Gardening 101 ~ Picking the Spot

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I’ve been asked many many times to start a Gardening for beginners series as we approach the gardening season. This series of posts will go from basic ideas and tips on getting ready to garden, to optional things like growing herbs, and we will go more into depth as the series goes on. If you have an idea for a post or a topic in this series that you want me to cover, please contact me with the subject line of Gardening 101.

Before you order the seeds and before you start dreaming about fresh squash and zucchini, you need to find a spot to put that garden. The first year we moved into our house I selected a spot for the garden. This was before we had any extra buildings on the property like the chicken coop and the garage. The ground tilled up easily and I would have had a great garden except for the fact that they day after we planted we had a really bad rain storm and it washed away alot of my plants. I had selected a good spot as far as the ground went but I failed to look at where the water would flow in the event of a rainstorm. I still ended up having an ok garden because of the starter plants but all the seeds I had planted washed away.

The next year, last year, we decided to make the garden bigger so it had to be moved. We had put up our chicken shed and moved one of our small sheds and there just wouldn’t be enough room. I knew better than to move it to a spot where the water would flow since we’ve had issues every year out here, and so I picked a new spot where I could have lots of room. We went and borrowed a tiller for the hubby’s father and started tilling up the garden. The ground didn’t budge. The hubby ran the tiller over it once and after he was done it looked like he didn’t even do anything. So my dad brought over his tractor and we tried again. It was still very difficult but we made a little progress. After he finished with the tractor we took manure and spread it all over the garden and tried to till it up again with the hand tiller. The sod was still hard and difficult so in the end we ended up using a hoe and a hand rake to at least get the soil ok to plant my starters. My garden did ok but still wasn’t the best. After we finished last year dad brought the tractor again and the big plow and ran it through the garden. Hopefully this year with a little extra work it will be ready to go.

The moral of the story is… pick your spot for a garden wisely. Here are some basic tips:

  1. Pick a spot with the best soil. It doesn’t have to be perfectly black beautiful dirt, it just should be workable. You cal always add in minerals and such later. For example our soil is ok, but we will be adding more manure this year and we will be adding sand to make it porous. Obviously try to avoid an area with alot of rocks.
  2. Pick a spot in the sun or in partial sun/shade. Not a shady spot.
  3. Think about your water source. You need to be able to haul water easily to the garden or at least be in hose distance to your hydrant.
  4. What about wind? Out here on the prairie it’s difficult to avoid the wind so I do other things to prevent my plants from dying from wind exposure. However if you have a natural windbreak in your land or if you are planning on building a solid fence those would be ideal.
  5. Pick a spot away from the natural disaster elements. In my example above we moved our garden to avoid flooding last year. There is an old creek bed that runs through our land that I didn’t see until we looked at Google maps. It was something that needed to be avoided.

Next Week: Part 2 ~ Picking out seeds

The Gardening and Preserving Journal is here! If you are gardening or planning on doing any preserving this year, you NEED this wonderful sprial bound journal! Get your own copy here.


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  1. Yay, I am so excited to learn about gardening! I live in an apartment so I am going to attempt a patio garden this year. I started a window box of herbs in my kitchen and they are doing great so far! 🙂

  2. I am so excited to get my garden going. We have 5 boxes 8×12 feet long in our side yard, and in the back we have a large spot we use also. We have a lot of trees so we have to find the most sunny spots.
    Have you thought about using the chicken poo for fertilizer? We mix it in and boy do our plants thrive! The chicken poo is free and all nature. Can’t get any better than that.

    1. We just use cow manure. Chicken manure should be composted first for a longer time than cow manure because it’s richer than cow manure. If you put it on while it’s “hot” it will burn the plants. As will any manure if you use too much though:) But right now, we just use cow manure as my dad had a pile they had been composting for a while. Pretty amazing how every part of the animal can be useful isn’t it?

  3. Another cheap way to till up the garden spot is to put a hog or two over the spot. Spread corn all over the garden spot, then spread straw or hay over the spot. They will root all over for it. They will till and fertilize at the same time.

  4. we mulch very heavy with hay as we have a big hay field we bush hog it and pick it up with the front end loder kinda green and we use wood ash all winter.

  5. Hello! I am struggling to find a good location for starting. I live in a little community and have limited space. I also live on a hill where water pours through my yard (I’m saving up for a drainage system). I have found a good spot regardless, but the soil is mostly clay and rocks. Is the best option a raised bed here? I’d appreciate some insight. 🙂

    1. Raised beds sound like they would be a great option for you. I grew up in an area where there was a lot of clay in the soil and growing a garden was difficult. At least with a raised bed you will be able to bring in a good topsoil and easily add soil amendments.

  6. Ugh, so so true, I have one small garden patch that was designed to be that way when we moved in, (we’re in the city so space is limited). But the sun is so hot there, and drainage is too good. All I can safely grow there are hot peppers and matt’s wild cherry tomatoes. Everything else shrivles and diesssssssssssss. Matt’s wild cherry is from mexico orginally, so they will take and thrive under the abuse and hot pepper plants if you can keep them alive produce the best when stressed out. If you fish or have someone who fishes, a tomato plant is happiest w/ a dead fish under it. My neighbors went spear fishing for carp this year, and I dug trenches in my tomato plot. 3 foot long monsters. They carved off fillets (don’t recommend eating unless you already like this flavor) and I took the remains. My tomato plants are huge and loaded.