#3: Best Tips for Starting a Garden from Scratch

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Starting a garden can feel overwhelming and many people get stuck on what soil to use, when to fertilize, whether or not they should plant in a raised bed, containers, or in the ground, but the truth is, you need to just take action and get started. 

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How to Start Your Garden from Scratch

In today’s show, we are going to cover 3 best tips for starting your vegetable garden from scratch. 

Tip 1 – Evaluate Your Space

  • Do you have an open dirt plot?
  • Do you want to grow in raised beds?
  • Or do you only have space for containers?

Figure out which area gets the most sun and ideally that is where your garden should be. The majority of vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight. But afternoon shade is great, especially if you have hot summers.

The sun will be in a different location in summer than it is during winter, so keep that in mind when your evaluating your space.

Once you figure out where the best spot to place your garden is, you need to decide on if you will plant in containers, raised beds, directly in the ground, or a combination of all. 

Personally, in my garden, I have raised beds, long rows with crops planted directly in the ground, and a few large containers and there are benefits to each. 

Raised Bed Benefits

Raised beds are great because you can fill them with a good quality soil mixture which we will discuss further down. They keep your plants contained to one area. And it is usually much easier to plant and harvest in raised beds.

If you’re looking for good quality and easy to assemble raised beds, a really great option that I’ve used in my garden are the Olle Gardens Raised Beds. You use the code AUDREY10 you’ll 10% off.

Many people would agree that they’d rather build their garden beds, which is definitely a great option, but oftentimes, it’s projects like that which end up holding you back from taking action. Before you know it you’ll end up delaying your garden project until next year.

So that’s why I recommend the Olle Gardens Raised Bed because they get delivered right to your doorstep with all of the parts you need and you’ll have your beds setup and ready to fill with soil in just one day. 

Benefits of Planting In Ground

Planting directly in the ground is a great option especially if you have decent soil. If you have really sandy or heavy clay soil you can amend it over time and it will improve. Then while you work at amending the in-ground soil you can plant in raised beds or containers.

In-ground gardening is also great because you typically have more space. I prefer planting larger crops like tomatoes directly in the ground in long rows, as well as anything that is a perennial and will stay in one spot for many seasons ahead such as artichokes and fruit trees.

You also don’t have to buy or build anything when you plant in the ground and that is a plus!

Container Planting Benefits

Growing in containers is a wonderful option because it’s accessible to everyone. Whether is be a container on the patio or a kitchen herb garden.

However, keep in mind that container gardening is more difficult in the warmer months because you need to watch much more frequently, so the bigger the container the better. Especially with larger crops like tomatoes.

Ideally you should have at least 1.5 cubic feet of soil for each tomato plant to grow successfully.

Another nice thing with container growing is that you can move them around. That means you can move your plants to the shade if needed, or an area with more sun.

Smart Pots are a good option if you’re looking for something that is easy to move around.

The design of the high quality fabric pot provides aeration which enhances root structure and allows excess heat to escape.

Another thing to keep in mind when you grow in containers is that you can plant varieties that are more compact and better suited for container growing.

Renee’s Garden Seed Company has a great selection of container varieties. Check them out here.

Tip 2 – Start with Good Soil 

The perfect mixture of soil for your raised beds is 70-80% top soil with 20% compost.  

Compost will improve the texture of your soil and adds nutrients. The clay in the topsoil will help to hold onto moisture which is really important especially during the hot months.

Some gardeners add logs and other organic materials to the bottom of their raised beds first, but this is something I’ve tested and do not recommend. When the logs break down they need nitrogen to decompose and will be stealing it from the plants.

It also means that less soil is added to those raised beds and so they’ll heat up quicker and the soil levels are going to drop as the organic materials break down. So it’s better to fill your beds with a good mixture right from the start.

Another good reason to use topsoil in your raised beds is because you can usually get it delivered in bulk which is a lot cheaper!

Tip 3  – Direct Sow Your Seeds

In many climates gardeners need a head start on their growing season and by planting transplants they are ahead of the game. But here in zone 9, we have such a long growing season that direct sowing our seeds is a great option. 

I know that planting by seed may seem like a more advanced gardening strategy but it’s really the opposite. 

However, starting seeds indoors or in a greenhouse requires more planning and work but planting seeds directly in the garden which is what I’m referring to is really simple. 

But the important thing to note is that not all vegetables should be planted directly by seed, but there are so many that can be, and that will actually grow better when directly sown.

All of your root crops like carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips should always be directly sown by seed. 

Then there are vegetables such as cucumbers and squash that are always for sale as transplants but they do not like their roots disturbed. So they grow so much healthier when you directly sow them by seed.

And then the two common summer crops that you should not directly sow by seed but instead buy as transplants or get seedlings started on your own, include tomatoes and peppers. 

I hope this helped give you some inspiration and action steps for starting your garden this season! Feel free to comment or reach out if you ever have questions.

Join the Zone 9 Garden Club

Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is reach out to other gardeners for help. I would love for you to join the Zone 9 Garden Club!

As a member you get,

  • Monthly video garden tours and trainings
  • Monthly growing calendars for zone 9
  • Timely harvesting & planting tips
  • Access to an active community off of social media
  • A resource library full of gardening courses and guides
  • And more!

Podcast Feedback

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3 Best Tips for Starting a Garden from Scratch

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