This time of year it's hard not to get the itch to get something in the ground. Something in us responds to the greening of the trees and the flowering of the plants. But where to start? What about all those terms like soil amendments, soil ph, hybrid, organic? Yup, it can be pretty overwhelming for someone who just wants to have some fresh tomatoes for their July 4th barbecue.
Forget about the gardening terms, and start with the space and sunlight you have. Sunlight is the most important factor in selecting a planting spot. Tomatoes like 8 hours of direct sun while lettuce and spinach can get by with less and some shade. Almost anyone can grow vegetables in their yard, though yards with lots of shade have limited options.
If you're not sure how much sunlight your garden receives, watch the sun move over your yard over the course of one weekend, noting which spots get the most sun and how much. Six to eight hours of direct sun is what you're looking for if you want warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Don't worry if it's your deck receiving the majority of sunlight; you can still have a small garden, just in containers on the deck.
Ways to plant
Now that you know how much direct sun your yard gets, let's talk about how and where you'll plant.
As I mentioned before, if your only place for full sun is on your deck, you can still have a garden. Container planting is your main strategy for this situation. If you want to grow smaller plants like carrots, bush beans, lettuce and spinach, pots ranging from 6 to 10 inches in diameter are the perfect fit. Window boxes and hanging planters are other alternatives.
Bigger plants need bigger pots, and if you need to move the pots around the deck to receive sunlight during the day, a rolling bottom of some sort. I would suggest trying 5 gallon buckets with a few holes in the bottom for drainage on a rolling plant stand. Remember the bigger the pot, the heavier the pot.
Beds can be built using the conventional method of digging or the lasagna gardening method. Personally, I prefer creating beds with the lasagna gardening method because there's no digging involved, and I don't need to grub up the existing sod if I don't want to.
If you go with the conventional method, most gardeners recommend double digging and digging compost and other amendments into the soil as you build the bed. A bed built with the lasagna garden method naturally has a variety of nutrients to draw from because of the layers of materials.
3. Adding plants to flower beds
And of course, there's my favorite method of tucking vegetables into empty spots in existing flower beds. Smaller vegetable plants are better for this, though if you have a big empty space, a zucchini plant will fill it quite nicely for you.
Save the gardening terms for the winter, and get out there and get your hands dirty. Observe, experiment, have some fun, and hopefully, you'll have some zucchini to share with the neighbors.
Barb is a mom of 5 kids who spends her day keeping track of socks, stuffed animals, library books, and a 4 year old when she isn't writing about all the frugality, gardening, cooking, and reading she manages to fit in between the chaotic moments. She can be found at A Life in Balance, Frugal Local Kitchen, or on Twitter with daily doses of life in 140 characters or less.