Ahhhhh! Tired of feeling confused by the endless information on the interwebs? The overwhelm is real. I felt the same way until I linked arms with my horticultural mentor and things starting making sense. He had local knowledge on growing all things edible in the Louisville, Ky area... Zone 6b.
So sit back, look no further, and take me into your garden this season. Hi! I'm Marlena Wolf - mom, entrepreneur, and edible gardening coach. My mission is to inspire, educate, and empower you to garden with success and retention in our area! (Click here for online course info + free app for viewing).
Let's get down to it. The birds are chirping, the days are warming up, and things are turning green. So what now? There are a few moving parts to focus on.
One - Garden area prep. Locate the space with the maximum amount of sunlight and water accessibility. Measure it - keep it manageable if this is your first year. If you are feeling confident, go big!
If it's a new space you have three options: remove the sod by shovel, take a soil sample to local Ag Extension Office for a soil test, and amend the soil per test results. - OR - Smother the sod with cardboard, light straw, and 2-3 inches of a topsoil/compost blend so you can plant directly into it. The third option is a 1-2 foot tall raised bed with fresh soil and lots of root depth!
If you have an existing space: scrape last year's vegetation off the top (leaving the roots in place helps feed microbes - unless they are weeds... then pull root and all!). You may want to mix the soil around with a shovel, fork, or spade to loosen it for ease of planting - OR - layer it with 3-4 inches of a composted material (actual compost lol... not your table scraps!). I still like to stir my compost in a bit or roto-till if you don't mind disturbing the soil a bit. PS- a yearly soil test can't hurt especially if you've had disease or major pest pressure in past years.
Two - Layout and Plant Selection! Once you've determined the amount of garden space you'd like grow - sit down with a pencil and paper, or use your favorite garden planner app to help you make your plan. Just throwing seeds out and popping plants in here-and-there can make for overcrowding, poor germination, unmanageability, and disappointment. Promise.
There are three major planting philosophies most gardeners gravitate to: Traditional Spacing, Square Foot Gardening, & Interplanting. Whew, take your pick!
The Traditional style typically groups together like-plants in rows for ease of plant rotation and movement. It usually has lots of underutilized space as walkways.
Square foot gardening places plants more tightly into square foot sections as to maximize space. Walking thru can be difficult in this model unless you plan for aisle space. (which is recommended as to not trample your plants - unless its a nice raised bed where trampling isn't an issue!).
Lastly, and my favorite, Interplanting. This is similar to, and used with, square foot gardening. This layout encourages even more space to be utilized by planting smaller vegetables under larger (or trellised) plants for a quick harvest. It intermingles colors, textures, shapes, and plant families for an ornate design and happy soil. Another benefit here is that is attracts pollinating insects, repels pests, and reduces the need to rotate crops later. I love it! (Click here if you need a professional layout and consultation!)
To wrap this us, select a method that appeals to you and start writing. First pick plants you like to eat. Then google them to see if they are cool or warm season. Then determine their suggested spacing and apply to your layout.
Three - Start seeds or buy plants appropriate to your season (Spring currently). I would suggest local nurseries and greenhouses over big box stores for more soil and plant integrity. I like Earl Theineman's and Fresh Start Grower's Supply for plants.. and soil. For best seed starting tips, see February's Blog HERE!
Okay, you've made it this far... let's keep going! Join me and other aspiring gardeners for our Reap What You Sow course + Garden Party Series starting April 8th!! You will build confidence, friends, and get hands-on garden experience from a professional. Take home gardening wisdom, expertise, and have fun with us!! SIGN UP HERE!