We’re moving our garden. . . again. Since we purchased our home, this will be the 3rd time we’ve moved it. It’s not like we enjoy moving the darn thing around, it’s just that someone has poor planning skills. We probably should have moved it last fall. You know, when normal people move their garden. Along the way I’ve learned some valuable lessons, so I wanted to share a few of my experiences with starting a garden and some of what I’ve learned below. I’ll then share 10 tips for planning your first garden.
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Garden 1 was in a low spot on our property.
This was okay, but once we decided to enlarge the garden that spot was no longer a good fit. We also wanted it closer to the animals (on the OTHER side of the property) so we didn’t have to run 4 miles of hoses and so the chickens could get yummy garden snacks. Like the next garden, the first was not fenced, and in dry country a fence is a must. Garden 1 was also out of the way and a little more inconvenient to get to which meant we didn’t spend as much time there as we should have.
I had grand plans for Garden 2.
It would be haphazardly laid out, growing wherever my whims took me. In my mind, it had a beautiful little dry steam on the south side filled with gorgeous flowers. Each of the beds would be charmingly rustic and it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t line up but were instead strewn all over the place.
Then reality set in. The summer I was pregnant, Dan had to drag hoses back and forth across the garden in a desperate fight to keep all of our little plants alive. Then squirrels and rabbits moved in and completely wrecked anything that survived. That same year, grasshoppers decimated what the rabbits didn’t. I didn’t have a grasshopper prevention/eradication plan in place either. I had chickens, but the girls just couldn’t keep up either! Haphazard is not practical especially if you live in drought or vicious lettuce devouring rabbit prone country.
This brings us to Garden 3.
We’re doing it differently this time. We were finally able to put up a fence using second-hand horse panels. Once finished, our garden area will be 32’x36′. We also wrapped the outside of the fence in chicken wire and pegged it into the ground to deter smaller critters. As a side note, we shopped everywhere in our area, looking for chicken wire that cost less than $1 a foot. We finally went to Amazon and spent less than $90 for 150 feet of chicken wire (affiliate link) and because of prime, we got free shipping!
Next I’ve planned the outer edges and measured off individual areas for different permanent beds. Just inside the front fence I will be planting a 2’x18′ perennial herb garden. I’ve also set aside the 2 southern corners for rhubarb and blueberries. Along the south side we are leaving 32′ for red raspberries. We will also be planting yellow raspberries along 14′ of the north side. I’ve left room along the eastern side for a small group of blackberries and for strawberries. I’m also leaving a spot in the northeastern corner for composting.
Once we finished planning the perimeter, we started filling in the middle. We have 4- 4’x12′ boxes, 3- 4’x5′ boxes and 7 large tractor tires. Even with the edges planned, we had plenty of room to fit all of our existing beds inside the new fence.
We’ve been taking a little more time with Garden 3. We don’t have time to run all over creation wasting precious time, energy and money watering, only to have everything die on us. This time we will also be setting up a watering system and better utilizing mulching methods. Summers are so hot and dry in our part of Colorado, that the usual watering methods do not work. We also had a pretty terrible winter so we are already planning to conserve as much water as possible.
Since we’ve now moved our garden 3 times, I thought I’d jot down a few tips for planning your first garden. You know, in case we ever move our garden again!
10 Tips for Planning Your First Garden
- Start small. They say when you buy a piece of property, live there for a full year and experience each of the 4 seasons before you plant. This doesn’t work so well if you buy bare land in January and want to have a garden that spring. Maybe the first year you have to use a couple of large planters or a single bed while you’re looking for and prepping your ideal garden spot – and that’s okay!
- Make wise use of space. Just because you have lots of space, doesn’t mean you have to use it, especially if you’re an inexperienced gardener.
- Plan for ease of use. If you have all day to play in the garden, haphazard might work for you. If you’re crunched for time then I recommend planning a more simple layout.
- Plan for drought. Unless you live in a swamp, then you might be okay. If you live anywhere in the western United States, odds are you’re going to experience a drought within the next couple years.
- Use a watering system. See above 2 points.
- Learn from others in similar climates. Pinterest is filled with tons of gardening advice, remember to keep in mind not all of it will work in all areas. The conditions in the deep south are much different from the northeast which are both vastly different from the dry Rockies.
- Try the lasagna layering method. It doesn’t matter if your garden is raised beds or in-ground beds, I’ve found the lasagna layering method works great. If you’re interested in learning more about lasagna gardening Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza (affiliate link) is a fantastic book!
- Mulch. I know every experienced gardener says this, but I had to learn the hard way! Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich (affiliate link) breaks down different mulching materials very nicely.
- Utilize cheap/free materials. If you’re just starting out on your self-sufficiency journey, it’s possible you don’t have a lot of funds to sink in to a garden. Get to know the folks in your area. The neighbor down the street may know an old farmer who has an over abundance of manure which will save you a ton of money versus buying it bagged from the store.
- Get creative. Sure we’d love a nice permanent garden fence. But, we can’t afford it right now, so when our livestock panels came available we decided to use those.
I’m really excited about Garden 3 and can’t wait to keep you updated as the season progresses!
What are some of your gardening lessons learned?