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Where to start when a piece of land is empty in front of you? It may seem like a difficult endeavor, but with our guide through all the stages of garden planning, step by step, we will bring you to the perfect vegetable garden.
Planning a good garden is no small matter. On the contrary. An action that requires a lot of thoughtful action, smart moves and challenges that must be successfully overcome. That is why in this guide we offer you an insight into how to plan and plant your ideal garden.
Garden planning Phase 1
The mission is to plan the garden to look as good as possible and to give us beautiful flowers and delicious fruits in the future. In addition, we will show you how to test soil pH and ultimately make the first green actions. Feel free to steal from us some ideas, get inspired and move boldly into the gardening waters.
When we go into garden planning, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. First, why the garden at all? What are the benefits of nature? Connection with nature is necessary and very useful to humans. It is important to us for physical health, to breathe healthy, to eat, to drink, to move. It is important to us for mental health because greenery relaxes us and alleviates the pervasive stress. It is also important for spiritual development and health because it develops understanding, respect and empathy for life, encourages imagination and creativity. In fact, a healthy and balanced life without nature is not possible at all.
We ate the gardens more before, and today we look at them more. Gardens as parts of a more or less transformed and managed nature with a specific function have existed since we chose the sedentary lifestyle and began to create the first civilizations. Once upon a time, they had a primarily productive, religious and representative role. In today’s time of intense urbanization, when most of the population lives in urban areas, the importance of nature in the living environment is more important than ever, and our present – private, and especially public – “gardens” generally have a residential, recreational, representative and protective role. Somehow, during the hectic centuries of growth, development, industrialization, and urbanization, we have forgotten and neglected the very important breeding role of self-sufficient, small, family and private gardens as sources of healthy, local and fresh food, easily accessible and always at our fingertips.
Urban gardening is healthy and trendy. Recent awareness of the importance of healthy food has made the possible realization that gardening in urban areas is slowly returning as a positive and laudable trend. There are more and more people who want to grow their own food, eat fine and healthy. If there is goodwill, there are hardly any spatial restrictions on cultivation. Anyone can grow some edible and fruitful plants: in pots, on balconies and terraces, on surfaces of any size … It is wonderful when synergy occurs.
Where to start?
When deciding on a hobby-gardening adventure, the most common practical questions that novice gardeners ask themselves are how big a garden to plant and what to plant. There is no universal rule. The recommendation is that the size should be adjusted to the lifestyle and available leisure. As with everything, one should have a measure and be reasonable. Start moderately and slightly, not with too much space and too many herbs. Start small, light and relaxed, let each new small success motivate you to grow and expand. Hobby-gardening, while a year-round business, should primarily be fun and enjoyment, not an effort. As for the choice of herbs, you grow your garden for yourself and your family, and in it, you raise the plants you have in your favorite dishes. Those who have a slightly more aesthetic line will often ask themselves how it will ultimately look and whether the garden can be edible and beautiful at the same time. To help you create just such useful and eye-pleasing gardens, we have prepared for you a dream garden recipe below. We want to guide you through a proper, school-based garden planning process to make it as easy as possible to ultimately create gardens of your imagination and to make gardening relaxing and fun in a well-planned garden.
What is a recipe for a dream garden?
First discipline, then imagination at will. Regardless of the size, location or shape of the available garden space, its beauty, health, and purpose depend largely on good planning and preparation at the outset. Success, though, is rarely accidental. In order to successfully raise it, with lots of joy, upswing and goodwill and a bit of gardening happiness, we need to follow the basic rules, follow some guidelines and follow the steps of some basic steps. This may not be fun at first and may seem boring or even unnecessary, but if you start with planning your garden in a disciplined and organized way, it will give you back many times with its beauty and its fruits.
What is the starting point or what do we have?
INVENTORY – what I have, how much and where it is. In order not to make the mistake of planting too much, too little, too big, or too small, we need to know the basic features of the garden space: the boundary of the area, the shape, and the dimensions, and record them with a drawing. A floorplan on a convenient scale is a common form of presentation. It will also be helpful to quote a draft (write down the dimensions of the garden along its edges) and record existing structures if any (paths, stairs, fences … anything fixed, solid and/or built).
ANALYSIS – under what conditions will my plants grow and how will it facilitate their growth and development? Before doing any gardening, it is very important to analyze the environment in which it is located so that we know with certainty the conditions in which our garden, living organism, will grow – how much plants will have sun, water and in what soil will grow, how and what conditions. This step some, a little more skilled, already intuitively feel and know. For those who are experiencing this approach for the first time, the following are brief guidelines that should be addressed.
The most important thing is to know the orientation (north, south, east or west garden), sunshine (full or partial, limited), inclination (flat, steep or terraces, whether or not earthworks require ground preparation), overgrowth (what is existing vegetation, if any, whether deforestation, stumps, etc.) determine the type of soil (not too technical – it is sufficient to take it under the fingers to determine if loose fertile garden soil is common or if there is too much clay – if it is sticky or sandy – if it dissipates), basic climatic characteristics (such as seasons, when it is very hot or cold when there is a lot of precipitation when it is dry, are there strong winds) and the available infrastructure (do we have water for irrigation, electricity and the like).
VALORIZATION – what is particularly important, valuable or beautiful to us? In this step, we note what we are worth holding, what we need to remove, whether we have a nice view that we want to retain, release, emphasize, or, in other words, an uncomfortable view that we want to mitigate or obscure.
Garden planning Phase 2
Now that we know all about the space and conditions in which our future garden will grow, the vision of what we want to create grows.
- Basic conception. We get different inspirations from literature, media, memories. Let’s decide which style we like (contemporary minimalism, rustic, Mediterranean, boho, shabby chic…), what kind of design we want (rectangular geometry, circular, radial, amorphous organics, symbolism…) and what function (breeding and/or residential). Let’s make a sketch of the measures of our garden.
- Project program. We print, best in a spreadsheet, all the amenities, and equipment we want in the garden: fence, communication, pitches/flower beds, storage, residence, shade, shelter, garden attractions and accents, water tank, composting room, insect hotel, birdhouse, feeders and watering cans, high vegetation, ambient (eco) lighting… We describe the atmosphere we want in the garden and how to create it.
- Planting list. It is useful, at the very beginning of planning the garden, to outline the garden theme – what kind of garden we want (multi-sensory garden, designer vegetable garden, edible flower garden, food forest, butterfly, bee and bird garden, medicinal garden, fragrant garden, spice garden, self-sustaining eco-garden, one square garden…) and/or which and what kind of plants we want to grow in it (vegetables, berries, flowers, medicinal, all green, all gray, certain bloom colors, certain flowering times, only old varieties, etc.), so the later selection of specific species will be much easier. Gardeners who want to grow a primarily edible vegetable garden are also encouraged to plant flowers, herbs, and herbs in mixed flower beds, both for the beauty of the garden composition and for the health and protection of the garden.
- Conceptual solution. When we know the shape and dimensions of our future garden, the basic environmental factors that guide us to the selection and cultivation of plants, and when we have an elaborate and selected garden theme, a chosen style/design with a list of all elements, structures, and contents, a conceptual design or layout plan is drawn according to which our future garden will be run, and on which all the contents of the project program we have prepared are displayed on an appropriate scale.
- In addition to the basic design or conceptual design of the garden shaping, the most important to the gardeners is the plan of planting, that is, a detailed and legible account of where and at what intervals the seedling should be planted, which is drawn on a previously drawn conceptual design.
Now, after a good preparation, when all the wishes and possibilities are on paper and when we have a well-developed plan, we are completely ready for the next step of a gardening adventure, and that is to transfer the vision of your dream garden from a drawing to real space.
Below we bring you an example of a garden planning table, the kind you yourself can make in an Excel sheet.
|How big is the garden?||500 ft²|
|What we want to plant||various flower beds of edible and ornamental plants|
|Environment||inspirational garden showroom|
|some quite different smaller garden areas|
|STARTING POINT||what do we have at our disposal?|
|dimensions||30ft x 15ft|
|ground plan||now draw a sketch/draft as a basis for further|
|Analysis||orientation||elongated east-west, completely open|
|sunlight||all day long without any shading|
|inclination||completely flat terrain with no slope|
|overgrown condition||bare prepared ground|
|type of soil||fertile garden soil with a touch of loam|
|Valorization||worth||view of the nearby forest|
|restrictive||unprotected fully exposed space|
|VISION||what do we want to create?|
|shaping||four basic types of zone|
|style||a combination of styles and inspirations|
|function||primarily an edible garden|
|concept||now create a sketch/concept on a previously prepared floor plan|
|Project program||what do we want to put in the garden?|
|feeders and drinkers|
|Planting list||what will grow in the garden?|
|garden theme||designer vegetable garden|
|an edible flowerbed|
|butterflies, bees, and birds garden|
|garden with healing herbs|
|a self-sustaining eco garden|
|garden on 10 ft2|
|Conceptual solution||draft design||create a conceptual design solution|
|planting plan||draw in each plant in detail on the design concept|
Determine the acidity of the soil with the help of a pansy flower
Before we go full steam digging through the flower beds, it is the last time to sit down and plan all the garden work, sowing and planting dates, crop rotation, spring, summer, fall, and winter garden scheme. In fact, most gardeners devote themselves to this process for the last two months of the year, when the garden is dormant, but it is never too late for a good plan. The sowing and planting calendar is extremely useful for beginner gardeners as it helps them know exactly when to start sowing outdoors or indoors and when to plant a plant in a flowerbed in the garden.
For example, tomatoes are sensitive to cold, so the seedlings are grown indoors from February or March, and will only end in the garden in May. But in order to plant the right plant in the right place, we need to be informed about the type of soil on which we are gardening, its quality, and other characteristics before we make a wish list.
Type of soil
Vegetables can be more or less successfully grown on various types of soils, but for growing vegetables a slight loam is ideal. Every gardener’s dream is humus-rich soil, loose structures and easy to plow, such as moles. It rarely retains too much moisture during the winter and does not dry too much during the summer. If clay particles prevail in the soil, we are talking about clay soil, which is characterized by brown, yellow or gray color, and sticky and smooth under the fingers.
If the highest proportion of particles is sand, it is sandy soil that is easy to cultivate but dries quickly and contains fewer nutrients.
Determination of soil type
Even without laboratory analysis, it is possible to determine the soil type using one simple test. The type of soil in our garden can be determined by observing a pattern of moist soil by taking a handful of soil and trying to form a roller. If the roller does not break, we can conclude that the soil is rich in clay and if the roller breaks, it is sandy or peaty soil.
The amount of lime or calcium in the soil is also very important for soil fertility, so the level of acidity or basicity of the soil, measured in pH units, should be checked regularly, and the scale ranges from 1 to 14.
Soil with a pH of about 7 is neutral, while soils with values less than 7 are acidic and those with pHs greater than 7 are alkaline.
First of all, pH affects the solubility of soil minerals and thus their availability to plants. Moreover, it affects many types of microorganisms in the soil and pests and diseases. For example, the absence of earthworms may indicate that the soil is acidic. Plants thrive best when the soil pH is between 5.5 and 7.5, but of course, there are those who prefer acidic soil, for example, American blueberries for which the soil in the garden needs to be specially prepared, or acidified with special substrates.
While laboratory analysis is the most accurate, soil pH analysis can be done at home without the use of complicated procedures.
Add the pH value step by step
Before starting the soil pH analysis, an indicator should be used to determine the pH value of the soil. A handful of purple-blue flowers, pansies, buckwheat, and concentrated alcohol are required to produce the indicator.
- Collect as many petals of blue-purple pansies as possible, and instead of petals, leaves of purple kale or red cabbage can be used.
- Put in as many blue-purple flowers of pansies and alcohol as possible in the mulberry and crush everything well and allow the color from the petals to dissolve in the alcohol.
- Then the solution is filtered and stored in a vial (preferably dark glass).
- The indicator behaves as follows: in the neutral center, it is the same color as the flower, blue or blue-violet, the more acidic the medium the redder the color, and greener the solution.
- Changes in the color of the indicator are obtained by placing ordinary tap water in three beakers. A few drops of vinegar (acid) are added to the first, a little baking soda, which is a weak alkali, is dissolved in the second, and only pure water is left in the third. Then, two drops of pansy indicators are added to each and in a few seconds there will be a reaction, that is, a change in the color in the cups.
Determination of acidity of the soil in the garden
Once your garden is in its final shape, you can devote yourself to thinking about what will be inside the flower beds. It is important that they change throughout the year.
- The first step is to take a soil sample from a depth of 4 to 6 inches. The soil should be well dried and chop up as much as possible.
- Then place a soil sample of about 2 ounces in a jar of distilled water and shake well for the next few minutes. The jar is then disposed of to be deposited.
- The dropper should be carefully separated from the jar that is poured into the test tube.
- After placing 4-5 drops of the indicator, the liquid in the tube should be shaken vigorously.
- Finally, comparing the color of the test tube with the color obtained in the beakers, we can conclude what type of soil we have in our garden.
Billet formation phase
- Insert the rings into the corners of the billets, then tie them with a string to get a square of the right appearance. After that, dig a hole in the marked square, about 8 inches deep. Place the excavated soil to the side.
- Stacking goes from thicker to thinner, so you will stack thick logs at the bottom of the billet.
- Lay the branches of the pruning on the logs. Thicker first, then thinner.
- This is followed by leaves, stems and, finally, a mixture of tiny material.
- Return soil to the complex material you have dug and place fine soil from the compost on it. If you do not have compost in your garden, you can get a universal substrate from the store.
- Align the billet with the rake at the end.
Over the years, the soil in the flowerbed will be of higher quality and full of nutrients, ideal for planting and growing
Hothouse: the best conditions for any seed
It is a protected area where plants can be sown for four to six weeks before being sown outside. It provides young plants with protection until they are strengthened for transplanting. Hothouse is easy to make, they are not expensive and anyone can make them with little effort.
Even if the weather does not allow us, there are ways to start growing vegetables early in the garden, especially with species more resistant to low temperatures. These are hothouses, a sheltered area where plants can be sown four to six weeks earlier than planted outside in early spring. The advantage of such spaces is that it will provide young plants with protection until they are strengthened and ready to be transplanted into the open field.
For our garden, we have created above ground hothouse that will serve us to adapt the plants we have grown indoors, such as corn salad and leaf lettuce.