Lakewood Victory Garden #2
So, you have found a spot for the installation of your victory garden and now it’s time to decide what it will look like. There are countless options when choosing your garden style, three of the most common in Lakewood are in-ground gardens, raised garden beds, and container gardens. Whichever style you choose, pick a spot with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. The important part is choosing a style that fits your life, gardening expertise, and your expectations.
An in-ground garden is probably the easiest and most cost-effective way to get started. To begin, mark the perimeter of the space you plan to cultivate. Remove any unwanted grass, plants, or weeds and turn the soil once. After you have turned the soil, gauge the health of the actual soil. Is your soil heavy in clay? Is it saturated with water? Is it rich in organic material and loaded with worms? If you think you have an issue with your soil, consult a knowledgeable gardener or professional to remedy the issue. The next step is to amend the soil. A few bags of manure or peat should be spread throughout the bed and then turn the soil one more time, mixing the amendment in as you go. After grading the soil, the last step before planting would be forming raised rows of soil to plant in. Be sure when creating the rows to space them appropriately for the mature size of the crops you want to grow. Some of the negative aspects of in-ground beds are that they are labor intensive to install, and they do not always drain well.
Raised bed gardening is often used in urban areas to maximize space and harvest. Raised garden beds generally consist of a stone or wood frame that sits above grade 6-12”. A layer of cardboard or several layers of newspaper at the bottom will stop weeds from growing up through the soil. After completing the frame, the bed is then filled with soil that is rich in organic matter or a soilless mix such as Mel’s mix. Mel’s mix is equal parts peat moss, vermiculite, and compost. Benefits of raised beds include improved drainage as well as a defined border making crops easier to manage. The height of the bed itself reduces bending and kneeling making it easier to plant and harvest. Potential negatives associated with raised beds include the cost to build and that they may need to be watered a bit more.
Container gardening is an overlooked way to bring produce into the yard. Anything that can hold soil has the potential to grow food. Coming in many forms from gorgeous glazed ceramic pots to repurposed carryout food containers, if you have adequate sunlight you can grow food in it. One of the trends pushing container gardening right now are Smart Pots. Smart Pots are made from a semi permeable fabric that allows water to pass and the dirt to stay. These containers come in many sizes and shapes and are reusable. At the end of the growing season, simply remove the soil and fold up for easy storage. If you choose to grow food in containers choosing the right size pot is important as is choosing complementary plants. Some plants do not play well together and some help each other thrive. Also important is consistent watering and fertilization as you are drawing from a finite amount of resources. Lastly when growing in a container make sure you have drainage. Too much water sitting at the bottom of a pot will eventually drown your plants.
Considering little things when deciding what to plant where can make a big difference in the overall success of your season. Think about the mature height of what you want to grow, plant the tallest items furthest from the sun. Look up complementary plantings so you know which plants are friendly and do not kill each other off. Learn a little on each plant, picking the first 10 jalapeno peppers a little immature could mean harvesting an additional 100 later in the summer. Learn what nutrients each plant needs, soil deficient in calcium could mean no tomatoes period. When researching look for information from universities and botanical gardens. The Ohio State University extension service has an incredible amount of information available online.
Whichever style you choose, remember the basics are the same, ample sunlight, consistent water, and fertilizer, along with good drainage is a great start to a successful garden. Also remember that gardeners love to share and talk. Don’t be intimidated by the neighbor with the beautiful yard and the best-looking tomatoes. Go talk to them, 6 feet apart and masked of course.
Publisher, Lakewood Observer, Inc.