Three Questions to Ask Before Starting a Garden

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Before you break out the gardening tools and start digging in your backyard, ask yourself three questions. Answering these questions will help you create a garden that thrives rather than one that struggles. Where you live determines which plants will grow best in your garden. The United States Department of Agriculture divides the country into 11 hardiness zones. These zones group areas with similar year-round climate conditions. By knowing your zone, you can figure out how likely it will be for your plants to thrive. Many companies include hardiness information with their seeds or plants. 

What Is Your Soil Like? 

It’s important to know what type of soil you have. This determines what will grow well in your garden. Once you know your soil’s type, you can work to improve it. Clay soil typically has many nutrients and helps plants to stay hydrated. However, it’s slower to drain and can crack when too dry. If you’re planting decorative shrubs, they often thrive in clay soil. Silt has almost as many nutrients as clay and it holds an ideal amount of water. When spring rolls around, silt-based soil warms quickly but not too quickly. It’s ideal for growing fruits and vegetables. Sandy soil drains fast and dries out quickly as well. It doesn’t hold as many nutrients as other types of soil, so you’ll need to use an  organic fertilizer. Many fruits and vegetables work well in sandy soil, including strawberries, tomatoes, and corn. You might find that your soil is loamy, chalky, or peaty. You can figure this out by putting some in a glass jar and adding water. Shake it and let it sit overnight. Sandy soil tends to sink to the bottom and leave the water clear, while silty soil and clay cloud the water. 

What Type of Garden Do You Want? 

There are as many types of gardens as there are gardeners. You can plant in traditional flower beds or vegetable gardens. You can also make raised beds or grow in containers. You can even make your own greenhouse. A lot depends on what you’d like to grow. Decide right away what you’re planting — flowers, vegetables, perennials, annuals, herbs, or shrubs. The choices seem endless. Next, you’ll need a location. Some plants need more sun than others, so make sure to read up on what’s best before getting started. It’s also a good idea to put your garden in a location that you look at often. This way you’ll never forget to tend to it. Container gardening is great for beginners and people who don’t have much space. Herbs, flowers, and even vegetables can thrive in pots grown on balconies or porches. Don’t forget window boxes, either. They’re perfect for growing tasty herbs. Raised garden beds protect your plants. Soil won’t wash away in heavy rains, and pests have a hard time getting to your produce. It gives you more control over the condition of your soil as well.