Once you’ve decided to plant a garden, the next thing you need to do is plan. Where is the best place for the garden? How much sunlight will I need for the plants I intend to grow? What kind of ph level do I currently have in the soil? Is there enough drainage to make sure I don’t drown my plants? These and many more questions will need to be answered before you can figure the exact placement of your garden. You may find that you will want to consider having more than one garden area – perhaps one for sun-loving plants and another for those that prefer shade.
Try using a calendar as a guide for keeping track of the steps involved in the planting of your garden. Check the back of each seed packet to find out the germination time needed for each individual planting. Plot this out on your calendar so that you know exactly when you should plan to plant. It might also be useful to consult the Almanac to check for the latest frost dates in your area. Planting potatoes on Good Friday is the norm in our area of Southwestern Wisconsin. Check your zone to find out the recommended dates for the different plantings you wish to include. Vegetables such as snow peas, broccoli, and lettuce can all be started early and do well in the cooler days of spring. Tomatoes and corn, however, like the hot, humid days of summer around here and can seldom be planted in the ground until after our last expected frost date of May 15th. In some cases you may be able to get 2 crops in a growing season by planting early and then planting later in the summer. Make sure you use the calendar to track planting, harvesting and re-planting dates. These can be used for future reference when you start again the next spring.
If you are dealing with a limited amount of space, using a trellis or other support can help provide more room for additional planting. Using raised beds can also help conserve space because there is no need to provide rows in between. Crops that might require double digging could be planted in these raised beds instead. I’m speaking of root crops like carrots, turnips, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, beets and the like. The process would involve mixing the soil with any amendments necessary to grow these vegetables. Once the raised bed was placed in the planned spot the frame could be filled in with this amended soil and planted soon after.
Consider moisture needs for your garden. Plant crops requiring less moisture near the top of a slope and those needing more at the bottom. As you water, or it rains, the top plantings will receive a good soaking and as it runs off it satisfies the needs of the plants requiring more moisture.
After planting make sure to fertilize your plants. Heavy feeders can leach the nutrients from the soil quite quickly leaving you with strong plants but small fruit. Check the labels on the fertilizer packages to ensure the right proportions of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potasium for each of your plants.
Every zone will carry with it specific pests with which you must deal. Consult your county extension office to find out the best way to handle these pests and be sure to do it early while they are still manageable. This office will be able to help you find the most natural pest controls and those which are the best suited for the environment.
There are quite a few fine books on the subject of Companion Planting that are available. This form of planting relies on the specific characteristics of plants to nurture those around them. For example, planting marigold near tomatoes and onions helps to regulate the soil, cutting down on the number of soilborne diseases.
Using the months just prior to planting, your local extension offices, the Internet and fellow gardeners are all tremendous resources for helping in your project for summer garden planting.