So, this is the year you are going to start a garden? That’s great! At this point you are probably aware of all the benefits of home gardening. Many of us here at Eichenlaub have home gardens and we have installed several for our clients. Here are a few simple tips to get you off to a good start.
1. Location. Unless you plan to grow nothing but salad greens you will need 6 – 8 hours of direct sun per day. It is critical to position your garden with this in mind. Also, be sure to locate your garden where it will be easily accessible. Out of site out of mind -means your garden will not get proper care and vegetables may go bad before you harvest them. If designed right a garden can be beautifully worked into your landscape. We can help you with this!
2. Animals. Deer, bunnies, groundhogs, no matter where you live some animal will likely want some of your delicious vegetables. Plan for this from the start by designing in raised planters and in most cases, some type of fence.
3. Soil. Good soil is the foundation of a successful garden. Our Western Pennsylvania soil tends to be mostly clay. You can either heavily amend your soil with compost (till in about 4” of compost to start), or you can utilize raised planters and fill them with quality soil/compost mix. AgRecycle is a good local resource for compost and soil.
4. Water. You will be watering your new garden daily to a few times per week depending on the time of year. It is important to think about how you will water. Rain barrels or other water harvesting methods are ideal but may dry up mid-summer. You may want to invest in an automatic watering system. This will ensure you garden gets watered during your busy weeks or when you are out of town. There are plenty of options for automatic watering.
5. Plants. Finally, the fun part! Think about what you will eat and start with a few basics. One thing that will be a bit different with a home garden is: you will at times be finding recipes for the fresh vegetables you have, as opposed to buying vegetables for your recipes. Most people plant tomatoes because they are way better than from any store. Read labels and plant accordingly, resist the urge to plant closer that what the label says! Check out Grow Pittsburgh for more information.
6. Manage. From here it is as simple as keeping your garden watered and weeded then harvesting when your vegetables are ready.
Read this book for more information: Dos & Don’ts for Growing & Preserving Organic Vegetables by Dr. Merle F. Johnson. Dr. Johnson has over 40 years of experience with organic gardening in the Pittsburgh area.