The Frilly Garden 2012: Preparing the Garden Plots

Preparing the plots is easily the hardest part about gardening. By far. Leaps and bounds.

The first thing we did was choose where on our property we’d put the garden. We thought long and hard about it, finally choosing an area in the back yard. We chose this area for a couple of reasons – the first being that it gets the most afternoon sun, and the second being that our back yard is largely undeveloped and had been a bit neglected when we bought the house. Slowly but surely, we’re working on changing our backyard to make it a place where we love to spend time.

Once having decided the best area for the garden, we had to start turning over some land. I will now confess that we planted our first garden at this house about 3 years ago, but haven’t planted a full garden every year since, so we have a bit of work to do to get the plot ready for planting again.

Every year we put in a garden, we want more and more planting area. This year we’ve actually developed 3 plots. The largest plot is approximately 20ft x 20ft. Our second plot, newly expanded, is approximately 14ft x 7 ft. The third plot, brand new this year, is 4ft x 4ft. In the following pictures, the plots have been tilled.

Now the real work begins. It’s time to rake up the rows and mounds we’ll be planting.

As you rake, you pick rocks and weeds. We made our rows approximately a foot across, and raised them up. This is in the style of a English garden – raised rows. This helps keep the soil warmer for plants, allows for drainage, and helps the roots reach a little easier into the earth.

Once you mound up the rows, you flatten them a touch with the back of a rake or with a hoe.

When you flatten the rows, you’ll find a lot of the old weeds and grasses come up to the surface. Throw all of the weeds and rocks away that you bring up in making rows.

Fast forward two hours. Your rows and mounds are ready for some compost.

This year, we used sea compost. Compost will immediately put nutrients into the soil you’re about to be planting in. Like offering your new plants a little snack.

Sprinkle compost on each of the mounds and rows. Mix it in by hand. This will allow you to feel and pick any other weeds and rocks from the soil.

Now for some minor planning. You need to decide where to put the items you’ll be planting. We decided to buy starter plants as opposed to planting seeds. We did this for a couple of reasons – first, you hardly ever use all of the seeds in a pack, second, buying the starters gives you a great head start for about the same amount you’d spend on a pack of seeds anyway. Besides those reasons, we buy our starter plants from Currie’s, a great local organic greenhouse. They are fantastic, and they really know their stuff. And, they’re completely organic. If you live in the Fredericton area, drop by for a visit.

The tags on the plants you buy will tell you how they need to be planted. Some plants prefer mounds (like squash, zucchini, melon, and the like). Others can be planted in regular rows at a certain distance apart. Take note of which of the plants really need a LOT of sun, versus those you’re planting that are known as cold weather crops. If there’s an area of your garden that might not get quite as much sun as another area, you won’t want to plant your tomatoes there, but it would be a great place for kale.

That’s a great start.

Take a nap. You’re going to need it. And trust me, you’re in deservement of the nap.

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