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Setting Up A Home Garden

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

Setting up a home garden in Texas is a labor-intensive, yet fun and rewarding, activity. Plus, who doesn't enjoy fresh food where the extra bounty can be shared with friends or local food bank? County agricultural extensions are a wealth of information when starting a garden. Look for master gardeners to consult with. Take workshops on gardening in your area. Learn from your co-worker or neighbor who has been gardening for years. You, too, can have a garden. Follow these home gardening tips to get you started in the homegrown food craze.

Plan The Gardening Space

Every new garden needs planning, which is a fun activity to do over the drab winter months. Take out those gardening catalogs and think through what you want to do and where you want the garden to go. Do you want to plant in rows directly in the dirt or used raised beds? Raised bed frames can be made in advance, if that's your choice, so they are ready to use in the spring. Measure out where you want the garden to go and map it out. Plan the crops. Consider sun and shade factors in the various locations.

Pick Gardening Tools

Walking the rows of tools in a garden supply store can be confusing. There are many different types of tools, many with specific functions. Organize your small tools in containers that can be carried to the garden and hang larger tools so they are always easy to find. Although not a tool, kneepads and gloves are always helpful. Store tools in a cool, dry place and maintain them for a longer life. Here are some essential tool picks:

  • wheelbarrow or wagon
  • hoe
  • rake
  • shovel
  • fork
  • trowel
  • pruning shears

Prepare Soil For Success

Loosen the soil a few feet, even if using raised beds. Aerate the dirt if compacted. Remove weeds or grasses. Discard rocks or anything larger than a pebble from your gardening soil. Know your soil and prepare for your climate. Is the soil loam, clay or sand? Test the soil to see if it is alkaline or acidic. Inexpensive testing kits can be purchased at garden centers. Nutrients should be added to balance the soil and make it as neutral as possible. Good garden drainage is essential for many Texas homes to weather times of heavy rains. Simply adding compost can build up the soil and provide proper drainage, but compost needs time to build up the soil, so prepare early. Good planting soil is the key to a successful garden.

Plant When Soil Is Ready

When the soil is ready, it's time to plant. Plants that are easy to grow -- bush beans, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, eggplant, carrots, several types of greens, cucumbers -- are best to start a new garden. If using seeds, follow the planting directions for the area. Starts can be planted later than seeds. Make sure to provide light or shade, as directed, to facilitate sprouting and proper plant growth.

The first year is always the most difficult as you get to know your particular soil, pest, shade/light and water factors. Start small, learn as you go and expand in future years. Soon you will be sharing the wealth of healthy, homegrown food with your family, friends and neighbors. Imagine that!

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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