Quickstart Gardening for the Faint of Heart

Yep, many would like to save money by gardening, but are put off by the amount of work it takes to dig a bed. There are some easy options available. Sometimes it is work to wade through all these different options. I have invested time and money in container gardening, but my yields were not as high as expected. That may have something to do with not remembering to water like they needed! Choosing plants bred for containers might also be important.

I have found plants grow better when grown directly in the ground. For instance, my tomato plants were larger last year, and yielded more tomatoes, than my neighbor’s raised bed plants. Raised beds certainly have their advantages, but that depends upon circumstances. If the ground doesn’t drain well, it is faster to build a raised bed rather than amend and add soil to improve the drainage. If the raised bed drains too well, more watering may be necessary. I suspect soil moisture is why my plants did better than the raised bed plants only 10 feet away.

Plants grow better in the ground. That is, they grow better in back-breaking, specially prepared, double dug beds, lovingly amended with homemade compost. Oh wow, is that ever enough to make anyone shy away from beginning a garden? Start small, instead.

Start as small as desired. Purchase a few bags of soil from a garden store to become a quick start garden. The bags laid out in a lawn will kill the grass, making it much easier to dig the garden the following year. Directions for a bag of topsoil garden can be found all over the internet, but these directions from Mother Earth News are more complete than most. http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/no-dig-garden-beds.aspx

Choose a sunny spot. In a nutshell, mow the grass before beginning. Next, carry bags of topsoil to where the garden is to be situated on top of the lawn. Punch several holes on one side of the bags, and lay the bags hole-side down, in contact with the ground to create the garden space. Cut the plastic from the top side of the bags with a sharp knife or scissors. Plant seeds or plants directly into the exposed soil.  Water well, and also importantly, water and fertilize frequently throughout the growing season. Mulch around it to hide the plastic and make it prettier if desired. I prefer that, myself!

The soil bag gardens share some similarity with container gardens. Both need more water and fertilizer than plants whose roots can spread out in a “regular” garden. So why do a soil bag garden? The bags will kill the grass and weeds they are placed upon. Leave them in place until the following growing season. At that point, remove the plastic (leave the soil!) and grab a shovel. It will be much easier to dig a bed at this point. No need to rotor-till. A shovel and rake will be more than adequate tools to amend the new in-ground garden bed with grass clippings, pine needles, or a purchased bag of compost.

This small amount of planning can be very helpful in lowering food bills and beginning a garden. Success breeds success, and starting small with a sure start method is a good way to begin. Begin, I think, we must, as food prices rise in response to the drought in California and other reasons. This year and perhaps the next, grow easy salad greens and tomatoes. That experience will be a base for expanding the garden and becoming a little less grocery store dependent. The relief at the grocery store check out will be well worth it.

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