You’re about to begin a journey– one that will reward you and your family for a long time. Your garden can produce vegetables and fruit for many years if you choose a good location and treat the soil with respect.
Digging the soil or creating the raised bed will require the most effort of all the preparations you will make, so put some thought into where to locate the garden so you won’t have to move it in future years.
(If you are planning to garden in containers, this won’t be a problem. If the spot you choose isn’t ideal, you can simply move the containers to another location next year.)
Most fruits and vegetables need full sun to do well. OK, what exactly is “full sun?” Full sun is defined as at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. More is better.
If you don’t have any areas that get that much sun, you might still be able to grow some crops that can produce in part-sun (defined as 3-6 hours of sun daily– preferably in the morning and early afternoon) like lettuces.
If you try to grow full sun crops in part-sun locations the plants will be tall and spindly and the fruit will be small and less plentiful. Place containers on a sunny patio to supplement your actual garden in this case.
The next consideration is drainage. If the area you are considering has puddles remaining after a rain, or if the soil remains muddy for an extended time, the drainage is poor, and your garden will suffer if located there. Choose an area that is level with or slightly higher than the surrounding areas, or consider building raised beds.
Raised beds can be simply mounds of soil that encourage the rains to drain faster, or actual framed beds filled with soil. The choice of framing is up to you. Lumber that is treated with garden-safe chemicals (check with your lumber supplier to be sure) would be a framing material that is effective and looks aesthetically pleasing as well, but concrete blocks or stones will work, too, if you are not as concerned with the appearance of the garden beds.
Close to the house, if possible.
Try to place the garden near enough to your house (ideally the kitchen) so that you can easily harvest and check on things every day. (And so you can catch an insect or disease problem before it gets too bad.) And you’ll need a place you can reach with a hose for easy watering of newly-planted seeds and transplants, and all plants during dry spells.
Watch this blog for part 2 of this series: Preparing the Soil.