Dana’s big gardening adventure: week three

Seedlings week two

Since last week my seeds have germinated but there really isn’t anything exciting to see yet in my seed starter kits. I’m sorry I can’t share a more interesting picture with you (turns out being a better Earthling isn’t visually stimulating at the early stages). What I can share is advice for planning your summer 2008 garden; so, this week we’ll discuss planning and choosing your plot (I’m referring to gardens, not burials BTW).

Although there are still many weeks before people in my corner of Canada will be doing any outdoor gardening, now is the time to plan your garden if you will be starting a new one. I’m lucky that the yard behind the test kitchen has a well-planned garden plot created by the previous owners. Once spring actually arrives, I’ll be able to get to the business of planting and growing my seedlings with very little effort.

For those of you who aren’t as lucky, here are some tips for choosing a good site for a garden plot:

• You’ll need a patch of land that receives 8 to 10 hours of sun per day.
• Look for a level site (if that isn’t an option in your yard, then you may have to build a retaining wall and build up one end to make a level growing space.)
• If possible, dig your garden near a water source. My own garden is far from the house so I’m going to set up a rain barrel to use for quick watering. For deeper soaks, I’ll be lugging around a muddy hose.
• Make sure the soil is safe and has a good base of nutrients. You can do that by purchasing a soil test kit at a garden centre.
• Although by August you may be worrying about drought and sick of rolling and unrolling the hose, if you haven’t chosen a well-drained area for the garden earlier in the year you’ll have problems with ground water, which can lead to root rot, fungus development and other nasty stuff.
• If drainage is a problem, consider raising the beds by surrounding the garden with a wall or a few stacked railway ties. Add a good layer of screenings, sand and top up with a deep layer of topsoil and you’ll assure good drainage.
• Don’t let your ambition outstrip your needs. Start small and, if you find you love vegetable gardening this year, then add extra rows next year. A 10-foot square plot is a large starter garden while a 20 x 40-foot garden will provide enough produce for most families to eat all summer with extra bounty to share with neighbours or the food bank.

Next Friday: Deciding what to grow
Friday after next: Site preparation tips

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