s fresh in your mind. Remembering where you planted things this year can help you design a good rotation for next year.

It’s a good idea to keep garden maps for 3 or 4 years so that you can avoid planting annual plants within the same family in the same spot for a few years.

A good crop rotation helps to balance nutrient depletion from the soil and helps to reduce disease pressure. It’s also a good idea to note any problems on this year’s map such as melons had Alternaria so that you will remember to look for resistant varieties next year.

Remove or bury debris

Many pathogens can overwinter in plant residues, so it’s a good idea to either chop and bury debris or to remove vegetables from the garden. This is especially true for plants that experienced significant disease pressure this year such as lilacs or tomatoes.

That said, keep pollinators and insects in mind when cleaning up your garden. If you have perennial or flower strips, leave some stems in place for stem nesting bees.

For more tips see this UMN Extension video on fall cleanup for pollinators.

Clean your tools, wash any seeding trays

Fall is a great time to clean your tools before putting them away for the winter.

  • Tools can carry plant pathogens, so they should be cleaned and sterilized regularly.
  • Proper tool care will also keep your tools in good shape for many years.
  • Make sure to clean and sanitize any trays you used for seeding, and any pots you plan to use again next year.

Prepare your soil

Get a soil test

Gardeners should test their soil at least every three years, and fall is a great time to take a test. You’ll receive results in a few weeks, which gives you the whole winter to make a plan for nutrient management in 2021.

Researchers at the University of St. Thomas reported in a 2019 paper that garden plots that rely primarily on compost inputs can have too much phosphorus, which can result in soil and water pollution. Testing your soil regularly can help you ensure that your plants are getting what they need without damaging the environment.

Plant a cover crop or add mulch

Most soil should not be left uncovered. Keeping the soil covered is key to soil health.

While it’s now too late in most of the state to plant a cover crop that will die over the winter, there’s still time to plant a winter cereal like rye, wheat or triticale. These cover crops must be killed in the spring before you plant your garden.

Another approach is to simply add leaves, straw or other organic material to your garden beds. This will help to absorb water during heavy rainstorms and will help to prevent erosion and runoff of soil particles.

Spend some time with your compost

Many compost bins become very nitrogen-heavy if your main source of compost is food scraps. Thankfully, fall provides an abundance of organic matter that is high in carbon, which can balance out nitrogen-heavy food scraps.

Take some time to read about composting best practices. For a more in-depth look at carbon to nitrogen ratios in various sources of compost from leaves to coffee grounds, check out this guide from Cornell.

Consider amendments carefully

Many garden blogs will tell you to add compost and manure now. However, while the soil is still warm in the fall, you risk nutrient leaching and runoff, particularly with nitrogen.

If you’re applying manure, wait until the soil is 50 degrees or cooler, and work it into the soil immediately. The longer it sits on the surface, the more likely the nitrogen is to volatilize or evaporate off of the surface.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has a handy map tool to tell you the temperature of your soil at a depth of 6 inches. Use it to help you decide when to apply manure.

For compost, follow the same general rules, but also consider simply waiting until spring to apply it. If you do wait until spring, make sure it is fully composted to prevent any food safety issues.

How to prepare a garden plot

For a structure to be suitable as a house, it has to have a strong foundation. The same rules apply to a garden. For it to provide you with delicious vegetables and herbs, it, too, has to have a strong foundation. Are you about to begin your garden plot planning? Enjoy our step-by-step garden plot preparation guide. You’ll be harvesting your delicious bounty in no time.

Step 1: Pick the Right Spot

One of the most critical steps for garden plot planning is the location. You might have spare space for a garden in your back yard, but is it the right space?

Most vegetables, and even flowers, require at least six hours of sunlight a day to survive and thrive. However, some plants prefer only a little bit of sun but plenty of shade. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but there is a ‘one-size-fits­-best’ approach.

Research the needs of the plants you will include in your garden. If they need both sun and shade, watch your property over a few days to understand where the sun hits and for how long. You can then choose an area that best suits your plants and your preferences.

However, there can be more to the picture than purely sunshine. You also have to ensure that the area in which you’re putting your garden plot is level. Otherwise, water distribution won’t be even, and some plants may suffer. If you have sloping land, terrace the beds with wood, rocks, or boards.

Step 2: Factor in Your Climate

Where you live can play a part in what you use to grow your vegetables. If you live in the coldest parts of New Zealand, typically found in the South Island, raised beds can be worth factoring into the decision-making process.

Raised beds above the ground allow the soil to warm up quicker in spring. You can build these garden boxes yourself or purchase them pre-made in plastic or wood.

If you live in a warmer climate, in-ground beds may be more than suitable. They require less watering but can be harder to maintain, given that you have to bend down.

Step 3: Decide on a Quantity

Think about all the plants you want to grow and the space they will need. Unless you plan on planting potatoes or carrots, you’re going to need more than one bed.

Not only do multiple beds allow for more variety, but they also allow you to rotate your crops annually to keep them healthy. Garden beds should be around 1.2 metres wide, with pathways between them of at least half a metre.

Step 4: Prepare the Earth

If you are using raised garden beds, you can skip this step. Otherwise, put measures in place to start removing the lawn where your new in-ground garden beds will go.

Mark and line the area you will be digging out. You can then slice the sod with a spade and put it into your compost heap. Alternatively, if you have bald spots in your lawn, you can patch these up, so they look as good as new. Remove any weeds, debris, and surface garbage before you begin preparing your soil for planting.

Step 5: Prepare the Soil

If you haven’t purchased soil from your local garden store that’s ready for planting, you’ll need to make sure your dirt is healthy for growth. Carry out a soil pH test that ensures your soil has the best balance of nutrients for plants to thrive. These tests are easy to find at your local hardware store.

If your soil isn’t as fertile as you would have hoped, you can add organic matter such as plant and animal manure or compost. Layer it up to 5cm over the plot, then dig it into the top 15cm of soil. You’re now ready to plant!

Helpful Gardening Tips

An essential part of garden plot planning is making sure you create the best plot for your climate. However, we’ve also included some helpful tips that may also prove useful as you commence your gardening journey.

Keep a Gardening Journal

During your plants’ early stages of growth, you may not know how to tell the difference between each plant. Yet, they may all require different levels of care. If it helps, draw a diagram of what you planted and when. You can also outline any extra nutrients you may have given some plants.

Don’t Plant Vegetables and Flowers Together

As tempting as it can be to plant flowers and vegetables together, it’s not a match made in heaven. Particular flower varieties may grow faster and taller than your vegetables, which means they have the potential to steal your vegetables’ much-needed sunshine.

Rotate, Rotate, Rotate

It’s easy to get into the habit of planting your vegetables where you did in previous years. Though, that’s not always in their best interest. Crop rotation can be paramount for making sure your soil remains healthy and rich.

Ready to Start Gardening?

Planting a new garden and growing your own vegetables can be quite exciting and rewarding. Follow these steps above, and you can be on your way to success! However, if you have any questions or require a helping hand, don’t forget to reach out to your local gardening expert for help.

Veggies don’t like growing in the shade – you’ll get the best results from a growing patch which gets at least five hours sun a day.

Placing your patch away from other plants helps put off slugs, which can slither out from bushes and beds to attack your veg.

Dig In deep – payback comes later! (2 of 8)

Give your patch a good digging over to break up the soil and get rid of any weeds. Dig down to at least one spade depth – and a bit further if you can! Remove any bits of weed root or stem to stop them re-growing and take out as many stones as you can.

Only prepare the ground that you’re going to plant up. Weeds will soon cover bare ground and it can be upsetting to see all your hard work undone.

Make your soil super (3 of 8)

Digging in a good load of compost will make so-so soil good and good soil great. Use garden compost if you have any, or bags of soil conditioner from the garden centre.

Manure is a great addition to any patch, but it must be already rotted or it’ll be too strong for the plants. If your soil is quite shallow, you can deepen it by piling compost on top, or making raised beds.

Get to know your soil (4 of 8)

Take a look at a handful of your soil. Does it look sandy or is it mostly clay?

Clay soils are fertile, but very heavy and wet. Adding some ‘horticultural grit’ from the garden centre can help break them up. Sandy soils are usually easy to dig, but aren’t very fertile and don’t hold much water. Add plenty of compost or manure to improve these soils.

Don’t cramp your plants (5 of 8)

Plants hate being crowded and will be weak and small if they haven’t got enough space.

As a rough guide, leave about 20cm around a row of salad leaves, 35cm around a row of carrots and 45cm around a row of beans. Courgettes will need 75cm to one metre for each per plant

Don’t forget to give your beans something to climb, like a stake or trellis.

Onwards and upwards (6 of 8)

French beans need to climb and will wrap themselves around anything they can reach, so they’re the perfect plant to put next to a house or garden wall.

Planting beans is a good way of using a spot that’s shady at ground level, but sunny a bit higher, because they will grow toward the light. Beans can easily get a metre and a half tall, and have pretty flowers, so they’ll look good, too.

Go potty (7 of 8)

Don’t feel that everything has to be planted in the ground! Some plants will be happier growing in pots indoors – especially basil, which comes from the sunny Mediterranean.

Start off tender seedlings indoors in pots too, as conditions outdoors will be too harsh to sow direct until summer. It’s worth trying a large pot of salad leaves indoors or in a sheltered spot for an early crop.

Hey, good looking! (8 of 8)

Lots of veg – like the Dig In courgette and French beans – have pretty flowers, so try to grow them where they can easily be seen. You could plant some flowers among the veg, French marigolds are particularly good because as well as looking pretty they discourage pests. Or why not slip a few veg into your flowerbeds? The frilly foliage of carrots or yellow blooms of courgettes would make a pretty and tasty addition to the flower bed.

Mary in Annapolis writes: “I love listening to you on WTOP and heard you address this topic over the summer. But, what do I do now to reduce the number of weeds I’ll have to deal with next spring?”

Great topic, Mary — and there’s a lot you can do now to have fewer weed woes next season.

Let’s take grassy weeds, especially those that can crawl sideways such as Bermuda, zoysia and bluegrass: Keep these and other aggressive spreaders at bay with deep edging around the planting areas you wish to protect.

And build raised beds for vegetable and flower gardens. Framing the beds gives them a much more artistic look — and grassy weeds and other creepers can’t crawl up the sides.

Also, cover every inch of bare soil with shredded leaves to smother existing weed seeds and prevent newcomers.

They’re getting tired now — so rope-a-dope those weeds

Mary in Annapolis also writes: “It seems that weeds have won the battle in my flower gardens this fall. I’m trying to de-weed the beds but recognize that I’m probably not getting every last one. Should I just put down a fabric liner and cover it with mulch?

No, Mary, grassy weeds love those fabrics; they establish themselves in the little drainage holes, grow a mat of roots underneath and become impossible to remove.

One of your best options is to just keep pulling for a half-hour or so every nice day. Studies have shown that weed growth and establishment slows dramatically in the fall, and regular hand-weeding now should clear your beds in half the time it would take in spring and summer.

And, don’t forget the original herbicide: a hoe with a sharp bade!

Fire and water for weeds in walkways

Mary in Annapolis also writes: “Weeds have also grown in every opening between the bricks on our patio. Is there anything I can spray on them besides Roundup, which does a great job but at such an environmental cost?”

Many people would dispute how well a job this hormonal disrupter does, Mary, but everyone agrees that it leaves ugly browned-out weeds behind that still have to be pulled.

One great nontoxic option is the famed “water-powered weeder” from Lee Valley Tools. This nifty device uses your garden hose to shoot a high-powered, laserlike blast of water into the cracks, flushing out weeds and the soil that’s supporting them.

Another great choice is a flame weeder, like this classic model from Bernzomatic that torches the weeds.

Bonus: Both tools take out weeds while you stand up! (Because bending is for chumps.)

Planting between the lines

Mary asks if there’s anything she can spray on weeds besides Roundup. First off, don’t turn to the Devil’s Juice, Mary! It’s bad for frogs, toads, fish, dogs, cats, children — and you! It’s especially bad to use in a place with lots of waterways like Annapolis, as it is insanely toxic to creatures that live in water (which, come to think of it, includes most residents).

Anyway, everyone in “the drinking town with a sailing problem” should avoid chemical herbicides and, instead, look for creative solutions — which, in this case, would include deliberately planting those openings with low growing (prostrate) herbs such as creeping thyme and rosemary.

They’ll defend their space against unwanted plants and provide a pleasant scent every time you walk on the patio. “Stepables” is one branded line of such plants, and you’ll find lots of other choices online and at your local independent garden center.

Admire the fall color — and then, harvest it!

It took a while, but we are finally seeing the fall color we’ve all been waiting for. And despite prediction of deciduous dire and doom, it’s quite a sight in some regions. So, enjoy the show — and then, harvest it when it falls to the ground!

Use an electric leaf blower set on reverse to suck up and collect those leaves (into the always-included collection bag) while you stand up — no bending!

Or, if you are not the owner of a chemically-treated lawn, use a bagging mower to suck up and shred those fall leaves with a little bit of well-shredded Nitrogen-rich grass clippings going into the mix. (Do not “harvest” any clippings from a chemically-treated lawn. Those clips can kill non-grass plants.)

Use the shredded leaves alone or with the addition of spent grounds from a local coffee shop to make compost. Or, just store the shredded leaves in bags or a bin to use as garden mulch next season.

Shredded leaves are great at conserving moisture and preventing weeds — and earthworms love when shredded leaves are used as a mulch. They’ll congregate under the mulch and feed your plants with their fertile “castings”!

Note 1: Yes, shredded they must be. Whole leaves mat down like a tarp and smother lawns, soils, and gardens.

Note 2: “Mulch” does not mean chipped-up pallets from China and southern hurricane debris spray-painted some God-awful color. In fact, wood mulches and so-called “bark” mulch are almost always bad for plants, homes and cars.

Finding an allotment and readying it for cultivation can seem a daunting task, but with these simple steps a productive plot is easier than you might think.

Quick facts

Jump to

Suitable for.

While it is exciting taking on a new allotment, it can also be very daunting, especially if you inherit a neglected, overgrown plot. Before you take on a plot, check out the following factors:

  • A full allotment plot is 10 rods (approximately 250 sq m/300 sq yd), but half plots are usually available if this is too much to manage
  • Most, but not all, sites have water; but check what other facilities are available, such as storage sheds, compost and toilets
  • Check also if there are any limitations in the lease which, for instance, prevents fruit tree planting or the erection of structures such as greenhouses, polytunnels or sheds, and if there are problems such as theft and vandalism
  • Popular sites may have a waiting list, but sometimes it is better to be on a waiting list for a good, well-tended plot, than inherit a weedy, overgrown plot on another site

When to start your allotment

If cleared by early spring, in time for early planting and sowing, a plot can give its full potential from the outset.

In cases of severe neglect this won’t be possible. If this is the case, make a realistic plan of what you can achieve in year one, year two and so on. It might be better to clear half the plot in the first year, then at least you can start growing.

How to start your allotment

Clearing your plot

  • Clear the plot of unwanted materials and debris. You may be able to get help with this from the allotment management team
  • Trees, shrubs and other woody plants such as brambles are best cut down and dug out; woody waste can be shredded and composted
  • Vegetation can be buried during digging after removing the roots of perennial weeds such as bindweed, couch grass, ground elder and nettles. Do not compost these with opaque mulches (carpet is no longer recommended) requires at least one growing season to work well. This can be an effective way of dealing with parts of a plot that are not intended to be planted for that season (it’s easy to overdo it with a new allotment so take your time and don’t worry if it takes several seasons to fully bring an overgrown plot into cultivation)
  • Limited use of a weeedkiller might be worth considering on more challenging plots, for example a stumpkiller might be used where woody stumps cannot be readily removed. And where the deep-rooted pernicious weed horsetail is present, repeated use of a non-residual systemic weedkiller based on glyphosate applied from mid-spring until mid-autumn should help knock it back (though it is unlikely to eliminate the problem)
  • Gardeners wishing to grow organically should employ non-chemical weed control measures only

Working your plot

  • When clear of weeds the soil can be broken up and ideally add organic matter by digging or rotovating, or while building raised beds
  • Take a soil test to find out the soil pH and whether it is lacking in any nutrients. This will help plan any lime or fertiliser application
  • Outfit the plot with compost bins, a shed and other useful items

Now you are ready to start planting! Make sure you make a crop rotation plan to get the best from your plot.

A shady plot

Ideally your new allotment will be in a sunny position but this, inevitably, is not always the case. If you have been given a plot which is partly or totally in shade, choosing fruit and vegetables that tolerant these conditions is essential.

Fruit in shade

Redcurrants, whitecurrants and gooseberries, as well as fruit such as raspberries, blackcurrants and rhubarb which originate from woodland edges will produce reasonable crops in some shade.

Apples, pears and plums prefer a more open position, but cooking apples can tolerate a partially shaded position. ‘Morello’ cherries are also productive on a shady wall.

Vegetables in shade

Beetroot, chard, kale, kohl rabi and lettuce are all relatively tolerant of some shade, but sowing seeds in modules in bright conditions and then transplanting will get them off to an early start with an established root system.

Problems

Soil pests and diseases can be troublesome on new allotments. Ones to watch out for include clubroot and onion white rot.

How to prepare a garden plot

Plant specialists regularly ignore the effect soil has on the wellbeing and energy of their plants. Soil preparation isn’t the most thrilling aspect of planting a garden, but it’s certainly one of the most important. On the off chance that your diet isn’t right, your nursery will battle to arrive at its maximum capacity.

Accomplishing that imperativeness requires understanding the science and piece of your dirt and making the ideal condition for rich plant development. Great soil the executives is a ceaseless procedure, yet once you take care of the rudiments, your dirt will do the vast majority of the work itself.

Know Your Soil Type

How to prepare a garden plot

Before you start planting, uncover a scoop of soil and investigate its surface. Is it dense and heavy and clump together when wet? Or is it lose and free-flowing, like play sand? Maybe it’s somewhere in between, feeling somewhat sticky but crumbling easily, like a freshly baked cookie.All soils are a mixture of mineral particles — primarily clay, sand, and silt. Frequently they will contain higher measures of one sort of molecule comparative with the others. That doesn’t make them terrible developing mediums, yet it will influence their thickness, seepage rate, and ability to hold supplements.

With each soil type, there are trade-offs. Here’s a quick overview:

Clay soils have tiny, dense particles that hold large reserves of moisture and nutrients. Be that as it may, mud soil additionally depletes gradually and can turn out to be hard and compacted when dry.
Sandy soils are just the opposite, with large particles that water moves through easily — along with important nutrients.

Silts have fine particle sizes that pack together tightly, inhibiting drainage and air circulation.
Loam is the ideal soil for most plants; it contains a balance of all three mineral particles and is rich in humus (what’s left after organic matter decomposes).

Adding organic matter is the best way to make your soil more loam-like and improve its structure. Another alternative is to construct a raised nursery bed and fill it with an even soil blend. Or on the other hand adopt the basic strategy by developing plants that do well in your dirt sort, for example, picking dry season lenient plants for sandy soils. You can grow a garden successfully in any soil, as long as the plant’s roots are accustomed to the conditions.

Amend with Organic Matter

How to prepare a garden plot

Any type of soil can be improved by the addition of organic matter.
Here are three common amendments:

  • Composted yard waste
  • Manure
  • Fallen leaves

In sandy soils, organic matter improves water-holding capacity and the retention of nutrients. In clay soils, it loosens up the minerals that become sticky when the soil is wet and hard when the soil is dry. And in all soils, it provides a rich supply of slow-release nutrients for your plants as well as food for beneficial soil organisms. Over time, well-amended soil will provide most of the nutrients your plants need, reducing fertilizer requirements.
Most soils amendments work best if you work them into the soil in the fall, so they are well decomposed before planting the following spring, explains organic gardener Elizabeth Stell, author of Secrets to Great Soil. To get the natural issue down to root level, utilize a nursery fork to blend the material into the main 4 to 6 crawls of soil. In vegetable nurseries, which as a rule contain yearly or biennial plants, you can correct your dirt each season. Perpetual nurseries ought to be revised preceding planting so you won’t upset the plant roots. Many perennials must be dug up every few years for division, providing a good opportunity to work in additional organic matter.

Enlist the Help of Microorganisms

Don’t simply think of soil as dirt. Think of it as a microscopic world teeming with a vast array of organisms that breathe life into your garden. These life forms in your dirt environment — including worms, bugs, organisms, and a huge number of gainful microorganisms — go about as Mother Nature’s reusing group, changing over dead leaves and plant debris into readily available nutrients. They likewise help to circulate air through the dirt and convert the natural issue into humus.

Mulch with Care

Mulching allows you to add organic matter to the soil without disturbing plant roots because you simply spread it over the surface and let it decompose naturally.

Mulch also helps to:

⦁ Retain moisture
⦁ Suppress weed growth
⦁ Keep the soil cooler during the summer
⦁ Improve soil aeration

But mulch also has its pitfalls, especially if you use the wrong type of mulching material and apply it too thickly. It can change the chemical composition of the soil and leach micronutrients that are harmful to plants. It can also create continually moist conditions that lead to fungal diseases of plant roots, especially in wet soils and humid climates.

An assortment of natural materials can make powerful mulches, from fertilizer to cocoa bark. However, mulches aren’t created equal when it comes to how they impact the biological activity of the soil and how quickly they break down. To learn more about the pros and cons of mulching and the best types of mulches to use in residential gardens

How to prepare a garden plot

Why use cardboard in a garden? It’s a great mulch, and prevents weeds from sprouting. Decomposing cardboard adds organic matter to the soil, improving your garden’s drainage and boosting nutrient levels. Earthworms flock to the dark, moist, safe habitat cardboard provides, leaving behind a nutrient-rich layer of worm castings–free fertilizer! A layer of cardboard left in place for a season smothers out grass and weeds, creating a ready-made garden plot, no tilling required. It’s free, and you can feel great about reusing a product that would otherwise go to waste.

How to prepare a garden plot

Break down packing boxes and remove any tape or labels.

Save your boxes next time you move, or lay claim to a friend's boxes when they move, because packing boxes are perfect for this project.

How to prepare a garden plot

Mow the area where you want the garden to go.

Then, place cardboard on top, overlapping the edges a few inches so that weeds don’t spring up in the cracks.

How to prepare a garden plot

Hose everything down with water.

The moisture keeps the cardboard in place and is important for both gas exchange and microbial life in the soil.

How to prepare a garden plot

Mulch

Improve soil fertility even more by layering mulches or organic matter on top: compost, shredded leaves, grass clippings, straw, you name it! One method is to put down a layer of compost, followed by mulch hay on top of that.

How to prepare a garden plot

Sit back and let the magic happen.

The decomposition time will vary based on soil biology. The more microbes and earthworms, the faster the cardboard breaks down.

Come planting time, if the cardboard is still there underneath the mulch, leave it all in place and simply cut a hole through it to access the soil surface so you can seed or transplant as usual. If you’re looking to install new garden space, start a few months or even an entire season ahead of time to kill the sod or grass you are converting to a garden. If you decide to give this a try, be ready to forever replace “it tastes like cardboard” with “it grew from cardboard and tastes great to boot!” Happy growing!

Story by Elizabeth Joseph, photos from Rutland Farm in Massachusetts.

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3 Great-Smelling Lawn Alternatives That Will Save You and The Earth How to prepare a garden plot

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Grass lawns seem innocent enough, but they are actually a huge drain on your time, money and the Earth’s natural resources. Consider these.

How to prepare a garden plotIf you’ve ever thought of starting a vegetable garden from scratch then start with this article. It will tell you everything you need to know about starting your first veg plot.

Is your back garden just a waste of space or do you have a few square feet with potential? Are you past the stage of needing a big lawn for football and could you reclaim some of it for vegetable beds? If none of this applies, are there some allotments nearby, or, as a starting point, do you have room for a few big pots on a terrace, balcony or window ledge?

There are few more balancing and rewarding ways to spend an hour or two a week than growing even a few of your own vegetables. Let this be the year when you start to grow your own – it will then almost certainly become a lifetime’s habit.

Over the years I’ve been growing veg, certain plants and varieties have emerged clearly as front runners in the time/reward ratio. They are quick and easy to grow, so that with little or no gardening experience, they still do well and go on to form the basis of hundreds of free and delicious meals over the next few months with very little sweat. This exercise is not about growing every single edible plant you and your family eat.

You should continue to buy the things that are tricky, or need too much TLC (such as red peppers and aubergines), or that take up tons of room for months at a stretch and then only give you a minimal harvest (eg Brussels sprouts, maincrop potatoes and parsnips). These are the crops of the devoted, almost full-time veg grower with lots of space – not high-priority plants for those of us who prefer to dip in and out of a vegetable patch, with almost instant rewards and abundant, self-perpetuating harvests.

The key here is to choose as many cut-and-come-again plants as possible, from which you can harvest on a Monday for supper and, by the following Monday, more will have grown back for you to eat.

the grand plan

I’ve created a series of articles which will tell you how to create a veg patch from scratch. Even if you’ve never sown a packet of seed before, you’ll be bringing in baskets of salad, herbs and veg from just outside your back door in a few weeks. I’ll try to cover all the basics about site and soil, as well as what to grow. Below, I’ll cover where to put the patch and how to clear the ground, getting rid of lawn or weeds, and then how to keep on top of the weeds once the plot is cleared.

Then I’ll cover how to structure the space, giving a simple and flexible layout and help you work out whether to create raised beds or not, and what to do with the soil. I will also include companion planting (mixing two plants closely together for beneficial effect) and tips on how to make your productive patch look good. Well planned, these abundant plots are often the best-looking areas of a garden.

Next, I’ll give you the list of edible plants I recommend if time, space and experience are short, and include those which, in my experience, are the best varieties of these vegetables to give you fantastic flavour. I’ll then tell you, briefly and simply, how to grow them in a perhaps less-than-perfect, but time-saving way.

I’ll also talk about what comes next, showing you how to use my successional sowing charts so you remember to sow little and often, and give you the list of veg, salad and herbs that will keep your garden producing right through the winter and into next spring.

where should the veg patch go?

Go out into the garden and work out the best possible place for your plot. If you have the choice, it’s good to grow veg in the kind of sunny, sheltered spot where you might want to sunbathe. Most of the plants going into the patch are annuals. They are working with a short timescale and need to grow rapidly. To enable them to put on this performance, they need all the help they can get and plenty of food to fuel this growing process. That’s only possible in full sun, so avoid overhanging trees and shade-throwing sheds and buildings as far as possible.

As well as sun, many plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers need shelter from the wind. They won’t grow well if rocked at their roots and their leaves will blacken with wind burn. Try fencing panels, hurdles or even think of planting a permanent hedge on the windy, western side of the plot. These will give the more delicate plants a chance of survival outside. If you can’t find hurdles, use a few straw bales for instant effect. These provide a cheap, but perfect temporary wind break, which can be removed once the worst of the spring winds are over in early May.

It’s worth knowing that a wind break will protect an area about five times its height, so a two-metre hurdle protects for 10 metres.

clearing the ground

With an intensive patch like this, make sure you clear the soil of perennial and annual weeds before you plant.

If you want to be 100 percent organic, you’ll need to clear the grass (stack the turf somewhere upside down and it will compost into beautiful top soil which you can put back into the beds in a few months), then carefully dig it over, meticulously making sure you’ve got rid of any roots of the nightmare invasive perennial weeds such as marestail (which looks like a one-stem fir tree), couch grass, Japanese knotweed (tall, green and pink stems looking slightly like rhubarb as it emerges), bindweed (bright green, shield-shaped leaves and white trumpet flowers) or ground elder (like a large flat-leaved parsley with mini, white, cow-parsley-like flowers).

keeping on top of the weeds

If the perennial weeds are already cleared and only annual weeds (for example, groundsel with yellow flowers, bittercress with white flowers and cress-tasting leaves, speedwell with pretty blue saucer flowers), are your problem, it’s a good idea to cover the patch for a couple of weeks now in early spring. This helps warm the soil so you can plant or sow a couple of weeks earlier than if you left the patch open to the elements. Use sheets of clear plastic –it warms and dries the soil, and – transparent – encourages the germination of any dormant weed seed. When you uncover the patch to plant, these are easily cleared by hand hand or hoe and you will have a weed-seed-free bed. Fleece also works well.

The other key thing with weed control is to use a carpet of mulch to prevent any weed seed that drifts in from germinating in your soil. As you plant out your seedlings in a few weeks, lay a good 2in of mulch (cheap municipal compost available from many town councils, mushroom compost or leaf mould) in between your rows. This should make your patch relatively weed-free through the summer and so easier to maintain.

How to prepare a garden plot

The wait is over! After eight months, we can now prepare our vegetable beds. Spring is an exciting time to get going again in the garden, and I could hardly wait to get our veggies planted! Below are the steps we to took on how to prepare garden beds for planting vegetables and herbs.

Where we live in British Columbia, Canada can be rather wet over the winter season. As it is never a good idea to till soggy soil, we waited for a dry spell. By early March, we got our chance with a few dry, sunny warm days. And now, the beds are ready to be prepped and restored for growing our vegetables and herbs!

Bird Deterrent Tip To Protect Your Vegetable Garden

There is garden art, and then there is ‘working’ garden art. And our fake owl ‘scarecrow‘ has a job. Every spring, our plastic owl comes out to do his job. This particular fake owl comes with a hollow bottom to easily slide on a stake. This helps keep it raised above the ground. It can help scare birds away from your vegetable beds and especially away from your seedlings. Birds do eventually learn that the plastic owl is more decoration than a threat. M ove it around the vegetable beds every few days to keep the real birds guessing. Depending on your vegetable beds’ size, consider having one or two bird deterrents at opposite ends of your garden.

How to prepare a garden plot

If you’ve found yourself in the late winter garden dreaming of the homegrown veggie harvests ahead, this is quite literally the time to do the spadework. Vegetables grow best in well-prepared soil that provides good nourishment, retains moisture and is free of weeds and debris.

Getting started

The first step to preparing for spring planting is to remove weeds. Established weeds that are flowering or worse, already setting seed, must be pulled or dug out, the soil shaken gently from their roots and the weeds discarded. I throw weeds into the chook pen as a treat for the hens. If you don’t have chooks handy and the weeds are green, seed free and can’t regenerate, toss them into the compost heap.

How to prepare a garden plot

Got chooks? Let them help you weed your veggie patch!

By the way, if you do have chooks and can contain them, it is possible to use them to weed and prepare the veggie patch for you. Either let them loose in the veggie patch during the day, or move them into a mobile pen (sometimes called a ‘chook tractor’) so they can scratch up the weeds for you without wandering throughout the garden. Move the pen around the beds that need to be weeded. Make sure chooks have access to water and shade as they work.

Weeds in seed, or with parts that can regrow such as stems, rhizomes or bulbs, should be soaked in a large container of water for around a week to stop them re-sprouting. Use the resulting water as a liquid feed and bury the residue or add it to the compost heap.

If the weeds are just beginning to sprout, work over the soil with a hoe, turning the weed seedlings back into the soil.

How to prepare a garden plot

Once all weeds are gone, it’s time to dig through your veggie patch.

Digging and fertilising

With the weeds dispatched, spread well-rotted manure or compost over the soil, then turn it in using a spade. If the soil is hard to dig, start off with a garden fork. Also add a complete pre-planting fertiliser for vegetables and work this in to the soil.

As you work, remove any stones and roots you uncover and break up any clods of earth. Work the soil digging down to about a spade’s depth, which is the area that the veggies you plant will grow in. The aim of digging over the soil is to make it suitable for veggies to establish and grow. Whether you plan to sow seeds directly or plant seedlings, make sure the soil is fluffy, easy to wet and that all additives have been well incorporated.

Finish by raking the soil level. This final raking also removes any extra stones or debris and makes it easier to set out planting rows. If the soil or weather conditions are too cold for planting, cover the worked soil with a layer of coarse organic mulch to deter future weeds. When it comes time to plant, just plant into the mulch or rake the mulch back to set out a planting row. Use a hoe to remove any weeds that sprout after you’ve prepared the soil.

As well as hoeing and digging, another option for preparing soil for vegetable growing is using a petrol-powered cultivator. These can be hired or purchased and make the job of soil preparation quick and easy especially if the area is large.

Preparing a New Garden Plot Tools and Materials. String and wooden stakes. Choose the Spot for Your New Garden. Vegetable gardens and most flowerbeds require at least 6 hours of full sun each day. Mark the boundaries. Eliminate the competition for Your Garden. Test the soil. Add amendments. Turn the soil. Tips.

What is the first thing to do when starting a garden?

How to Start a Backyard Garden Determine your climate zone. Decide what to grow. Choose the ideal garden location. Acquire basic gardening tools. Test your soil. Make your garden bed. Decide whether to grow from seed or transplant seedlings. Plant your seeds or seedlings with care.

Where do I start in a new garden?

Follow These 10 Essential Steps to Start Your First Garden Off Consider What to Plant. Do you want to plant a vegetable garden? Pick the Best Garden Spot. Clear the Ground. Test and Improve Your Soil. Prepare Your Planting Beds. Pick Your Plants. Start Planting. Water at the Right Time.

How do you start a garden from scratch in the ground?

Here’s what to do. Choose the right location. First, select a space that’s fairly level and drains well, as your plants will be unhappy in standing water. Create the design. Choose your plants. Remove the existing lawn. Build the soil. Set out your plants. Maintain your new in-ground garden.

What month should you start a garden?

For most crops, you should start seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before the last spring frost date. In the Midwest, plant your seeds indoors in the middle to end of April. In the South, the last frost can occur as early as the beginning of February, so plant your indoor seedlines then.

How do you plan a garden layout?

Planning a Garden Choose a place where the soil is loose, rich, level, and well-drained. Do not choose low areas where water stands or the soil stays wet. Do not plant where weeds do not grow; vegetables will not grow well there either. Vegetables need sunlight to grow well.

How do you start a garden where grass is currently?

Cut the grass as short as possible, then cover it with a layer of cardboard or a thick layer of newspaper. Make sure the pieces overlap to keep sunlight from reaching the lawn. Cover with at least 4 inches of mulch or compost.

What should I mix into my garden soil?

Improving Your Soil Plant material: Leaves, straw, and grass clippings. Compost: Decayed plant materials such as vegetable scraps. Leaf mold: Decomposed leaves that add nutrients and structure to soil. Aged manure: A good soil conditioner. Coconut coir: A soil conditioner that helps soil retain water.

How do I design my garden?

We hope these garden ideas will give you some inspiration Get your lawn into shape. Look out of your window at your garden and the biggest shape you’ll probably see is your lawn. Plan your planting. Trees. Beautiful paving. Distinct levels. The furniture. Pay attention to your boundaries. Screening and zoning.

How do I start a new flower bed?

Rules of Thumb for Brand New Beds: Work the soil when it is moist, but not wet. Turn the soil over to a depth of at least 12 inches. Add 2-3 inches of compost and turn it into the bed. Either cover the bed with a thick (3-4″) layer of mulch or use a weed and feed to help keep weed seeds from germinating.

How do you start a garden in a field?

Start by clearing the surface of any debris and any rocks larger than a hen’s egg. Mow down grass or cut back weeds to the ground. If there are lots of weeds on the ground where you want to grow, lay down a layer of cardboard or 8 to 10 sheets of newspaper, overlapping the edges by at least 6 inches.

What’s the easiest vegetable to grow?

10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow Yourself Peas. Radishes. Carrots. Cucumbers. Kale. Swiss Chard. Beets. Summer Squash (Zucchini) Summer squash and zucchini like well-composted soil and need plenty of space (plant them 3 to 6 feet apart in warm soil and lots of sun.).

What time of day is best to plant seeds?

Planting in the morning may be best. “In the morning sow thy seed,” according to Ecclesiastes, and it is not bad advice for gardeners. Morning planting offers a seed more of what it needs to germinate and fewer dangers.

What seeds should I be planting now?

Sow now. Veg: including aubergines, chillies and tomatoes, plus courgettes, squashes, pumpkins, marrows and leeks under cover. Beetroot, carrot, celeriac, peas, radish, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, broad beans, spring onions, second early and maincrop seed potatoes.

Is there an app for planning a garden?

Gardenize, available for Android and iOS devices, is a free app that has overwhelmingly good reviews. The app allows you to enter and store detailed information about each of the plants you grow, as well as organize those plants in garden lists.

How deep do you need to till your garden?

Tilling is actually a form of deep cultivation that is necessary when preparing a new garden bed or when adding large amounts of organic material. Tilling will cultivate the soil 8-10 inches deep, perhaps even more if you are creating a new garden bed in an area where the soil is very poor.

What are the 5 steps in land preparation?

Initial land preparation begins after your last harvest or during fallow period.How do you Plough a field? Step 1: Preparation. Step 2: Connect the Plough. … Step 3: Get Ploughing! … Step 4: Next Furrow. … Step 5: Adjusting the Depth Wheel. ….

Which garden soil is best?

What’s the best soil to use? Whether you’re gardening with containers, in raised beds or digging holes in the ground, you can’t go wrong with organic potting soil. With its loamy texture, water-absorbing amendments, lots of nutrients and beneficial fungi, it mimics a healthy soil.

How do you make rich soil?

To improve sandy soil: Work in 3 to 4 inches of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or finished compost. Mulch around your plants with leaves, wood chips, bark, hay or straw. Mulch retains moisture and cools the soil. Add at least 2 inches of organic matter each year.