Gardening Guidelines for Rookies Like Me

By Scottchan--freedigitalphotos.net

Welcome to the second blog in my launching into organic vegetable gardening series—I am starting out small scale, as I am a novice dealing with rocky land and sparse soil—20 minutes away from “Limestone City”, Kingston, Ontario.  Join me as I dig up weeds, resources, links, and information on organic gardening.

 I read a great blog yesterday, called “Top 10 Rookie Gardening Mistakes” by Samantha, from Planet Green and posted on Yahoo! Green.

As a “rookie” gardener myself, I read it over with interest and decided to create my own notes framed as tips:

  1. Before choosing a planting site (if there are choices) get to know the conditions—how much wind, wetness and dryness, hours of sun exposure, and soil quality.
  2. Consider whether the site meets each plant’s needs for soil quality, hours of sunlight, and moisture. These factors may sound like common sense—and they are—but they may be easily overlooked.  For example, I had it in my head that I would be planting vegetables in a particular cleared area, until I realized that it is surrounded on two sides by tall trees that will reduce hours of sunlight.  I am now considering a more open area nearby–for vegetables that will need a full day of light.
  3. Know the plant hardiness zone—this will be useful when reading up about plants in books and catalogues.  For the United States look up the USDA Hardiness Zone map and for Canada find the Agriculture Canada Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The Weather Network has a Home and Garden tab that shows the gardening zone for many locations.   Unfortunately the Canadian and American numbering systems don’t coincide—i.e. zone 5 in Canada does not have the same climatic conditions as zone 5 in the United States.  (I live near Kingston Ontario in zone 5B).
  4. Heed the seed or plant tag’s spacing information, as eventually the foliage and/or roots will need more space as they spread.   If young perennial plants look sparse, plant annuals in between as a temporary measure until the perennials reach their full size.
  5. Prepare the soil well—at least one foot of loosened soil is needed, including a few inches of composted manure or compost.
  6. Learn and apply organic fertilizing skills, such as using compost, compost tea, cover crops, and crop rotation.   For packaged organic fertilizers, review instructions and apply with care.
  7. Water carefully—not too much or too little (perhaps an obvious point, but showing love with too much water can be fatal).
  8. Place a two to three inch layer of mulch on top of the soil.  Mulching is the practice of putting a cover of organic or inorganic materials on the surface of the soil to stop weeds, retain moisture, and keep the soil warm.  Examples of mulch materials are grass clippings, shredded leaves, and wood chips.
  9. Trust your knowledge of your garden’s growing conditions—for me, good advice to keep in mind, but for now I trust that I have a lot to learn!
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