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A Conversation About: making your own bed

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 4/17/24 | 4/17/24

By Jean Thomas

If you’re like me, this time of year you’re assessing the garden beds and estimating what will fit into them. Because you found some really neat stuff you want to grow. Also, if you’re like me, you’re dissatisfied with what you have. Or you decided this is the year to finally put in that garden you’ve been dreaming about.  There are many kinds of gardens, so planning varies according to the type of garden you want, but the basics remain the same. Soil, sun and water are the most important. Many of us in this area are overwhelmed with rocks and need to work around them, or with them. But not everybody is in love with rock gardens, so what’s a gardener to do?  I resort to asking the experts. One such expert is my friend Tim Kennelty, who is dedicated to responsible gardening and land stewardship. I make it a point to listen to his particular episode of “Nature Calls, Conversations from the Hudson Valley.” In episode 84,, Tim discusses the steps involved in creating a garden from scratch. As I tend to be impulsive, I take a half hour and listen to Tim’s advice instead of grabbing the shovel and starting to dig. Planning is, of course, the trick. As Tim advises, start with knowing what kind of garden you actually want, rather than making a space to plop in some plants that followed you home. Many of us already know we want a veggie garden, or a perennial garden, or a cutting flower garden. Some of us have a spot picked out already and some of us are stumped because they can’t find a spot with all the criteria. Tim has answers for everybody.

First and most important: if you’re a rookie, start small. You can always expand. Remember to measure and mark the perimeter of the area to head off confusion later on.                                                                    Second and third: know what kind of light the area actually gets, and be aware of the access to water.       Once you’ve sidestepped failure from the wrong light or difficulty of watering, you can start thinking about the soil. Here is the most vital part of the preparation because it’s the source of all life to the plants. Poor quality soil will doom the quality of the crop, and be a huge waste of your time and effort. So it’s wise to take the soil seriously. If you are digging up a spot (once you decide the sun and water access are good), pay attention to the texture of the soil and test the pH. There are many ways to improve the quality of the soil by using mulch and compost by digging these amendments into the soil well before planting.  Of course, the above all assumes that your chosen area is “diggable”. Too much rock or just plain awful soil can deter anyone trying to plant a garden into the ground. Raised bed gardening is becoming more popular every year. A site that is otherwise ideal can be adapted by building a “bed” container and importing good soil.  With a few differences, all the same rules apply whether your garden is in a raised bed or in the ground, so consider all available options. Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in your county are available online and by phone to help, and there are often workshops being offered to help in all phases of gardening.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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