Plan a Spring Garden
Matt Shapiro - Pennfield, NY

Hardwarian Matt Shapiro

Beyond Hardware

Pennfield, NY

Plan a Spring Garden

Level: Experienced

Planning your garden will save time, money and give you a head start while you wait out wintertime weather in anticipation of springtime planting.

Whether you are growing an herb, vegetable or flower garden, now is the time to decide what type you want to plant, map out the size and look of your garden and select the plants that will grow best in the climate where you live.

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    • Step 1: Decide on a Garden
       

      What kind of garden do you want to grow? What are you trying to accomplish with your garden? Do you want it to beautify your yard with brilliant splashes of color? Attract wildlife? Grow delicious vegetables and herbs? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself while planning your garden as you wait out the winter. It will save you time if you answer these questions before you start mapping out your garden.

       

    • Step 2: Map It Out
       

      Use a piece of graph paper, a ruler and pencil to sketch out a basic diagram of your garden's dimensions and what you want it to look like. If you've previously planted a garden, jot down what you've grown before and consider what worked and what didn't. It may be time to try growing a different variety of plants this year to replace a plant or plant type that may not have fared so well the previous season.

      Taking note of which plants worked and which didn't is important for all kinds of gardens, especially vegetable gardens. Rotating vegetables in and out every year or, at the very least, moving plants to a different part of the garden will help keep your soil healthy. The soil can "wear out" after repeated planting of the same plants in the same location year after year. Changing them helps the soil replenish necessary minerals.

      Helpful Tip

      Many gardeners keep notes or a garden journal to track previous seed and plant purchases, successful – and unsuccessful – crops, articles and clippings, planting dates and ideas for their garden. Now is a perfect time to begin your garden journal.

      On your diagram, indicate the location of each plant group, the estimated length of each plant row, and the estimated spacing between the rows and between the individual plants.

    • Step 3: Choose Your Plants
       

      Do some research to find out what grows best in your climate. The more you know, the more successful you'll be and the less aggravation you'll have. If you're growing a decorative garden, decide on whether to use perennials or annuals. Perennials will need maintenance every year as they will become bigger or thicker; annuals die and need to be planted year after year.

      Shop early for the seeds you'll need so you will have them when it's time to plant. You can check with your local True Value hardware store and inquire about their seed selection. Many plants and flowers can be planted indoors until it is warm enough to plant outdoors.

      In addition to the climate, you also have to consider other environmental conditions, such as the amount of sun/shade, temperature, water and wind. Some plants do better in the sun and others prosper in the shade. Vegetables that do well in the sun include tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, eggplants, squashes, peppers, peas and beans. Those that thrive in shade are lettuce, chard, beets, cabbage, mustard, turnips and spinach. For vegetable gardens, choose hardy plants that won't succumb to sudden frosts and the cool temperatures of early spring. Kale, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, beets, onions and peas are good choices for a spring garden.

      Water amounts and soil-type should also come into consideration. If the ground is too wet or the soil is too sandy, growing a garden could prove difficult. If you live in a windy area, the plants you grow should be sturdy enough to withstand the abuse of powerful gusts.

    • Step 4: Plot It Out
       

      Bundle up and take a walk outside to check out your previous garden. Or if this is your first, the location of your new garden. You might take a photo of the space to use it later as a "before" picture.

      When choosing your garden space, check out the quality and type of soil. Avoid clays or sandy soils if possible. Loose, well-drained soil is preferred. Make sure the location of your garden will provide optimal opportunity for your garden to grow as well as be appreciated. Avoid planting near driveways or other areas where factors out of your control can lead to damage and an affected crop.

      Be sure that tall plants don't tower over shorter plants, depriving them of sun. You want to plant so that the transition of tall plants to short plants is a gradual step-down or so that the shorter plants get enough light. Avoid planting near trees or shrubs, as their roots will compete with your garden plants' roots for water and sustenance. Also, don't plant your garden too far away from your house so it is inconvenient for you come harvest time, or when you need to water plants with the hose.

      Helpful Tip

      Remember to leave enough space between plants, especially anything that grows tall or wide that might crowd other plants growing next to it. Plants need room to grow properly.

      If you're just beginning your garden, get a tape measure from your local True Value hardware store and take measurements of the space where you want your garden to grow. Take note of how much space you have and how much you need. Be careful not to take up your entire yard; you don't want to use all of your open space.

      A good-size starter garden is usually about 30 square feet. If space is minimal, you can grow plants on a plot of land as small as 20 square feet – just choose compact varieties of herbs, flowers or vegetables like squash, tomatoes and cucumbers. Keep in mind that you'll need to spend about an hour a week on every 100 square feet you plant.

      Using your measurements, draw your garden dimensions on graph paper. Lay it out so that it accurately reflects all planting areas and label each row with its corresponding plant. Include any obstacles, such as trees or other features that might act as complementary boundary markers or even ones that could prove potentially problematic.

      Outside, mark the dimensions and the shape of the garden with a chalk line or outline the area using stakes and string. You can also create garden markers for your plants.

    • Step 5: Don't Forget Decorative Touches
       
      garden

      While some gardeners may defer to landscaping and gardening experts to design their gardens, with a little forethought, creativity, patience and help from your local True Value hardware store – you can do it yourself. If you're planning a flower garden or other decorative-type plot, shop your local True Value hardware store for garden furniture, fencing or hardscaping (garden paths, stones and edging) and other lawn and garden products that fit your budget and make the garden you envision a reality.

    • Step 6: Mind Your Budget
       

      Carefully estimate the total cost of the materials you will need according to your diagram. Gardening can get expensive quickly so, while you're planning your garden, remember they are built over time. By starting slowly, you won't buy things you don't necessarily need and you can search out the best deals on plants, seeds and other materials such as gardening tools. To save money, plant your own seeds instead of purchasing them from a nursery. Another way to save on plants is to get cuttings from a fellow gardener. In addition, many gardening clubs host plant swaps, which are good opportunities to get plants inexpensively. Buying seeds in bulk will also help to cut cost if you want to go in on large quantities with friends or family.

    • Step 7: Get Tools
       
      shovel

      Once you have a basic outline of what your garden might look like and what you will be growing, you should have a good idea of what tools you'll need when it's warm outside and planting begins.

      While the list can vary, here are the basics you will probably need to get the job done:

      • Shovel
      • Spade (for precise shoveling)
      • Bucket
      • Pruning shears
      • Trowel
      • Hoe
      • Wheelbarrow
      • Gloves
      • Watering can
      • Garden hose

      Nice work! Now that you've planned your garden and gardening space, you will be ready to break ground when the weather warms up.

       
  • Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

    Before you begin, use the shopping list below to uncheck the tools you already have to complete this project.

    Then, print or save your updated list and bring it to your local True Value hardware store, where an expert Hardwarian will give you the remaining tools and expert advice you need to complete this project.

    You can also shop online for these project items at TrueValue.com and receive FREE shipping to a participating store.

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