Starting a garden for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. Here are some general tips for making your backyard gardening adventure a success:
Decide what to grow.
Before choosing your backyard gardening location, decide what you want to grow. Understanding the lighting and temperature needs of your individual plants can help you plant your crops in an optimum location. For example, if you are growing peppers and tomatoes, you will need a sunnier, warmer location than if you are growing lettuce and greens.
Grow your crops in season.
Before starting your garden, determine the crops’ optimum season. Don’t try to grow “cool crops” such as lettuce, chard, radishes, and peas during the heat of summer. These crops need to be grown at temperatures that are roughly 15 degrees cooler than summer crops to prevent bolting. On the other hand, cooler soil temperatures will interfere with germination and crop maturation for warm season veggies.
Provide adequate drainage.
All vegetables require good drainage. One of the best ways to increase the drainage of your soil is to add compost. Not only does this create a looser soil that helps vegetables take up oxygen, but it provides important nutrients as well. Raised garden beds are another a popular technique for improving soil drainage.
Practice good watering techniques.
Successful backyard gardening is dependent upon vigilant watering techniques. Drooping, drying, yellowing, leaf drop, and mildew are all signs that you may be over- or under-watering your plants. Be sure to water deeply but less frequently to avoid problems. Too much water prevents plants from taking up valuable nutrients and oxygen through their root system. Morning water provides valuable moisture than helps sustain your plants during the heat of the day, which evening water can promote mildew and bacterial growth.
Provide shade if necessary.
Shade plants from harsh sunlight and temperatures during the hottest part of the season to avoid bolting, sunscald, and excessive dehydration. Two simple ways to provide plant shade are to set up a shade umbrella in your garden, or build a simple row cover with pvc pipe and greenhouse plastic. If using a removable row cover, be sure to drape a shade cloth over the plastic to avoid radiating more heat.
Over-fertilizing your vegetables can sabotage the growth process and kill your plants. Some plants will use nutrients at a higher rate than others, so be sure to consult a fertilization chart to determine your plants’ individual needs. Don’t let a lack of understanding about fertilizer and nutrients intimidate you or stop you from starting a garden. Your local nursery is a great place to get more information about nutrient needs for your plants.