Building your own garden plot is a great summer DIY activity.
You can use the prepared plot for cultivating and growing fresh edibles such as fruits and vegetables or lovely, fragrant flower plants of your choice.
However, many people find the mere thought of preparing a garden plot daunting and challenging. It really isn’t so far as you follow the guided steps (discussed here).
We won’t sugarcoat it – building a plot for a garden entails a lot of hard work, but the result is fruitful. If you have a green thumb, you will definitely find this outdoor project fun and therapeutic.
Continue reading this post to learn the detailed process of starting your own garden plot.
Garden Plot Planning
Pick a Spot that Suits Your Plant Sunlight Requirements
Whether you’re a gardening enthusiast or not, you must know that plants get food from sunlight.
However, the amount of sunlight plants should receive depend on the type of plant you plan to grow in your garden plot. Not all plants require the same level of sun exposure, after all.
Pick the spot considering the type of plants you want to grow in your garden. For instance, if you’re thinking of planting flowers that require full sun, select an area that gets maximum sunlight.
Sunlight Exposure for Vegetable Plants
Vegetables that come from flowers, such as squash, peppers, tomatoes, love the sun. If you plan to grow sun-loving plants, choose an area that receives direct sunlight.
There are also vegetable plants that can thrive in partial shades, including carrots, potatoes, among other root vegetables.
While they can grow in partially shaded areas, they will appreciate getting a half-day of full sun. Leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard, kale, etc., are tolerant to shade and do without sunlight exposure.
Sunlight Exposure for Fruit Plants
Fruits, like most vegetables, require 6 – 8 hours of full sun. However, there are fruit plants that can thrive in a shaded area as well. Some shade-loving plants include pears, plums, rhubarb, kiwis, grapes, and pawpaw.
Some fruits stay happy and healthy when provided with the combination of sun and shade throughout the day.
For instance, blueberries need full sun but can tolerate light shade every now and then. Currants, elderberries, juneberries, raspberries, mulberries, gooseberries can all grow in partial shade.
Sunlight Exposure for Flower Plants
Flowering plants usually require 6 – 8 hours of direct sun.
Generally, border plants prefer direct sun. Flower plants doe partial shade include soapwort, coral bells, golden columbines, wood lilies, bluebells, and many more.
Even and Well-Leveled Spot
Make sure the area you choose for gardening is flat and even but is also a place that ensures smooth drainage. Having a smooth ground for gardening is not easily accessible to all.
There are a number of factors that can cause a bumpy or uneven ground. Kids, stray animals, night crawlers, and waterlogging can be some of the reasons behind an irregular ground.
This doesn’t mean you can’t level your yard. You can do it during spring, as this will give enough time for grass to grow back and offer you a uniform layer.
Ensure that the spot you choose is at least ten feet far from trees and shrubs. This is crucial because it prevents the roots of the trees and shrubs from getting entangled with plants of the garden plot.
The shade of the trees and shrubs can also disrupt the growth of your garden, so it’s always best to choose an open space at a safe distance from nearby trees and shrubs.
Choose Raised Beds for Cold-Climate Gardening
If you live in a cold-climate area, you should opt for raised beds. What are raised beds, you may wonder?
These are wooden boxes placed above the ground for gardening purposes. Inside the elevated boxes, you can cultivate your favorite plants and watch them grow.
Research shows that this type of gardening results in a high yield of crops – especially vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, peas, beans, broccoli, and arugulas.
You can buy or build your own raised bed. It’s better to build it by yourself as it will comply better with the needs and requirements of your plants. The best material to consider for your heightened bed is any variety of wood, such as oak, redwood, cedar, etc.
You can also construct the raised bed in many unique ways. For instance, you can get a lightweight construction material – wattle. Build long, flexible sticks from it. It has an “Insta-worthy” design that can turn your garden bed into looking remarkable.
Tree logs and concrete blocks are also visually appealing options to consider. Other than being attractive, raised beds can prevent soil erosion and offer good drainage – all the more reasons to invest in them.
Choose In-Ground Beds for Warm-Climate Gardening
The start-up cost for in-ground gardening is far lesser than that of raised bed gardening. The latter form of gardening offers several advantages. Unlike it is with raised beds, in-ground gardening doesn’t require additional soil.
Existing soil – as long as it is well-watered and mulched – can be used for a fruitful harvest. It’s also easier to remove, replace, or relocate the in-ground garden to another place.
The water requirement is also much lesser than raised bed gardening. In-ground garden beds don’t dry out as quickly as raised beds and thus need less water.
That being said, in-ground beds are more vulnerable to pests and weeds. If you have pets in your house or stray animals in your area, in-ground gardening may not be a safe option. You may need to consider protecting the garden with a protective cover-up.
Number of Beds You Want to Plant
This will depend on your garden space, but generally, a garden plot consists of multiple beds.
This allows you to grow different plants in each bed. It’s been estimated that a small plot of 100 – 200 square feet can accommodate 4 – 6 beds. This gives you plenty of space to grow different types of plants.
Make sure the beds are 4 feet wide at max, so it’s easy to weed or tend them. Gardening experts also recommend having at least 20 inches of a pathway between each bed so that you can easily run a wheelbarrow through it.
However, if you are getting raised beds, you won’t need a pathway between the beds. What size should your raised beds be?
Usually, you need a bed that is at least 4 feet wide. Make sure the bed is not too wide or else it will be difficult to reach the middle, which will make planting and weeding a pain.
When it comes to the length, it can be as long as your garden plot allows. The depth of the bed will depend on the type of plant you want to grow. Most plants require a minimum of 6 – 12 inches for their roots to expand. But this requirement can vary from plant to plant.
Marking Outline of Your Garden Plot
Remove the Existing Lawn
To create a fresh, high-yielding garden bed, you will need to get rid of the existing lawn. This can be achieved through different techniques – digging, tilling, or smothering.
Of all these options, smothering requires the least amount of physical effort for removing the grass.
You can place cardboard, newspaper, or plastic over the lawn to have a clean slate for gardening. However, this is an option you should consider if you’re in no hurry to plant new crops. This is because smothering can take up several months.
If you want quick results, you may have to consider digging or tilling. Breaking up sods may take a lot of manpower in these two techniques.
Once you get rid of the sods, make sure to check for pests and eliminate them as soon as you can. After the removal of your old lawn, you can consider the immediate planting of your crops.
Get Rid of Weeds and Pests
As stated above, when eliminating the existing lawn, look for pests, weeds, and debris around. Upon their sight, remove them immediately.
That said, not all weeds are dangerous to your garden. Some of them can blossom into healthy plants, too. Before you consider removing weeds, check online whether or not they can be useful to you. If yes, you can replant them somewhere else.
If you’re planting trees and bushes in your garden plot, you will need to trim all the weeds surrounding the area. That’s because large plants need large space to grow, and weeds can hinder their ideal growth.
In the case of annuals, you will need to consider “smothering” to get rid of weeds. All you have to do is place a layer of newspaper, cardboard, or plastic over the ground. Spread a layer of compost on top to prevent the growth of weeds.
Dig out the soil a little to see if any waste is clammed into the ground. This can include inorganic matter such as wrappers, bottle caps, plastic pieces, etc.
Mark Out a Planting Area
This is one of the most important steps to how to build your own garden plot. You need to establish your plot to ensure a well-built garden.
First of all, you need to determine the shape of your garden. Usually, it’s a choice between a square and a rectangular patch. Once you have decided that, you will need to measure out the dimensions and stick a stake in the ground at the four corner points.
Next, attach a brick line around all the stakes in such a way that the line is pulled out completely. This will give you an outlook of what your garden will look after being plotted out.
Prepare the Soil
Test Your Garden Soil
Testing the soil is a crucial step to ensuring the soil has the right amount of pH and nutrients for optimal plant growth. You can test your garden soil in the following four ways:
This is to check the composition of your soil. Generally, soils are categorized into clay soil, sandy soil, or loamy soil. Give a firm squeeze to moist (but not wet) soil to determine the soil type.
If the soil retains its shape but crumbles upon a light stroke, it means you have rich loamy soil. In case the soil sits still when poked, it’s clay soil. And if the soil falls apart immediately, it is sandy soil.
Run a Worm Test
Worms can help you determine the health of your soil. If your soil is filled with earthworms, you have all the bacteria and microbes needed to make luxurious soil.
To conduct a worm test, warm up the soil to 55 degrees. Moisten it, but not soaking wet. Dig a one-foot wide and deep hole and place the soil on a piece of tarpaulin or piece of cardboard.
Rifle through the soil with your hands and count earthworms as you go. If you spot around 10 worms, it means your soil is in good shape. Less than that means a lack of organic matter in your soil to sustain worm growth. In other words, your soil is too alkaline or acidic.
Consider pH Testing
The pH level is tested on a scale of 0 – 14, with zero being too acidic while 14 too alkaline. Plants grow best in soil with a neutral pH, which is between 6 – 7.
Please note that the pH level lower than 5 or higher than 8 isn’t ideal for the plant’s growth. You can test the pH level of your soil using a pH test kit. Follow the instructions on the testing kit for accurate results.
Digging the Plot
The next step is to dig the plot for your garden. Even though it’s a laborious and time-consuming task, it can dramatically reduce the re-growth of weeds.
You will need to dig according to your marked-out area. This will support better drainage and root growth for your plants.
Depending on your soil type, you will have to choose the digging method. For instance, double digging is usually considered for poor soil that is low in nutrients. Double digging is a lot of hard work, but with effective management, this task can be carried out much faster.
Add Organic Material
You will need to add organic matter depending on the pH of your soil.
In order to improve the fertility of your soil, you will need to mix in a lot of organic matter such as plant/animal manure, compost, mulch, etc., to amend the pH level so the plants can grow well into your garden plot.
Ideally, you should spread a layer or two (2 ½ – 5 cm) of organic matter over the area.
Turn the Soil Before Planting
Avoid turning up the soil when it’s wet. This task should always be performed when the soil is dry.
As you turn the soil, it should break up easily so you can spot any unnecessary sediment hidden in the soil. However, this will be harder to do if the soil is moist. Once the soil is turned up, it’s ready for planting.
Protect the Plot
This is the best way to protect your plant from wandering animals and running kids. This is especially important when you are growing tall vegetable plants such as cucumbers or tomatoes. Barriers also help protect plants from rain and wind.
Solid fences serve as a great visual block. These barriers prevent people from seeing what they are missing out on and thus curb the curiosity of outsiders to go near the plot and touch the plants.
You can also consider electric fences. However, they are expensive and require frequent maintenance. You can also have a customized barrier by creating a fence of the size, shape, and design of your choice.
Creating a garden plot is an endeavor that is arduous yet fulfilling. If you have not partaken in this DIY gardening project before, you may have a lot of questions, and we believe this blog post will help clear all your confusions.
When performing this task, be patient and vigilant. A small mistake as adding too much water in the soil can disrupt your gardening plot. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to take the assistance of a professional near you!