Before You Create a Garden
For some people, a garden is a sanctuary. A place to relax, breath in the smells and admire the wildlife that live there. Others create gardens for practical use in order to grow fruit and vegetables and create a sustainable living environment. Whatever the reason, those with a green thumb know that gardening is not all leisure. Gardening involves a lot of work, and for most I hope it is gratifying. Click here for a note on ethical gardening practices.
Number one: don’t be discouraged, have fun!
Now, to the technicalities… gardens cost money. However, if you are patient and creative, there are methods that will bring your costs down. Depending on how you decide to create a garden, you can spend thousands to install a ‘mature’ looking garden in one season, or you can spend a few hundred bucks using techniques that take time, but in the long run will give you a beautiful garden. These techniques may involve growing plants from seed, learning basic propagation techniques, creating your own compost (using food scraps and fallen leaves) in order to amend your soil, using materials that you already have, making trades with neighbors and friends etc…
Before you decide to start a garden, you must be aware that no matter what you’ve been told, there is no such thing as a no maintenance garden. You may impose a regime of anti-weed chemicals, which will work for a time, but in the long run it will kill the organisms that live in your soil that are essential for maintaining a healthy garden. You may also try using layers of heavy bark mulch, which will successfully suppress weeds, however if you do not reintroduce nutrients to your soil often, the bark will draw it up to the surface (where it will help the wood decompose faster) and starve your plants of their vital food. Weed barrier cloth is another method, however, you must be careful in picking a barrier cloth that does not suffocate and compress the soil, or just don't use it at all! In addition, weeds will always find a way to grow through, and removing weeds from the cloth is an extremely time consuming, and aggravating task to say the least. The only way to maintain your garden is to weed it once or twice a month, spread organic mulch and compost and over time it will become easier, but you will never make your garden eternally weed-free without the labor.
A healthy garden also requires plant maintenance. Healthy plants must be taken care of yearly through pruning, training, dead-heading, thinning, fertilizing or re-planting in the case of annuals. Most plants need watering during the dry summer months, so choose plants according to the environment that they will be living in so that you do not have to waste water or use it at all. It is also a good idea to choose plants that will grow well with the amount of sun exposure and the soil that you already have. This will save you time, money and a lot of backache.
Once you understand these basic principles, you can start gardening without stumbling into common pitfalls that lead to easily avoidable disappointments and headaches. Gardening is fun, creative, relaxing, exciting and always evolving. Gardens are not meant to be static, they are alive and will naturally change over time. They will not follow strict instructions and will sometimes disappoint, but that’s just part of the learning process. So don’t be discouraged, start a garden, and discover the many joys along the way!