Planning Your Garden

A garden can be a thing of beauty or a source of frustration. A little planning can keep the later from happening. There are several things to consider before you begin, then others as you progress.

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Where you locate your garden must be your first consideration. What size will it be? Do you want to grow flowers or vegetables? Many gardeners are starting to mix vegetables in their flower gardens successfully. How much sun does it get and what kind of soil is available.

You will want to chose a location that gets full sun at least four hours a day, more for some plants. It should drain well without erosion from runoff. Raised beds are definitely an advantage for the small garden. They warm up earlier in the spring and are easier to work in.


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Most of us do not have really good soil already in the garden and it needs to be amended. By that I mean adding first of all compost, then bone meal, fish or blood meal for missing nutrients. A soil test can tell you what is missing. You can buy do it yourself kits or contact you local County Extension Agent. By far your best choice is the compost. It can be from a variety of plant sources. You can make your own or buy it from a local nursery. Sometimes local chicken or turkey farms will give you the litter from their barns. Just a word of caution here. Make sure it has composted and cooled down before you add it to an area where there are plants. The ammonia in this stuff can burn your plants. It will be a great source of nutrients though.

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Drip irrigation is a good way to water but requires some more planning. Watch this video to see if you might want to use this method. Of course nothing is better than rainwater for plants and lawns. If you can build or obtain a system for gathering rain water, you will have a much better garden. Deep watering less frequently is better than daily watering because it encourages root growth. A soil moisture meter can come in handy for deciding when to water. If your water supply is limited, choose plants that need less water. Native plants from your area will usually do well without a lot of extra water.


A good general purpose fertilizer with a ratio of 2-1-2 us usually sufficient for most gardens. Your soil test may indicate a need for other nutrients as well. What is the 2-1-2 ratio? Fertilizers are rate by the amount of nutrients by percentage of weight. In this case 2 parts nitrogen, one part phosphorus , and one part potash. The particular product you select may have different numbers an still have the same ratio ie: 10-5-10. The higher the numbers the stronger the fertilizer. Be sure to follow directions on the package. I killed a bunch of hanging baskets one year by adding too much fertilizer intended for shrubs.


The basic list of tools need not be large or expensive. Do however choose good quality tools. They will serve you for many years longer than cheap ones. The basic list is as follows.

1. A good shovel or spade. I prefer a long handled spade for turning and moving soil. There are many types available.

2. Pruning shears

3. Water hose and sprinkler or watering can depending on the size of garden you choose.

4. A good hoe. Choose one or several of different types for different uses.

5. A garden rake with rigid tines to loosen and work the soil and possibly a leaf rake to pick up loose debris or to smooth a surface.

6. A garden fork can help break up untilled soil to aerate and turn plant matter under.

7. A wheelbarrow or wagon can really help move soil, plants and other material.

8. A rotary tiller although not required, can make short work of breaking out a new plot. If you don’t feel that purchasing one is in your budget, consider renting one when you first start to break out new ground.

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