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We anxiously await the day when we can finally go out and start our spring garden, and for many of us, it may be for the very first time. But no matter what your experience, there are a few essential things required of us all to have a productive and manageable garden. Although perfection should never be your goal, lest you’ll be disappointed, start out right and you’ll be well on your way to a bountiful garden.
First, find a sunny space! Vegetable and herb plants thrive in full sun. Shoot for a place where they’ll receive about 8 hours a day of direct sun. Now, do you have to have this much? No, you don’t, but the fewer hours of sun your plants are getting, the less productive the harvest, and it’s all about the harvest, right? A southern exposure is best and if it seems like all you have is shade, look up. Perhaps you can remove some limbs of overhanging trees because that’s a pretty common problem and a fairly easy fix as well. But anything you can do to add more light to your plants will pay big dividends as your plants grow. I even know people that plant in containers with a platform underneath with wheels or rollers. And throughout the day, they move their plants around to chase the sun. Now that may sound pretty extreme but it really can work if you have the ambition and time.
It’s all About the Soil
Once you’ve identified the site, it’s time to focus on the soil! Well-drained soil is critical for your plants to perform their best. Soil that stays too dry will stunt growth, stress plants, and adversely affect fruit production. On the other hand, soil that stays too wet will eventually rot the roots and prevent healthy growth. This is a common situation when we try to plant into straight soil, usually full of heavy clay. The answer for both cases is to amend the entire planting area with lots of rich organic matter, such as compost, aged manure, rotted leaves, worm castings and more.
And finally, don’t over do it. It is so easy to want to have a big garden if you have the space, but I’d say to go a little conservative here, especially if it’s your fist garden. But your vegetable and herb plants will grow so lush and full if your garden gets enough sun and you have rich, healthy soil. In fact, once your plants establish, they’ll grow so fast, I don’t want you to become overwhelmed. So the bottom line is don’t over do it starting off. You can always make it bigger later.