How to make a beautiful garden

Before I even begin this post, I will tell you right up front that the title of this post is sort of a joke.  My gardens have yet to truly be beautiful, although as I stated yesterday, I think that THIS IS THE YEAR!

But really, the steps that I've outlined below are simply what I do.  I'm not a professional gardener. I'm barely a hobby gardener.  So, take my advice with a grain of salt, and I'll let you know at the end of the year if it worked for me.

So let's start with a confession - sometimes I'm rather lazy.  And our garden is at the top of a mountain and you need a LOT of stuff.  So instead of making 3 or 4 trips up the hill carrying individual items, I put a lot of work and effort into loading it all into this wheelbarrow.

Includes: Plants, weed block, rake, hand shovel, three tine tool, scissors, a towel (for kneeling or sitting on), garden soil from Home Depot, watering can, seeds, and probably a lot more that I'm missing.

Pack that up wasn't so hard.  But pushing it up our enormous mountain of a backyard?  Nearly killed me.

What!??! You don't think that looks that steep???

Well here's a shot from the TOP of the hill, once I made it. (Barely.)

Seriously.  I'm in decent shape, and it almost killed me.  It's steep. Please just take my word for it.  

Anyway, 45 minutes after getting outside, I'm finally ready to work on the garden.  That's when the sun decided to come out.  Cue sweat glands.  In case you didn't know, I HATE sweating unless I'm at a beach or pool in my bathing suit.  Only then am I ok with sweating.

Where was I going with this post?  Oh yeah, steps to making a beautiful garden....

Step 1 - Enrich and Mix

There are no pictures of this step, but there wasn't much to see anyway.  We spread nearly an entire truckload of mushroom compost throughout the garden.  Not sure what mushroom compost is? Well, in my professional opinion, mushroom compost is moldy manure mixed with pinecones.  Seriously - at least from what I could tell after spending an hour or so walking around in it. 

Anyway, once you've enriched, you have to mix.  If you have a tiller, or can rent one, I highly recommend it. Tilling by hand is a lot of work and it's the $40 or so rental fee to get it done quickly without killing your back. 

Step 2 - Hills and valleys

Step 2 is to create your hills and rows.  Since we had tilled everything together, I used a shovel to dig out my rows, and then a garden rake to flatten them and also to flatten the hills.   In order to maximize your gardening space, make the rows as narrow as you can.  I make them just wide enough to fit my butt if I want to sit down since I black out a lot when bending or squatting for extended periods of time.

Step 3 - Block 'them weeds

Step 3 is to lay weed block.  This is, of course, optional.  But I highly recommend it. Gardens get enough weeds as it is.  You don't want to have to be weeding your rows. You'll thank me later in the summer.

Step 4 - Plant plants

Step 4 is the fun part, where you actually get to plant things.  In order to maximize success, this year I did a combination of already started plants from Home Depot, seeds that I started in trays, and seed planted directly into the garden.

Spinach plants from Home Depot

If you're like me, getting results is important to not feeling like a complete gardening failure.  The already started plants will make you feel really good about your garden right off the bat, because it makes it look as though you were already really successful (see beautiful plants above.)  But then I also planted spinach from seeds.  This not only makes you work more like a real gardener, but it spreads out your crops, so you don't have 8 million pounds of spinach during one week in July.

Some other quick thoughts:
1. For already started plants, be sure to spread them out as far as the directions tell you to.  I learned the hard way that the spacing guidelines are there for a reason - to maximize success.
2. I have a problem killing things, including tiny little seedlings.  So, I'm not good at "thinning" like you're supposed to do when your seeds first start to sprout.  For this reason, I don't start off planting as densely as they suggest - I just spread them out even further.  If you're soil is properly enrich you'll get result from 90% of the seeds you put down, so why kill plants when you don't have to?  But if you're ok with killing things, go ahead follow the instructions on the seed packet.
3. Finally, water water water, but try NOT to plant if you know there are going to thunderstorms in the near future.  Seeds and plants need a lot of water, but thunderstorms push tiny fragile leaves down into the dirt, and wash away your newly planted seeds.  You need to give them a little time to get established.  So if is calling for constant thunderstorms in your area (like they have been here for past week), hold off until the stormy weather passes.  You'll be glad you did.

That's it!  More garden pictures coming soon!


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