Our garden project has been on my mind a lot lately, with our goals of eating better and saving money. I touched on several gardening topics in my post Planning A Garden. After deciding to make it a pet project I divided it into a ten part series so that I may share our progress as our garden grows, as well as any problems that may arise. I hope it to be a learning experience for all. Our adventure will included:

Research

Planning

Site prep

Planting Seeds and seedlings

Tending the plants

Harvesting

Preserving

Saving seed

Garden cleanup

What I have learned

We have begun our research and know some questions to ask ourselves from my previous post. There are some other things to consider during the research phase.

Which zone am I in? You’ll want to find your location on the Hardiness Zone Map. You will find this map in your seed catalog or on some individual seed packets. I found the map on my seed catalog order form. I live in Pennsylvania and know I am in hardiness zone six. At the end of a plant description it will tell you appropriate zones for the plant to flourish.  Most plants are able to be grown in multiple zones. Knowing your zone will help you find out how long your growing season is so you will be able to better follow the directions that come with your plants or seeds. I know not to set out any tender plants before Memorial Day without some kind of cover. You many get tons of nice weather and then boom, your plants are shriveled and useless.

What should I grow? This may be a question you thought about if you read Planning a Garden. You will want to grow what your family will eat. Most parents already know the answer to that one. You may also want to consider getting the children involved. They may eat a vegetable they have grown themselves just because they had a part in it and want to carry that through. Browse the seed catalogs with your kids. Make sure you will have room for the plants or think of alternate ways you can make room, such as containers, or hanging baskets. Look for varieties suited for small gardens. That information will be listed in the catalog or on the seed packets. If you are able, grow what is more expensive to buy in your area. This will save you the most money, unless it is something that’s care requires a large outlay of cash, such as rediculous soil amendents or constant watering. That just would not be worth the trouble.

What kind of seed should I buy and where should I get it? You can go with regular seed or organic. This is a personal choice, just as your choice for what food you eat. We found some seed packets last night that were organic and I noticed they were less expensive than what was in the regular seed catalog. We decided on those. Your seed supplier might depend on who came up on your internet search first or whoever friends and family recommend. If you know someone who has a garden ask where they get their seeds or plants and what they have had luck with.

Should I buy seed or plants? This is another personal choice and you will need to take a few things into consideration. Do you have the time and space to start seed indoors? The seeds will need to be kept warm and in a sunny location when they start to grow. They most likely will need daily care. Small seedlings can dry out quickly. They would need to be kept up out of the reach of pets and small children. Is your growing season long enough to direct sow, or sow right into the garden and produce before the first frost? You can always purchase plants from a plant nursery or garden center if you have any concerns. Most gardeners I know buy both.

Where will I put the garden? Walk around your yard and pick a site with at least six hours of sunlight but hopefully more. It should have good drainage and air flow.  It should not be near any huge, water guzzling trees or in a rocky area. It should be close enough to your house so that you can easily tend it. It should also have a reliable water source nearby.

Is my soil suitable for a garden? If your neighbors are successful without amending their soil very much you should be too. You want rich, loamy soil and you can amend your soil if necessary with homemade compost and other items from the garden center. You can also build raised beds or use containers.

What kind of tools will I need? A few basic tools would work just fine for a beginner gardener. A spade, fork, rake, hoe and small shovel or trowel would be enough. I started with only a spade and made do.

Now we have something to think about and options to explore.

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about planning.

Where are you in your gardening adventure?

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