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How to Start a Garden at a New Home

written by: Miranda Brumbaugh•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 1/10/2011

Learn how to start a new garden and organize it for optimal production and minimal effort. Easy steps to start a garden include planning and preparation. Learn these simple tips and methods, and you will already have your shovel halfway in the dirt.

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    Choose Your Location

    The first thing you need to know about how to start a garden bed in a new location is that preplanning is essential. Begin by deciding what plants you want to include in the garden. If you are planting vegetables, choose which season you will begin planting. For winter vegetables, including lettuces, begin preparation in the summer. Most vegetables and flowers are grown during the spring and summer, leaving the fall and winter for ground preparation. Sunlight versus shade, as well as companion planting, are two major factors to keep in mind when you start a garden.

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    Making a New Home Garden
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    Sunlight and Shade

    Map out your garden on a paper graph and depict all trees, shrubs and plants already growing near to the plot. Record the levels of sunlight at each hour of the day that can reach the garden plot. You may find your garden plot is shaded only in one area for most of the day, which is beneficial for shade-loving plants.

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    home garden
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    Companion Planting

    Follow companion planting methods for organizing your plants by researching the enemies and friends of each plant. For instance, walnut trees are toxic to tomatoes and peppers, while marigolds attract beneficial predator insects that deter parasites, such as white flies and aphids. Organize your plants accordingly to minimize the need for insecticides. Plant friendly plants together and find your vegetation thriving.

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    Prep Your Dirt

    Before you begin, take a soil sample of the prospective plot. Test your dirt with a pH meter that you can buy at most garden centers, costing approximately $20. For a more accurate test, contact your local state university cooperative extension office, which are located all across the U.S.

    Types of Soil:

    • Sandy soil--light tan, crumbly
    • Loam--dark brown to black; the ideal soil
    • Clay soil--copper to red, holds texture when pressed

    Soil Amendments to Alter pH:

    • Lime raises pH
    • Garden sulfur lowers pH
    • Blood meal adds nitrogen
    • Bonemeal increases phosphorus

    If your soil is not optimal for growing vegetables and flowers, consider your choice of gardening methods. The lazy bed method will improve soil quality in existing dirt, while raised beds use new soil, which is great for a plot that is created at the last minute before planting season.

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    Lazy Bed Method

    The lazy bed method utilizes recycled newspapers as an all-natural herbicide, killing grasses, weeds and other plants. Blanket the prospective garden plot with several layers of newspaper. Top with a layer of soil conditioner, manure, compost or high-quality topsoil. While less labor-intensive, this method requires preparation of at least two months, and preferably a season, in order to successfully break down the soil. Consider completing the lazy bed method during the winter season. Finish the process by tilling the plot to at least 12 inches deep.

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    Literal Take on Raised Beds
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    Raised Beds

    When you use a raised bed, you bypass the need for tilling and soil amendments. This method also increases accessibility to a garden plot for people who have difficulties bending and digging in the ground. Grow organic vegetables and flowers with raised beds by adding 100 percent organic soils to the top of the ground. Surround your plot using rot-resistant lumber, such as pressure-treated pine or cedar. Steer clear of creosote-treated lumber and railroad crossties, both of which contain toxic chemicals that will leach into your garden.

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    Raised Beds by digika
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    References

    “Gardening 1-2-3”; The Home Depot; 2006.

    The Garden Helper: Choosing a Good Place to Grow a Garden and Preparing it for Planting http://www.thegardenhelper.com/plantingsite.html

    Images courtesy of flickr: New Garden Bed by furtwangl, Garden Plot by Ed Bierman, Raised Beds by digika, Raised Bed by upturnedface

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