How A Garden Works…

Part 1   PLANNING

Plan for Success

On any journey, its is said that “getting there is half the fun.”

Planning a garden is just such a journey. It can be a wonderful experience that is fun, exciting and very educational. It is a journey in which everyone involved, from the youngest gardener to the oldest “advisor,” can play an active and rewarding role.

During the planning process, everyone involved has the chance to contribute their knowledge, their experience and their meaningful labor. In return, they have the opportunity to learn many things about gardening, plants and nature as well as about fellowship and teamwork. To top it off, the final dividend will be a triumph for everyone: a garden that is well placed, well constructed and ready to foster plants that will server to nurture body and soul.  

Think about the practical considerations…

Vegetable require good growing conditions to produce adequate yields of nutritious crops. Besides an appropriate growing medium, full sun and a sheltered position are preferred. Are these available?

Also ask yourself:

  • How much space do I have to grow a garden?
  • What type of fruits and vegetables do I want to grow?
  • What are the growing requirements of the fruits and vegetables I can grow here? …things like
    • temperature
    • space needed for proper development
    • preferred soil type
    • amount of sun or shade
  • Is there a plentiful and convenient water source? And perhaps, most of all…
  • How much time can I commit to this garden?

Boy-ThinkAbout

More considerations…

When planning a garden for children, it is not enough to just consider the garden on its own. Every consideration should include the child in relation to the garden space and garden activities that may take place there. For example, do not just consider the size of the garden alone, but also the size and mobility limitations of young gardeners who will be using the garden. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Will the garden be “child-sized” and not overwhelming?
  • Can it be a safe and secure space for children to move about?
  • Does the size of the beds/containers accommodate a child’s reach? For smaller kids, 2-foot wide beds may be the best choice.
  • Is the height accessible, especially for children with a physical handicap?
  • Are tools and amendments located nearby and accessible to small people with small hands; will a child be able to carry needed materials?
  • What do the kids want to grow? Discuss including familiar items as well as interesting new additions to the plan.
  • What will be done with the harvest? Do we need meeting, food preparation and serving space?
  • Can a maintenance schedule be devised that is manageable for adults and include meaningful participation for every child?

Think about…

ALL LIVING THINGS HAVE REQUIREMENTS FOR A HEATHY PRODUCTIVE LIFE.

The children aren’t the only consideration. Much of the design of a garden designed to be used by children will be dictated not by the needs of children, but, rather, by the needs of the plants. Plants are living things and, like you, MUST HAVE certain things to survive. Limiting factors are those things that all plants need to live and reproduce. If you remove one of these factors, plants will not thrive and will eventually die. The limiting factors for plants are:

  • water
  • essential nutrients
  • sunlight
  • carbon dioxide
  • climate
  • space
  • pollinators
  • and physical support.

In most gardens, water and essential nutrients are usually the two most limiting factors on plant growth.

If this is your first garden…

Here are a few tips.

Keep your garden small.

You can always make it bigger next year. When the thrill of planting a new garden wears off, you don’t want to feel that the garden has become an obligation rather than a joy.

Keep your garden in one area.

It makes it easier to improve the soil and maintain proper irrigation.

Concentrate on growing only those vegetables that benefit the most from being picked fresh. Don’t grow plants that take up lots of space, have a long growing season or you don’t love to eat. Grow vegetables that are hard to find and not usually on the supermarket shelves.

Select varieties for superior taste rather than crop size. The largest tomatoes are not necessarily the best tasting.

The “Must-Haves”

So, the list of “must haves” from the plants point of view, will vary from crop to crop but boils down to….

water-drops2   Water in appropriate amounts

Vegetables are sun lovers. Most vegetables require a lot of sunlight. The garden should receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Eight to 10 hours each day is ideal. A general rule of thumb that leafy plants like lettuce and kale need less sun (say 6 hours) than fruiting plants like tomatoes.

Leafy greens can handle less sun and crops that prefer cool weather, like spinach, will continue to grow in the fall when the are days have a shorter length of sunshine.

Fruiting plants like tomatoes plants may not NEED 8-10 hours to produce fruit, but the amount of sun may affect the quality of the fruit. For example, tomato plants that get more sunlight produce higher levels of vitamin C.

soil2(1)   Soil with the nutrients needed for growth and maintenance

Garden soil is made up of some really important parts: many different types of minerals mixed together with organic matter (tiny living creatures, rotting plant and animal parts), air spaces and water. 

Plants need all of these things to be healthy. In the garden, it’s all about ingredients, texture, and chemistry.
CLICK HERE to get the dirt on soil!

SunCartoon   Sunshine: a minimum of 6 hours daily

Vegetables are sun lovers. Most vegetables require a lot of sunlight. The garden should receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Eight to 10 hours each day is ideal. A general rule of thumb that leafy plants like lettuce and kale need less sun (say 6 hours) than fruiting plants like tomatoes. 

Leafy greens can handle less sun and crops that prefer cool weather, like spinich, will continue to grow in the fall when theare days have a shorter length of sunshine.

 Fruiting plants like tomatoes plants may not NEED 8-10 hours to produce fruit, but the amount of sun may affect the quality of the fruit. For example, tomato plants that get more sunlight produce higher levels of vitamin C.

tapemeasure_kgs   Suitable space to thrive.

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thermo   Warmth…the temperature needed for certain plant processes.

Warm-weather plants should be planted in the summer after the last frost has passed. For more information about “When to Plant,” click here. The USDA has created a “zone” map that gives a special number to different “zones” or areas with similar growing conditions… where a plant will be happy and hardy.” This is called the “Plant Hardiness Zone map.”

 

Oftentimes you will see that a plant is suited for more than one zone with a list of each zone number that a plant will be most comfortable. Once you know your own “zone,” you can tell if a plant will be happy where you live. The USDA has updated their Plant Hardiness Zone map . Click here to see it

NEXT: Getting Organized

Gathering information to plan your garden.

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