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Manual Organic Gardening Beginners Manual

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I built a business that sustains my family. I graduated with honors.

Educating Minnesotans about Living Sustainably and Building Healthy Communities

Vegetable Haters? No More! When they see the process from seed to harvest, their pride switch gets flipped, too, and they want to try the literal fruits of their labor. What would you do if the electricity grid temporarily went down in your city and no grocery stores could stay open?


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Or if there was massive flooding and the food supply chain was damaged for a bit? Beauty: A well-maintained vegetable garden is a beautiful addition to any yard or patio. No matter the size of your garden, a successful growing season starts way before you plant your first seed —you gotta plan! Yes, there is still snow on the ground, but I curl up with my mug of tea in front of the fire and get to work.

Most of your favorite veggies tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, oh my! Now that you have your growing zone and your last frost date, you can plan your layout, containers, and varieties! The location of your garden is the single most important aspect you can choose. Probably the number one thing to consider when choosing your garden location is sun exposure.


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You can bring in water with a hose or watering can or irrigation system. You can amend the soil to improve its drainage or give it more nutrients. And you can put up fences or other barriers to fend off deer, squirrels, or other pests. Most vegetables, fruits, and herbs do best in full sun, which means they get at least hours of sunlight a day. Some leafy greens and herbs can tolerate partial shade hours of daily sun exposure , especially in climates where the days get hot in the summer, but almost nothing edible grows well in full shade. So before you do any digging or planting, watch your intended garden spot to observe the light situation throughout the course of a few days.

Keep in mind that depending on where you are in the hemisphere, the angle of the sun might change, too. For example, in the winter, our few front garden beds are actually shaded because the angle of the sun in so low, but come March, they are back in the sunshine again! Before putting in your garden, ask yourself, do I really want to be running a watering can back and forth to this spot? Do I have hose access?

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Would I be able to put up a rain barrel nearby? As a general rule-of-thumb, your garden will need at least one inch of water per week—more during hot times. If you choose to grow in tall raised beds or other taller containers, a garden that gets a bit mushy in the spring rains will probably be fine. There are ways to help fix drainage issues— you can create a base in your garden of sand and gravel with raised beds or containers on top.

However, this set-up is a bit advanced for beginners—my recommendation from the start is to find a naturally well-drained spot. If you have a large lot, are you really going to want to walk to the other end of your property just to pick some basil? Sometimes, this might mean breaking up your garden into a few different areas. We have an herb garden closer to our house that makes it easy to pop out and grab a few leaves of oregano for pizza, but our larger garden is a bit further away.

A well-maintained garden requires being touched almost every day in the summer. You need to weed, water, and harvest to keep things going. It can be really easy to forget a day or two or a week! You want to avoid garden spots that are constantly exposed to strong winds.

Organic Food Gardening Beginners Manual

Another added benefit of slowing down the wind: less watering! Wind dries out beds faster. Edible landscaping is replacing or supplementing your current landscaped beds with edible plants. Plus, some veggie plants are even more beautiful than flower plants! I started my gardening journey by growing in pots and hanging baskets on a sunny, west-facing concrete apartment patio. There are nearly an infinite amount of types of gardens out there, but they simplify down to three categories. The classic. Cut out your grass, till up the soil, plant, and grow!

That simple, right? Well, not really. Growing in the ground can actually be one of the more complicated ways of growing. Growing in raised beds is what I think most people envision nowadays when they think of having a kitchen garden. Raised beds are rectangle or square structures with four sides that are filled with soil to grow in.

They can vary in height and size. We love ours, but of course, like everything, there are trade-offs. Here are the pros and cons:. We actually use a combination of all three growing methods in our garden, and it works well for us! Now is where you get to get out a pencil and graph paper, an online vegetable garden planner, or even just your favorite graphics program and have some fun! Measure the entire growing space, and draw that out first, and then start to play around with different bed shapes, sizes, and orientations.

I actually usually do this in Adobe Illustrator—my design background just makes AI really easy for me to use. I can move beds around, change orientations, and change sizes really quickly. This technique lightens and aerates the lower layer of the soil, in essence giving your plants a deeper layer of topsoil in which to grow. The width of a raised bed is a matter of comfort and preference. Four feet seems to have become the recommended standard, because most people can still weed and tend plants at a two-foot reach, but not much beyond.

Gardening from a wheelchair usually requires a higher but narrower bed. Christopher Starbuck, of the University of Missouri Extension, recommends a bed two feet high and three feet wide. Suppose you have a space measuring approximately thirteen feet by seven. Leaving space around the outside for access, do you build one bed measuring four feet by ten, or two smaller beds? For our height- or flexibility-challenged client, reaching the center of a four-foot wide bed, all down its ten-foot length, can be — well, a challenge.

This person might be much happier with two beds, each about four feet by four, with a path between them.

A Beginner's Guide to Vegetable Gardening

This arrangement means that she or he can now reach the bed from all four sides. Four-foot wide beds, with paths of twenty to twenty-four inches between them, get the most growing area out of a small garden, while still leaving room to navigate. As should already be clear, both materials and design are widely variable. While it is generally a good rule of thumb to avoid treated woods, the creosote in railway ties wears away with time, so if the ties appear dry not slick, sticky, or oily they are probably safe to use.

Ties, landscape timbers, or 4X4s can all be used in one of the simplest and most familiar designs, in which the timbers are laid on the ground and stacked to the desired height. Some designs call for rebar to be driven through the timbers into the soil, and for upper timbers to be attached to lower ones with spikes. However, many people stack timbers directly on the ground, laying them like bricks so that each timber overlaps two in the row below it.

The dirt filler stabilizes the timbers from the inside, and a piece of rebar or two along each outside wall, driven firmly into the dirt close to the timbers, will stabilize them from the outside. Posts provide even greater stability if they are sunk into the ground. Wooden raised vegetable garden beds with 4 ft. Be sure to arrange the blocks as bricks are laid, so that each block overlaps half of two in the row below. If one block is set directly on top of the one beneath it, all bets concerning stability are off. Flat stones are, obviously, much easier to deal with than rounded ones, and a low wall built of large flat rocks can be built by the determined beginner.

The stock watering troughs mentioned above make a prefabricated metal or plastic container.

A proficient metal-worker can make beds to specifications, whether curved or straight. OMRI Listed for use in organic production. This can be done by covering the area with black plastic for two months, or by repeated spraying with organic herbicides. A single spraying will kill existing vegetation, but not deep tubers or extensive root systems.

Anything not killed by such treatments, which deprive plants of the foliage that feeds their roots for an entire season, will also not be killed by spraying conventional chemicals such as Roundup or D. While cloth prevents earthworms and other organisms from traveling freely through different levels of soil, it can sometimes be the best choice.