Tag Archives: Raised bed gardening

And Where, Exactly, Am I Supposed to Start?

Let’s get started, shall we?

Planning a garden of any size is an intimidating endeavor; even last year when I put together my patio container garden I was so worried about having the wrong soil conditions, picking the wrong seeds, planting them at the wrong time, over- or under-watering, over or under-feeding, losing the battle against weeds and whatever sorts of evil bugs might come and decimate my (tiny) crop. The situation seemed grave: one misstep and my tiny garden empire would come crashing down around me.

I’m still nervous about what might go wrong; growing a garden in the ground is very different than growing on a third-floor patio; despite my best efforts, I will see weeds and pests in my garden this year—they’ve still not invented affordable garden force fields. That said, if I get everything off to a good and thoughtful start, I’ll be giving my garden a fighting chance.

Before I select my seeds, I’ve got a few important things to consider:

Location. This was decided in December; one side of our back yard is significantly less shaded than the other and also had fewer well-established shrubs and plants. We’re still going to have to lift up some sod and do a ton of work, but it seems manageable.

Garden style. How are we going to plant everything? There are so many options out there; container gardening, classic in-ground beds, raised beds, hydroponics, growing in rows, in square foot blocks, growing ornamental veggies in regular flower beds.

Soil conditions. How sandy (or loamy, whatever that means…) should my soil be? How much fertilizer should I add? Is the PH in the right range? How’s the drainage of the soil? Are there enough earthworms?

Planting plan. Where am I going to put the tall things, like peas, pole beans and sunflowers, so they don’t shade the other plants? Where should the cucumbers, squash and other ground vines go so they can spread out without suffocating the other plants? What plants should get put together to benefit each other?

Speaking of “companion planting”, the American Indians used to plant corn (maize), squash and beans together because of the many ways they compliment each other.

The maize provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants utilize and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, which helps prevent weeds. The squash leaves act as a “living mulch“, creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Maize lacks the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, which the body needs to make proteins and niacin, but beans contain both and therefore together they provide a balanced diet.

From Wikipedia

So, time to do a little research and make some decisions; there’s also a time to do undertake some serious work in the back yard to reconfigure things. Both my partner and I have tomorrow off, so perhaps we’ll get to it then.

Got any thoughts on any of the choices mentioned above? Please share!