When we moved from Michigan to North Carolina in July 2020, we brought an entire garden’s worth of seedlings with us that I had started from seed, but we had no garden to plant them in. THAT’S how important plants are to me. I knew I couldn’t leave them there, but I really had nowhere to put them here.
A few days after we got here, my awesome dad told me he’d, “go scratch up a place for my garden with the tractor”. An hour later, I had what would become a 700 square foot garden. I was absolutely floored at how quickly it came together, and it was the biggest garden I’d ever had that was all MINE. Up until that point, for over a decade I’d been planting in raised beds and containers, placing them wherever I could fit them in my small shady yard.
I can’t thank my dad enough for taking the time to make that 1st garden for me, and for those of you who want to “scratch up a place” for yourself…read on as I tell you how!
What Type of Soil Do You Have?
First, you’ll need to know the type of soil in your yard. It’s a good idea to figure this out before you mark up any property lines because it will help determine how much work is involved in creating your new garden space.
There are three types of soil: clay, loam, and sand which can be broken down further in terms of percentages.
Clay soil can be difficult to work with inside a garden space because it does not allow for as much water or air drainage, and its particles are very small. These small particles easily compact together, making it difficult to drain water. Loam soil is composed of equal parts sand, silt, and clay (some people say that loam has a “sandy feel” to it), and is the best type of soil in which to grow plants. Lastly, sand is the least desirable type of soil for growing vegetables because it drains too quickly and does not hold nutrients or water well.
Once you know your soil type, it’s time to mark out where your garden will be. This is best done in the Spring or Fall when the ground is not too wet or dry.
You’ll need to consider your garden’s orientation relative to the sun when you’re making these choices. It’s best to orient the garden from north to south in the northern hemisphere so that your plants get ample exposure to the sun and don’t shade each other out.
You’ll also want to consider the slope of the ground when deciding how to orient your garden. If you must plant on a steep slope, it’s best to terrace the garden in order to control the water runoff.
It's Time to Break Ground!
Now it’s time to break ground! We went over the soil with a tractor first, then tilled the soil for a couple of passes to break up the ground even more. Once the ground was broken up enough, I followed behind and got as many of the large quartz/granite rocks out of the garden as I could. Removing rocks is a big task, but its worth it. Take your time and give yourself grace on this project. Honestly, I’m *just* now satisfied that I’ve removed all the rocks I need to remove from my garden– a full year and a half later.
If you don’t have access to a tractor or tiller, or you’d rather go the no-dig route, that’s a great way to start a garden, and it’s an approach that is more popular now than it’s ever been.
Now that your garden is plowed and the rocks have been removed, you can build your garden beds or rows. For last year’s garden, we didn’t make a big effort building out beds because we were already late starting the garden AND we knew we’d likely expand the garden the following year.
Before we planted in the garden, we amended the beds with 4-6 inches of decomposed leaf mulch and Espoma Garden tone organic fertilizer. The leaf mulch added organic matter to the soil that improved drainage, water retention, and soil structure.
We planted our lettuce, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and eggplant in 3 long rows that ran the entire length of the garden that first year, and it worked great for us.
If you’re looking to plant in raised beds, the average size for a bed is about 8-18 inches high, 30-48 inches wide, and around 6-8 feet long.
If you’re in a rush to get your garden in the ground as quickly as possible and don’t have time to build in-ground beds or raised beds, I recommend purchasing some fabric plant containers and planting your seedlings directly in the fabric containers. Using this method will mean you’ll be growing food as quickly as possible.
Wrapping it Up
The 2020 in-ground garden will always have a special place in my heart. It was the beginning of Growing the Good Life/Hummingbird Gardens, and it happened all because I had seedlings that I loved too much to leave them behind.
If you’ve been thinking of breaking ground on a garden, now’s the time to put those dreams in motion!