How to Start a Garden

1. Decide what type of garden to grow. What purpose do you want your garden to serve? Some gardens are functional and produce fruit and vegetables you can use to feed your family or give away to neighbors. Others are more ornamental in purpose, serving to beautify your property and provide a pleasing sight to people passing by. If you're not sure what type of garden you want, consider the following options:
- Vegetable gardens can include peppers, tomatoes, cabbages and lettuces, potatoes, squash, carrots, and many other vegetables. If vegetables can grow in your climate, you can find a way to grow them in your yard.
-In flower gardens, different types of flowers may be strategically planted so that something is in bloom almost all year long. Some flower gardens are structured with plantings in neat rows and patterns; others are wilder in appearance. Your personal style and yard size will determine what type of flower garden you might plant.
-Herb gardens often complement both flower and vegetable gardens, since they tend to bloom beautifully while serving the functional purpose of adding flavor to your food. Herb gardens might include rosemary, thyme, dill, cilantro and a variety of other herbs you may want to use to make dried spices and teas.
-In general, vegetable gardens require fertile soil and regular maintenance. Flowers and herbs can tolerate more neglect and poorer soil.

2. Decide what specific plants to include in your garden. Find out what grows well in your area by using this zone finder to determine what zone you are in. Then research which plants do well in your region. As you find out more about your options, make a list of the plants you want to buy and the best time of year to plant them.
- Some plants don't grow well in certain zones. If you live in a place with mild winters and hot summers, you may have trouble growing plants that require a cold snap to grow properly.
- Unless you plan to make your garden relatively large, try to choose varieties that need similar growing conditions. Do they need the same soil type and sun exposure? If not, you may have to create a garden with several types of growing conditions, which can be challenging in a small garden.
- Visit a farmers market or plant sale in the spring. Often you can learn useful information from vendors and buy healthy plants that grow well in your area.

3. Choose a spot for your garden. Take a look around your yard to decide where you want the garden to be. The location you choose should help the garden serve its purpose while producing strong, healthy plants.
- No matter what type of garden you're planting, most plants will grow better in rich, well-drained soil. Avoid spots in your yard where water seems to stand for awhile after a heavy rain, as this could indicate the soil there is too soggy or clay-based for healthy plant growth.
- Most vegetables grow best with a lot of sunlight, so if you're planting a vegetable garden, choose a spot that isn't shaded by trees, fences or buildings. Flowers are more versatile, and if you'd like a flower plot next to your house, you can choose flowers that grow best in partial or full shade.
- If your soil isn't especially fertile, you can make a raised bed or beds and grow flowers or vegetables there. Raised beds are planting beds that are built on top of the ground within wooden frames that are filled with enriched soil.
- If you don't have a yard, you can still have a garden. Plant flowers, herbs and certain vegetables in large pots on your patio. You can move them around according to the amount of sun the plants need.

4. Make a garden design. Draw an outline of your garden or yard space. Map out different options where you want to plant various items in the location you chose. Tailor the design to fit the needs of your plants, making sure the ones that need shade will be planted in a shady spot and the ones that need full sun are in an area that isn't shaded during the day.
- Take into account the space each mature plant will need. Make sure everything you want to plant will fit in your garden and have enough space to spread out while leaving you room to move around between rows or beds.
- Take timing into account. Planting dates vary with climate zones. If you live in a region with mild winters and hot summers, for example, you'll be able to plant earlier in the year than you would if you lived in a region with cold winters and shorter summers.
- If you're planting a vegetable garden, design it so that it's convenient for you to walk into the garden and harvest vegetables as they ripen. You may want to make a path through the garden for this purpose.
- Flower gardens should be designed with aesthetics in mind. Choose colors that look pretty together, and make patterns that are pleasing to the eye. As you plan keep in mind when different varieties will begin to bloom.
Take your lifestyle into account. Do you have children or pets who might run through the area? Is the garden within reach of your water hose? Is it too close to or too far from your home?

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