Starting your own Garden!

Howdy!

For many of us, quarantine has given us a chance to relax at home and pick up new hobbies. With the weather getting warmer and sunnier, why not give gardening a try?! We hope this post gives you some helpful insight and maybe some inspiration.




First things first, WHERE is the best place for your garden? 

We’ve found that the best gardens have these characteristics:

-Sun!

Avoid areas with lots of shade. The more hours of sunlight a garden receives the better plant growth you will have.

-South facing!

The plot will receive more direct sunlight if it is facing the South.

-Soil Quality Indicators!

If possible, select a spot that has the greenest grass. Areas with green grass typically have a better soil nutrient value than a spot where grass and vegetation coverage is sparse (avoid brown spots and mossy areas). Ground that has lots of moss coverage generally means the soil is very acidic. These areas should be avoided if possible as most all vegetables do to not tolerate acidic soils.


-Size!
This can vary depending on what and how much you want to grow. We suggest starting small and then expanding your plot as you become more comfortable with gardening.



What do you need to invest in order for your garden to thrive?

- optional, but encouraged - Rototiller.
- a shovel, garden hoe, chicken wire fencing, stakes (or sticks) for marking rows of vegetables, and vegetable seeds.

fertilizer - Fish Emulsion (smells gross, but its great for the planet), should we find a vegan option??? Composted manure, bonemeal, eggshells, and kitchen compost are also great sources of fertilizer.


What preparation do you have to do to get your plants growing?

a. Roto-till! This is the preferred method (and easiest). Rototill your garden plot several times over the course of a week or so to kill all existing vegetation

OR.....

b. You can also create a garden by turning over soil with a shovel. Manually turning over the sod and chopping it up with a shovel requires a lot of time and hard work, and is not recommended if you are making a garden space over 20 square feet. If you can, more power to you!

c. Test your soil!!

Perform a soil test or have your soil professionally tested! This is the most crucial part of creating a garden. Your soil needs sufficient nutrients in order for plants to thrive, and by having your soil tested you will know what fertilizers to add and how much to add. The three main nutrients growers should have their soil tested for are Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium (NPK).

If your soil does not have adequate levels of these three key nutrients, your garden will most likely be a dud. Each of these nutrients is responsible for certain parts of a plant’s growth stages. Nitrogen is what helps to “green up” your vegetables. All vegetables require Nitrogen, but lettuce, chard, spinach, and other leafy greens love high levels of nitrogen. Phosphorus helps plants in their early growth stages by promoting vigorous root growth. Phosphorus also helps promote better stem and stalk strength as well as flower development. Vegetables that form ‘fruit’ such as squash, pumpkins, and tomatoes and cucumbers need high levels of phosphorus. Lastly, potassium is essential for root growth and also helps to increase the protein content in plants. Root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and beets love potassium!

Another important soil component is the pH level. This also should be tested as part of your soil test. For optimum plant growth, your soil’s pH level should be between 6 and 7.0. If the pH level is too low (acidic) your plants will not be able to absorb the proper level of nutrients and growth will be stunted. Likewise, if your soil’s pH is too high (alkiline) any growth will be limited.

We recommend having your soil tested by the Cornell Extension Unit. For each one of our field’s here at CCF we have our soil tested by Cornell Extension. The soil test will give you a clear understanding of what nutritional deficiencies your soil has, and what fertilizers (with applications rates) should be added to your future growth space for optimal plant growth. As an alternative, you can also purchase soil test kits at various hardware stores, but these kits can often yield inaccurate results and do not provide a detailed analysis or recommendations for fertilizer types with application rates.


What do you need for a fertilizer?

The easiest (and most economical way) to fertilize your garden is by using a synthetic fertilizer. Synthetic fertilizers such as a 5-10-5 (a common lawn and garden fertilizer) can be found at any hardware store. Synthetic fertilizers provide readily available nutrients for your plants, but are more of a ‘quick fix’ as they do not add any organic material to your soil. If you want to take the organic route like we do at CCF, there are several options available. For a nitrogen additive, composted manure is a great option. Composted manure can be purchased in bags at most hardware stores. Chicken manure, hog manure, and horse manure also have very high levels of nitrogen and are excellent fertilizers. Just be sure to apply manure to your soil long before planting (recommended the fall before) so it has plenty of time to break down. Bone meal (chopped up animal bones) is a great organic source of phosphorus, and potassium levels can be increased by adding wood ash to your soil. Kitchen compost is another great organic fertilizer that will make your soil more robust. Amending your soil with organic material is the best option for the long term health and overall quality of your soil. Organic fertilizers do not contain any artificial chemicals and are slow release, meaning they will provide nutrients for your plants all throughout the growing season and even through the next few years to come. Synthetics, as mentioned earlier, offer a quick blast of readily available nutrients but can often become depleted half way through the growing season.

How often do you need to check up on your plot?

This is dependent on the crops or plants that you are growing. Check the backs of seeds packets to see how often plants need to be watered, the type of fertilizer they require and their preferred amount of sunlight. If you can’t find this information on the packet or are curious about other aspects of your plants you can go online to Wildflower Farms or you can contact us directly!

Other things to keep in mind:

Gardening takes time, money, effort and so much patience! We hope that gardening can be rewarding, meditative and maybe even FUN for you all. Gardening is a great life long skill and hobby to engage in with family, friends or even by yourself! Choose plants that you WANT to take care of and grow. Research which crops grow best in your geographic location. Also, if you’re growing produce choose foods that you like to eat or want to try eating! If you’re growing flowers, grow your favorite flowers! You won’t want to take care of plants that you don’t see a purpose in growing.

Especially in times like these, we’ve found it so important to connect with the natural world and get out of the house whenever possible. We encourage you to keep an open mind and give gardening a go! Good luck!!





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