How to Create a Garden

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Introduction: How to Create a Garden

About: We are members of the STEEEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Environment, Entrepreneurship, Math) club at Palmer Trinity School in Miami Florida.

My name is Ben Arnold and I am a high school junior who created an initiative called Seed to Salad to create gardens for local non-profit organizations in Miami, FL. After discovering my own love for gardening, I wanted to help others find their own path to a new sustainable future by helping them create their own gardens. Scientific studies have found gardening to be beneficial to our lives in so many ways, such as improving self-confidence and teamwork skills and reducing stress/anxiety. But, I noticed there was a problem. There were no practical, comprehensive instructions to help beginners get started on a garden. In this Instructable, I will teach you how to make a garden so it will be hassle-free for you. If you have a black thumb, you should at least be a yellow thumb by the end of this.

Supplies:

Garden Box:

Home Depot wood box

Fabric pots

Soil

Cardboard or weed fabric

Watering system:

Rain Bird watering timer

Drip irrigation

Hose

Nutrition:

Liquid kelp

Fish emulsion

Black Kow brand manure

Dry fertilizer (will be available at your local nursery)

Plants and soil:

Plants (dependent on what's available at your local nursery)

Soil (dependent on what's available)

Pest deterrents:

Neem Oil

BT

Extras:

Moisture + PH sensor

Moisture sensor only

Trellis

Snippers

Spray bottle

Step 1: Commitment

When planning a garden, you have to be willing to commit the time to maintain it. Your garden will be like a pet, except instead of the joy you get from owning and taking care of a pet, you will receive delicious food in return. I am sure we all have busy lives, so this Instructable will teach you how to set up a garden in order to get growing and eating those delicious fruits and vegetables as soon as possible.

Step 2: Location and Planning

First, you will need to decide on your location. A garden needs at least 8 hours of sun. Make sure that there are no trees casting shade over your chosen spot to prevent sufficient sunlight, and check it multiple times throughout the day before you make that final decision on where to start planting.

Step 3: Base

There are many different bases you can choose from - reclaimed wood, bricks, woven pots, or even in ground beds. If you are feeling savvy enough to make the bed yourself from wood or concrete pavers, you can look at other Instructables for info on how to do this.

Bed:

Depending on your age or back condition, you might want to settle for a raised garden bed for easier access. But, this can limit the types of plants you grow to those with less height.

Wood:

If you want to make it out of wood, then I recommend using Cedar, due to its longevity.

  • You have to make sure that it is not stained with chemicals because that can leach into the soil. You can choose to make it by yourself or use a kit. There are a multitude of different kits that you can use, but I recommend Home Depot, as they are easy and decently priced.

Pots:

Fabric pots are great because they prevent circling roots and allow you to move your garden if need be.

Inground garden:

While this is the cheapest option, it is the most labor intensive. Depending on where you live, you have to make sure you can easily dig deep into the soil. For example, in South Florida where I live, the first 5 inches or so from the surface is made out of hard limestone, which is not ideal.

Size:

When you are starting a garden for the first time, you should start small. So I recommend that you should either use a 4x4 or 4x8 foot bed.

Step 4: Soil

Soil is the most important component of the garden!!!!

If you are going to invest your money into a garden, you have to invest in high quality, organic nutrient-rich soil. This is the key to a successful garden.

How do you determine good quality soil?

Soil should crumble like your mom's fresh-baked cookies. I am serious - it should be just like the crumbs of a cookie.

Don't compact it! You want your soil to be nice and fluffy so that it allows the plant's roots to take in oxygen and expand quickly.

When picking out the soil at your big box gardening store or your local nursery, try to feel the soil or the outside of the bag to make sure the soil is fine with no large sticks and pieces of wood. This can be very hard to tell, but it's very important, so ask an employee for help.

Pick the correct soil for its application:

  • Raised bed soil for raised bed; potting soil for small pots

Improving your soil

There are many different ways to improve your soil. (You can check out the links at the end for useful resources.)

I have found that burying food scraps deep underneath the soil is great, because as they decompose, it helps provide food for beneficial microorganisms and worms.

  • Use one or two large tupperwares to collect food scraps
    • Any scraps from a plant are acceptable but do not put any meat or dairy products in the soil
    • Coffee grounds are also great, but use them sparingly as they can slightly increase the soil acidity.

Manure: Using Black Kow manure is a great way to add beneficial microorganisms. Follow the instructions on the bag.

pH

The pH is the measure of how acidic or basic a solution is. Plants like slightly acidic soil. However, this is hard to detect without using a pH sensor and it's generally hard to adjust the pH without knowing some chemistry! If you follow all the steps above, your pH should be at its optimal level.

The bottom line is that if you buy the proper soil, mix in manure as directed on the top layer, and add food scraps at the bottom, then you will create healthy living soil that will attract worms and be teeming with life.

Step 5: Plants

When to Plant and Type of Plants

When planting, you have to consider two things: When to plant and what type of plant.

I recommend using the Seed to Spoon app to find out which plants you can grow in your climate and the best dates to do so. You will be able to set your location and the app will provide you with a lot of useful information.

For amateurs, I recommend that you buy seedlings rather than seeds, as they will have a much higher chance of survival during transplanting than growing seeds from scratch.

You can visit your local nursery or garden center for plants.

  • Home Depot has a great return policy if your plants die.

Layout

When laying out your garden, use the Seed to Spoon app to put "friends" near each other and "enemies" far away. This will help build a symbiotic relationship between the plants.

  • Tomato tip: When planting tomatoes, plant them at a slight angle and also deep enough, so that the soil will cover about 1 inch of the stem. Make sure none of the leaves are buried in the soil. You can rip them off.
    • Also, depending on how much space you have, consider determinate vs indeterminate varieties and bush vs vining varieties, as they will grow to different sizes
      • Determinate has a set size, such as 3 feet tall
      • Indeterminate will keep growing

Harvesting

Refer to the internet for when plants are ready to harvest.

Step 6: Water

Choosing a Delivery System

There are two options for you to deliver water to your garden.

Drip irrigation:

This is great for smaller gardens and for preserving water because it directly delivers water to the roots. It is also quite easy to control and works well.

Sprinkler attached to a hose:

While this is the less expensive option, it is not ideal because it wastes water and it is less efficient at delivering water directly to the plants as they get larger.

Setting Up and Controlling Your System for Drip Irrigation

  1. Connect your Rain Bird water timer to the faucet
    1. In my opinion, this is the best device. Very reliable and easy to use.
  2. Run a hose from the Rain Bird out to your garden
  3. Connect the hose to your drip irrigation kit and set it up in the garden. See kit instructions for help.
    1. Note: You might need to get an adapter for connecting the Rain Bird to your hose. In order to prevent leaks, you may need to use theTeflon waterproof tape at the attachment sites that screw together. Teflon usually comes in the irrigation kit.
  4. Check to make sure your layout is delivering water evenly across your soil.

I have found that using this drip irrigation system makes everything very simple and will make watering your garden hassle-free. I used this system on a garden I built for a nonprofit in my area as well as at my home and we have not had any problems. If you have a zoned sprinkler system for your yard, you can use that instead of the Rain Bird timer.

When and How Much to Water

This all depends on your location. See below for a general rule of thumb in a more hot, sunny environment like in Florida. If you live in a cooler climate, you may need to adjust the frequency and duration of your watering to less, and really use your moisture meter to adjust accordingly. As soon as you plant, make sure you wet the soil thoroughly. For the first two weeks after planting, have the system water twice each day. It should go on in the early morning right before the sun comes up and then again in mid-afternoon. It should be on for 7 minutes. I also recommend putting some hay around the plants' bases to help reduce evaporation. Keep an eye on your plants and keep checking them throughout the day if possible to make sure they aren't starting to droop from under watering. The Rain Bird only waters twice a day, so you may need to help give them a little extra water while they become situated. If you think the soil is too wet (you may even notice some mushrooms growing), then back off on the duration of watering. If you can make it past the two week period after transplanting without killing your plants, then you should be fine. After about one month, you can change your system timing to water every other day or less frequent, depending on how hot it is and how much it's raining in your area.

How to know if the soil is properly wet: You can either use a moisture meter and make sure it's in the "moist to wet' range, or if you are a green thumb, you can use your finger.

Step 7: Nutrients

Initial Nutrients

This is the next important thing to consider. Having the right nutrients will allow your plants to grow big and strong.

After you fill your garden bed with soil, shake dry nutrients following the instructions on the bag.

Pour Black Kow manure and mix it into the first couple inches of soil. Do not settle for the cheaper compost/manure because it will contain larger bits of material, which is bad for the plants. I learned this the hard way!

Now your garden bed should be nice and full of nutrients.

Nutrient Maintenance

You are going to need to keep feeding your plants nutrients throughout the year. I recently found that the best method is to use the foliar spray technique to apply a combination of fish emulsion and liquid kelp per the instructions. This stuff is insane and will make your garden as productive as possible. While it smells horrible, I 100% recommend that you use it.

  1. Spray it onto the tops and bottoms of the leaves at dawn or dusk (when stoma are open) once every week or two.
    1. By doing this, you are directly providing nutrients straight to where they are needed.

You should also add the normal dry fertilizer to the soil every month or so according to the instructions on the bag.

After using a foliar spray with fish emulsion and liquid kelp, I have noticed an extraordinary result in how my plants have been growing.


Step 8: Pests and Disease

Pests will become your worst enemy.

You are going to want to catch them early before major damage can occur

Pest Deterrents:

Neem oil: This is an effective, organic, harmless pesticide for deterring soft body pests such as aphids, and it won't hurt pollinators.

Tip: If you don’t have many pollinators, such as bees, you can use a finger or q-tip to pollinate your flowers yourself.

BT: This is a great organic pesticide that gets rid of tomato hornworm and also eliminates those annoying pesky caterpillars that can decimate plants, especially cucumbers.

Tip: When spraying, make sure you get the tops and bottoms of the leaves.

Disease:

Diseases are much harder to combat, but they seem less common. If you have healthy plants, they will be able to fight the disease themselves. Some diseases also come from overwatering, so be careful about that. If you see diseased leaves, remove them and dispose of them away from the plant to prevent spreading.

If you are providing lots of nutrients to the plants and repelling bugs, then you should not have to worry about diseases generally.

Step 9: Miscellaneous

Gardening Information:

Mark, from the YouTube channel Self Sufficient Me, provides excellent videos about gardening. I have learned many tips from him.

You should also invest in some handy dandy clippers for pruning and harvesting veggies and a sprayer for applying nutrients and pesticides.

Trellis

Some plants, like tomatoes and cucumbers, require trellises to climb as they grow. You can either build your own trellis like I did out of bamboo or buy trellis kits online.

Step 10: Final Thoughts

I hope you have learned enough to feel empowered to build your own garden and start down the path of becoming more self-sufficient in order to better the world for yourself and others. With a garden, you will eat healthier and feel more connected to the earth. Remember that mistakes are common and sometimes not every plant will do well. But, the process of starting your own garden has many benefits and is very fulfilling as you learn along the way. If you have any questions you can email me at asben0217@gmail.com.

Thank you to the Maker Hub Club Initiative for funding the irrigation system for Seed to Salad's first garden project, created for a local nonprofit called Casa Valentina. I encourage any student maker to check them out here: https://www.makerhubclub.org/ to become a part of this incredible organization.

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    11 Discussions

    1
    Cat00x
    Cat00x

    15 days ago

    Thank you for this detailed instructable! Great information.

    2
    ELECTRONFLYER1
    ELECTRONFLYER1

    15 days ago

    great job guys when it comes to pests do not forget you can go out early and hand pick them off also install a bird bath birds will come for a drink and bath and stay for a healthy bug lunch also consider getting and seeding lady bugs and praying mantis in your garden ants bring aphids so put out some ant bait soapy water will kill and deter ant/aphids good harvest

    0
    The STEEEM Club
    The STEEEM Club

    Reply 15 days ago

    Thank you for the great ideas! I have tried some of them to different levels of success. It's a constant battle!

    0
    randofo
    randofo

    4 weeks ago

    Nice garden!

    0
    The STEEEM Club
    The STEEEM Club

    Reply 15 days ago

    Thank you!

    0
    leslielimpid
    leslielimpid

    15 days ago

    Awfully complicated all you really need is to remove the grass sod and dig the soil underneath to a shovel depth. If the soil is poor add compost or manure and mix thoroughly.
    Start simple the easiest things to grow are beans, potatoes and tomatoes for greens try Swiss chard. Water with a garden hose with a spray nozzle. Pests can be controlled by a spray bottle 1 litre with a tablespoon of shampoo. Rotate where you plant each crop and leave a section fallow(unplanted or cover crop) every year.
    This is all that is needed the rest is nice stuff, that you can add if you continue to garden, I see many fancy raised bed garden plots abandoned after a couple of years due to lack of interest or commitment. From a gardener for 68 years.

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    1
    The STEEEM Club
    The STEEEM Club

    Reply 15 days ago

    Thank you for the great input. Unfortunately in Miami, where I live, we have no topsoil. You hit rock very quickly. So raised bed gardens are very common. Keep on gardening!