Well, it is that time of year again when many homesteaders and preppers start digging out those seed catalogs and looking at what they want for the 2023 growing season.
With that said, with the ever-rising prices of food in grocery stores across the U.S., putting in a garden is a great way to augment that rising grocery bill.
The thing is, many newbies do not know where to start.
Put A Plan in Place – Planning Your Springtime Garden
Planning your springtime garden is an exciting project that can bring beauty and joy to your home. It is a lot of fun to think about what you want to grow and what you can grow. But before you can even put a seed in the ground, you need to get determine some things first.
Determine the location and size of your garden.
When choosing a spot, you want to consider factors like sunlight, soil type, and water access. Keep an eye on your chosen area for a few days and look at how the sun falls. Many veggies need at least 6+ hours of sunlight a day.
Another thing is that just because you may have dirt, that dirt may not be beneficial to growing a garden, so have your soil tested. Here is a quick and simple method…
Now, this is not the most scientific nor accurate, but it gives you an idea of what you may look at when it comes to your soil. The best thing to do is go you your local Cooperative Agriculture Extension, and they can test it for you for a small fee.
You can also look into getting a do-it-yourself kit like Luster Leaf Professional Soil Kit, which will measure accurate nutrient and pH analysis. This kit contains the needed components for 80 tests. 20 each for Soil pH, N, P, and K.
Luster Leaf Soil Test Kit – https://amzn.to/3jR3J5x
Next, list the plants you wish to have in your garden and look into their individual growing conditions, such as sunlight, soil type, and water needs for each plant. Try to group like-typed plants together to get the most benefit from sun, watering, and soil.
Plotting Out & Planning Your Garden
And now, the fun part begins, and that is laying out your garden. Many people have been doing this with good ol’ chart paper and pencil. But I, for one, am not that organized, and I would run out of erasers for sure.
Me, I like using an incredible app called GrowVeg.com. This app is feature rich and has just about any plant you can think of and sub-varieties. The greatest thing about this app is that it will email you reminders about when to start sowing your seeds indoors, getting them into the ground, and planting your pre-sown plants.
Another really great feature of this app is that it will help you rotate your garden from early spring, late spring / early summer to late summer and fall. Again, this app will send you email reminders as to when to pull out the old and add the new, as well as get those mid-season seeds going in planting trays so that they are ready to go into the ground at the proper time.
NOTE – I am not getting any kickback from GrowVeg.com. This is an app I love, and it has helped me get the most out of my garden and make it as productive as possible.
GrowVeg.com will help you lay out your garden and give you factors like the height and spread of all your plants. All you need to do is find the plant in the directory, click on it and drag it to where you want that plant to grow.
Once you have placed it, you can grab a corner and drag and pull, and it will add plants to that area with the proper spacing that individual plant needs.
Here is a working plan for my garden for 2023.
NOW… one thing I have noticed is that you need to have all your plants on the working board so that GrowVeg.com knows when to email you. I create an area on the side of the working plan for my mid-summer and fall plants. As long as they are on the board, it will factor in when they need to be sown, planted, rotated, and such.
Once you have all this laid out, you need to get yourself seeds or plants that have already been started. Many of the big box stores will have the plants that will grow in your area for sale. There are also specialty nurseries that will have plants for sale. I have found that some specialty nurseries will have more interesting varieties than the big box stores with a few tomatoes, pepper, and other more common varieties. So, try to find some of these nurseries that start their own and see what they have to offer.
Preparing Your Soil
Before you can get anything in the ground, you must get your soil tilled up and ready. While you are doing this, you also want to augment your soil with anything it needs to give the plants the best growing condition possible. You may need to add compost, manure, and certain fertilizers. The testing kit I mentioned above will give you a good idea of what you will need to do to get favorable soil.
NOTE – Fertilizer will be expensive this year because of a global shortage. So now is a good time to check those big box stores for last year’s fertilizer that they may want to get out the door to make room for this year’s fertilizer. As far as I know, I have never had any problems getting last year’s fertilizer. So, if you can, check out the big box hardware stores and see if you can find some of the bigger bags on sale, and if you can, stock up on them so that you have it for the entire growing season.
Planting Your Garden
Now, it is time to get the plants in the ground, and you may ask yourself, “How can I ensure a good harvest with my vegetable garden?”
I have found out that getting the plants in the ground at the right time is important. You want to maximize your growing season and get the most out of those plants. So timing is important for many vegetables, so be sure to plant them at the appropriate time for your climate and growing zone.
Another important factor is to water regularly. Most vegetables need at least an inch of water per week from rainfall or irrigation.
One solution I am looking at is soaker hoses put on a watering timer. After much research, the brand of timer I like is by a company called “Orbit.” They make a number of different timers that fit right onto your hose bib and are basically “fire and forget.” The price ranges from $29 to $50 for a two-hose timer. Checking them out on Amazon, I have found a lot of favorable reviews for these, and they seem to really do the job well.
Orbit Automatic Watering Timer – https://tinyurl.com/Orbit-Water-Timer
Once Plants Are in The Ground, Maintenance Begins
As you may know, it takes time for those plants to mature and produce vegetables. So that means that you have some maintenance and upkeep that you will have to do. Things like….
Weeding: This is a never-ending process. The best plan of attack is to pull them when you see them. Also, pull them small so that you are not pulling up big weeds.
A couple of tools that can really help you are a Hula Hoe and a Pointed Hoe.
A hula hoe is a type of garden tool that is used for cultivating and weeding soil. It has a long handle and a flat blade that is curved or hula-shaped, allowing it to slice through the soil and remove weeds easily. The hula hoe is sometimes called a “swoe,” which is short for “swinging hoe.” It is a useful tool for gardeners because it allows them to cultivate and weed their gardens without bending over or kneeling, which can be uncomfortable or difficult for people with back or knee problems. It is also effective at cutting off weeds at the root, which helps to prevent them from growing back.
A Warren hoe, or pointed hoe, is a type with a triangular-shaped blade used to cultivate and weeding soil. It is named after its inventor, Asa Warren, who patented the design in 1848. The Warren hoe is similar to other types of hoes, such as the hula hoe or the Dutch hoe, in that it is used to slice through the soil and remove weeds. However, the triangular shape of the blade makes it easier to use in tight or crowded spaces, such as between rows of plants in a garden.
These hoes make weeding a quick and easier job than getting on your knees and pulling them by hand. Not to say that you will not have to do that, but these two hoes will really make the job quicker and more productive.
Pests & Disease: This is a biggie and often a dividing mark between gardeners. Do you go organic, or do you use the standard chemicals or both?
No matter what, you will have pest and disease problems. What you want to do is decide how you will take care of this issue and what sort of garden you will have.
Personally, I am a bit of both. There are times to use chemicals, and then there are times to use organic methods. Usually, I will try organic methods first, and if that does not take care of the problem, then I will resort to chemicals.
For me, it is more about the end product and putting as much food on the table as well as storing up food for the winter.
I know that I have lost some of my crops when I have used organic methods. Folks that is a lot of work and sweat equity that goes down the tubes.
In these days of ever-rising prices and such, I want to put as much in my favor as possible. This is why I am willing to try organic for the good of my family, but if that does not resolve the problem, then using man-made products to save what I have is needed.
You need to decide what you wish to do and how much you are willing to lose and think about the pros and cons of using one or the other or both.
What are some of the best tools to have when gardening?
Gardening can be rewarding and having the right tools can make it even more so. As I mentioned above, with the hula hoe and Warren hoe, there are some other tools that are essential for any gardener.
This is my go-to beginner’s list
Shovel: A good shovel is a must-have for digging, planting, and turning soil.
Rake: A rake is helpful for loosening soil, removing debris, and preparing beds for planting.
Pruners: Pruners or scissors are essential for trimming plants and cutting back overgrown branches.
Watering can or hose: Water is essential for the health of your garden, so a watering can or hose is a must.
Garden gloves: Protect your hands from thorns and dirt with a good pair of gardening gloves.
Wheelbarrow: A wheelbarrow is helpful for transporting tools, soil, and other materials around the garden.
Trowel: A trowel is a small hand tool that is perfect for planting seeds and small plants. Now I want to mention some tools that, once you get going, will be “go-to” tools you will want to have.
Barebones Hori Hori Ultimate Garden Tool – Think Rambo knife but made for garden use. This is a thick stainless-steel blade that has a black stonewash finish. Walnut handle, full tang and stainless pommel. I used to have one of those want-to-be ones from the big box store, but about the third time I used it to pry up a root ball, the handle bent right over. That will not happen to you if you get the Hori Hori.
This is one tough tool. It has a heat-treated double-edge (straight and serrated) blade, an integrated twine cutter, and a bottle opener. You can use the stainless flat pommel for hammering in garden spikes. It comes with a gray waxed canvas belt sheath with a copper snap.
The Hori Hori Garden Tool – https://tinyurl.com/RM-Hori-Hori-Garden-Tool
Cold Steel Spetsnaz Tactical Camp Shovel: I LOVE this shovel, which is way better than a miniature shovel with the “D” Handle. The shorter handle gives you better leverage, and you can use this comfortably on your knees in the garden. In fact, this is what the shovel was made for, digging trenches while on one’s knees or in a prone position. The edges come sharp, but you can sharpen them more to get a nice edge. This is actually considered a fighting tool; you can use it much like a tomahawk and short sword. This will easily hack through small roots, grassy patches, and such. But it is a great digging tool, and you can’t beat it.
OH… it is balanced so that you can throw it too! How cool is that!
Cold Steel Spetsnaz Tactical Camp Shovel – https://tinyurl.com/RM-Spetsnaz-Tactical-Shovel
Barebones – Pulaski Axe: When it comes to cutting gear for the garden, then Barebones is the best. I must admit that it is expensive, but think of how many cheap Chinese just tools you have bought, used once, or in my case, three times, and they break? How many of those have you purchased? I am a big proponent of getting the best gear that you can afford, and if you have to save up for some of the gear, then do it so that you will have it for a long time. Barebones is one tool company that makes top-notch gear that will not break, will take a beating, and will keep on doing the job.
I became a fan of the Barebones – Pulaski Axe when watching Naked & Afraid XL Season 8. A gentleman named Gary Golding brought the Barebones Pulaski Axe as his tool. Even though Gary had to do a medical tap out, he left his Pulaski Axe with the rest of the crew, and they used it like crazy.
At a price of $148.00 and some change, this is a tool you might have to save up for. But it is a beast of a gardening tool, and there is a lot that you can do with it, from cutting down small trees, clearing brush, chopping out those deep thick roots, digging furrows, getting under root balls, etc., there is not much that this tool will not do. So, save your pennies and get this one for sure.
Barebones Pulaski Axe – https://tinyurl.com/RM-Barebones-Pulaski-Axe
TIP – these three tools would be great to add to your get-home bag/bugout bag.
People will have to become food independent, grow their own, hunt and fish their own, forage their own and barter their own. And now is a good time to start while you still can.
Let me ask you this…would you rather buy a 20 lb. bag of rice now for $14 a bag (Costco), or would you rather buy it at $50+ dollars a bag later?
Common sense tells us to do that now, unless we are independently wealthy and will have money to burn in the future, buying food at 3-4 times what we are spending on it now.
I am deeply concerned about what we will face these next few years. It would be prudent for people to stock up now, tear out that backyard lawn and grow a garden to feed their family. I have done that, and I am ripping out more lawn to grow double what I grew last year. Shouldn’t you?
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