Tis the season…. for seed catalogs! Yes, they are finding their way into the hands of new gardeners, and every year I get questions about the best way to get a garden going in the spring.
First, prep your garden area. Do you still have leaves laying around? Pile those where you want to break ground in the spring. They will help kill off the grass/weeds that are growing there now. Other things you can pile on now include grass clippings, compost and, believe it or not, snow. Yup, if you get snow where you live, shovel your walks onto your garden space. The extra moisture when it melts in spring will help break up the sod and aid your seeds when they get planted.
Breaking ground is easiest with a tiller. These are usually available for rent or borrow from a neighbor. Y’all know me, I’m a hand tool sort of gal, but breaking up sod is hard work and the tillers do make it manageable. That said, if gas to run one of those is out of your budget, or you can’t make it into town to get one, you can do this by hand. Give yourself plenty of time, especially with a large plot, and prepare yourself for some hard work. Get a shovel, a rake and a hoe if you have one. Use the shovel to break up and literally turn over the sod. (Put the grass roots pointing up in the air if you can.) Use the hoe to break those large clumps up. Possibly shoveling again. Use the hoe if you still have large clumps. Then, a couple of hours later, when you are done hoeing, use the rake to smooth and level the bed. I’ve done this business both ways, and they are both hard in their own way, but the tiller is faster.
Prepare thyself for battle. The first year of a garden is always the hardest. You’ll have lots of weeds, probably a lot of grass will try to regrow, (you’ll find out quickly which places didn’t get enough attention with the hoe.) You may not have a good balance of nutrients and beneficial insects, and the lower layers of the soil may still be fairly compacted. All of these will work themselves out with time and attention. Just don’t think you’ll put the seeds in the ground in June and do nothing till you harvest in August. Keep the hoe handy to quickly knock down the weeds and grass. If you can get your hands on mulch or compost, those can be used to bury problem areas.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If this is your first garden, keep things small and manageable. You can always grow next year. Start with something on the order of a couple 6×4 beds.
Plant seeds from a local seed producer for best results. If you buy varieties that are suited for your climate, they’ll grow better and produce more. So look for local seed companies that grow out seeds in your state or region and buy from them instead of a larger national company that grows seeds wherever.
Decide whether you’re aiming for a flavor garden or a calorie garden. If you are aiming to grow the expensive, flavorful produce that you can’t afford in the grocery store, then get some herbs, tomatoes, peppers and maybe some artichokes. If you are aiming for max calories per square foot, get lots of root vegetables.
Do we have anyone here planning a garden in the spring? Do you have specific questions? Shout out in the comments and Calamity will take care of you.
– Calamity Jane