Why You Should Know How to Garden
Today, possibly more than in generations, people want to know how to garden again.
It was a foregone conclusion that most people knew how to grow a garden thirty or forty years ago.
Even more so seventy years ago when many homes had victory gardens in their back yard due to the war.
They depended on what they could harvest for survival or at least so they wouldn’t go hungry.
Today there are some people that don’t make the connection that the meat under the plastic wrap at the super market came from an animal that lived on a farm or ranch. It’s no fault of their own, it’s just that we’ve all lost some knowledge and skills our fathers, grandfathers and even great grandfathers would’ve passed down and couldn’t because the need for it was diminished by technology or some other new knowledge.
These days there is a desire to learn those skills again, not because we need them as much as a desire to return to our roots and reconnect with our family history. Or maybe you just like locally sourced organic food and enjoy gardening and being a part of the change taking place.
Either way people are learning how to garden again! So then, let’s get to it. To start a garden, first you need a good location that will have good fertile well drained soil with good exposure to sunlight. If you have poor soil that can be corrected and depending on the location you may have options to improve the level of sunlight too.
How do you know you have good soil? These days you can buy a soil tester to test the PH levels and fertility. If you want a better analysis you can go to your local co-op or farm extension and have them run a series of test in a lab. Either way you will want to test the soil by taking samples is in several locations. Generally speaking a garden is sort of a square or rectangle so think of it as kind of like a grid. Take soil samples in the bottom right corner, middle right side, upper right corner etc. making sure to put your samples in individual containers and marking where in the grid the sample came from, to paint a complete picture of your soil and what you may need to do to improve it.
Sunlight can be improved by removing any trees or shrubs blocking the sun when possible. We all should do our best to be good neighbors, so removing trees, shrubs especially on or near property lines can become an issue, so be sure to take that into consideration before trimming or cutting anything down. Another thing to consider is putting your garden in a spot that has southern exposure to give it the best chance to get the most sunlight during the growing season.
Of course planting what will thrive in whatever nature gives you is the other simpler option. There are vegetable, fruit and flower plants that thrive in poor soil with limited sunlight, though it may limit the variety you can plant depending on where you live. The quickest way to find out what grows best in your area, in your soil type, is to contact the local soil conservancy or farm co-op.
Next you want to plan the layout of your garden being careful to give plants the necessary space and putting them next to plant varieties that are beneficial to each other. Knowing what area gets the most sun and which area gets the least should also guide where you plant varieties that need more sun vs. less and vice versa.
Being familiar with your planting zone is an important piece of knowing how to garden. In the continental United States the zones go from zone 3 which has a very short growing season to zone 10 which has a very long growing season. So if you live in zone 2 you wouldn’t want corn that takes 120 days to grow because you won’t get a harvest.
Most seed companies have a map of the zones as well as what zones a particular plant variety can grow in, so it just takes a little research and effort on our part to match seeds and plants to the growing environment you have to offer.
I live in Michigan in zone 5 and have had terrible soil that has literally taken me years to improve. It started out mostly clay with just a few inches of black dirt. So with some patience, determination, lots of sand and some compost I’ve got a very successful garden.
How about you? Have you started a garden? What challenges have you faced? What did you do to overcome it?