small-- Enthusiasm for gardening is great but can rapidly dry up
when the work mounts. Start with a small flower bed, say 25 square
feet, which is room for around 20 to 30 plants with
perhaps three types of annuals and one or two perennials. You can always
increase you plantings as your experience grows.
Some people will want to make a detailed landscaping plan and
dig a flower bed to fit that scheme.
Choose a site-- How much sun an area
gets is a prime consideration. Six hours of sunlight will do for the greatest
variety of plants. Stay away from underground utility lines and allow at
least three feet from a building or fence.
In hot climates, like Oklahoma, it is best to have some
shade from the relentless afternoon sun, so a flower bed to the
east of a building or fence usually works best. This also gives some
protection from the hot drying winds that usually come from the west. In cool climates, beds that face south or west work well.
You can grow a garden even if you get 12 hours of full sunlight,
but you should be more careful about which flowers you choose to grow.
Pick ones that love full exposure to the sun. Your garden
will also need more watering on a consistent basis.
Choose a site with good soil, if possible. All soils can be
improved by adding topsoil, compost and manure, but try to avoid areas with shallow rocky soil, areas where
water stands, or steep slopes. Stay 20 feet or more away from
a large tree or five feet away from a sizable bush.
Trees will compete with your garden for water and nutrients. A soil
test will help to determine what nutrients the soil requires and will tell
you the fertilizers that soil needs as well as its pH. Call the local agricultural extension service to find out by soil tests or search online for a commercial testing company.
You don't necessarily need a soil test to get started, but if you
are serious about gardening, you may want to get a soil test from your local
Department of Agriculture extension service.Testing Garden Soil
Start digging--Once you locate a site
and mark out the boundaries with a water hose, remove all sod and pieces
of grass or weeds that may resprout. Using a spade or garden fork, completely
dig up the bed to at least eight inches deep, a foot deep is better. Remove
rocks or any debris.
Using a rake, level the bed and break up any clods. Add
one or more inches of compost or manure, more if the soil is poor.
If the soil is sandy, it would be a good idea to add peat moss or grass
cuttings to improve the soil's water holding capacity. Add lime if the
soil is too acid. Most plants like neutral to slightly acid soil.
Soil amendments such as compost can be bought by the bag or
sometimes by the truckload. Work the amendments into the top six inches
of soil along with a general purpose fertilizer such as 10-20-10.
Buy the plants or seeds then plant according to their directions. Use manure tea to help the transplants get off to a good start.
Smaller plants go in the front of the bed. Most plants are planted at the
same depth they were growing. Firm the soil around them. Water
thoroughly. And most of all--enjoy!