Growing a Garden for the First Time 

If you have never planted a garden at home before and want to start, there are a few things to take into consideration.

First and foremost, you need to decide what you want to grow; that will dictate what type of garden space you need.  Suppose you want to grow corn, you will need a large block area. To get a decent harvest, corn needs to be grown in square or rectangular blocks at least 4-foot-wide and 4-foot-long; the longer and wider the better. Corn needs to get proper fertilization in order for the cobs to develop into edible corn and that can only happen if they grow in close proximity to each other. Some vegetables grow on vines like winter squash; some are grown underground, they are root vegetables like carrots, beets, radishes and parsnips; some are perennials like asparagus and horseradish that really need beds of their own; most vegetables, however, are annuals or bi-annual. Some plants need to be supported by cages or trellises and can be grown vertically, like tomatoes, pole beans and peas; some need large patches of ground to spread out all over, like sweet potatoes and watermelons. 

Once you know what you want to grow and how they grow, then it’s the time to get started. Growing in our cedar raised or elevated garden beds allows you to grow your food organically and without the use of any pesticides. Many people will choose to make their planting beds out of inorganic materials that may be either toxic or laden with chemicals, i.e. railroad ties or treated pallets, metal galvanized beds, fake wood that is used as deck boards, plastic, vinyl, or pressure treated wood. All of these materials have chemicals in them that can, and do, leach out into your beds and food especially when they are exposed to the hot sun. Our planter boxes are made out of untreated cedar wood, so no worries about toxins. 

You need to study your yard, deck, patio or what-have-you, to find out where there is sun and where there is shade. Most plants need a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day, however there are some plants that can grow just fine without that much sun, like cole crops and lettuce. 

Soil, it’s the number one most important component in a successful garden, besides water, that is. The best soil is a combination of organic compost, peat moss or coconut coir, and vermiculite or perlite. DO NOT USE TOPSOIL, it lacks nutrients and is full of weed seeds. Many of the big box stores carry an organic raised bed mix, so a good mix is for every 3 bags (all the same size) of raised bed mix, add one bag of Black Kow. Black Kow is composted cow poop, it adds a good amount of nitrogen to your soil. If you have a good soil you should not have to add fertilizer, the soil will have all the nutrients you need for the first year. In subsequent years, you just have to add compost to your beds, and they are good to grow! 

After your beds have soil you can start planting. You can either buy starter plants or plant from seed. There are some plants that do not transplant well so it’s best to plant from seed, like carrots, peas, beans, and corn. If you are planting from seed, try to purchase organic heirloom seeds, that way you can keep the seeds from the vegetable you are growing for next years garden. It is not best to keep any type of squash seed though; they cross pollinate easily with other types of squash and the next year you will probably get some kind of a crossbred plant that will taste awful. 

When planting, use companion planting methods. Companion planting is a method where you plant a plant next to something that will be beneficial to both plants. Like planting a shallow rooted plant (lettuce) next to a deep-rooted plant (tomato) so they do not compete for soil nutrients. Companion planting also helps to keep bad bugs away and attracts good bugs, like planting cilantro next to tomatoes because cilantro, once it bolts and starts flowering, it will attract tiny parasitic wasps (they do not sting you) that will lays its eggs on tomato horn worms and kill them. 

Watering: make sure you water any transplants and seeds after you plant them. From then on, stick your finger in the soil, if it’s moist, don't water, if it’s dry apply water, about 1” of water will do. To measure how much water you are spraying, put a small cup or dish in your garden, that way you can gauge how much water is going into the bed. You do not want to drown your plants; yellowing leaves are a sign of over-watering. One of the benefits of our raised and elevated beds is that it is difficult to over water your plants because the beds will drain out any excess water.

Mother Nature has a great way of equaling all things out, but once you throw a variable into the mix, she can become “out of whack”. Using chemicals/pesticides to get rid of pests is one of those variables. Insecticides, (including the chemicals that are in pressure treated wood) kill off more than just the bad bugs, they kill the pollinators, the soil micronutrients and bacteria that is needed to have a healthy organic soil. Keeping a constant look-out for the bad bugs in your garden is important. Japanese beetles, any beetles really, need to be hand picked off your plants, you’ll need to search for and remove/destroy their egg masses on the underside of your plant’s leaves. If you see aphids, a stream of water can wash them away, but also planting garlic by the aphid attracting plant helps; lady bugs will eat a ton of aphids too; that companion planting method again. Using floating row covers (mesh netting) over cole crops will keep the white moths from laying eggs on the plants that turn into little green worms that will devour your plants. Be proactive and your harvest will be plenty, let Mother Nature do her thing, she will reward you in the end. 

For further information on planting tips, companion planting and soil building, look to our website blog page: https://www.aaronshomestead.com/blog.asp