You like the idea of a garden, but are you ready to commit? Planting and picking are fun, it’s all that stuff in the middle that you really need to think about.
Here are a few important things to consider when you daydream of gardens this winter.
Garden start-up is an investment
The costs associated with garden start-up can be surprising. It can actually be easier and more affordable to just join a local CSA or buy at the local farmer’s market.
If you’d still prefer to have your own garden, read on.
Start by drawing up your ideal plan and get pricing on building materials. Take everything into consideration – lumber, soil, fencing, tools, wheel barrow (so handy!) seeds, plants, etc.
I went with a local lumber yard and opted for rough cut lumber because of the cost savings. They delivered the wood which added to the price and we built and installed the boxes ourselves. We also built the fence around the garden.
A big regret I have is using a mix of fill/compost from a local landscaper. Not only was it weedy, it was not very nutritious. Compost is costly but it would have been a much better base to start the garden. Over time we’ve had to amend the soil with manure and bags of compost. This year I need to get the soil tested by the UNH Cooperative Extension so I know what I need to add this spring.
Winter is a great time of year to do the leg work and figure out how much your dream garden might cost you.
Do you have time?
Once the seeds are dropped and plants are in, you need to spend time in the garden each week to weed, water and tend to the plants. How much time you spend each will obviously depend on how much space you’re working.
I have ten raised beds and several pots which is just over 250 square feet of growing space. This takes me three to four hours each week to hand water, weed, check on the plants and do any needed maintenance. This could be simplified by adding irrigation, but cost is a factor and I actually find this time relaxing. Unless the kids are helping, then all bets are off for relaxing while watering.
Consider starting small
If you’re on the fence because you don’t want to commit the time, then you can always start small. Start with one or two raised beds, or even give potted plants a try at first. You can always add more later – just keep this in mind when installing fencing so you leave room for future growth.
If it doesn’t work out, you can just convert the beds into sand boxes for the kids. Or, plant something that doesn’t require a lot of work like pumpkins.
Available water supply
Whether it’s hoses, rain barrels or a babbling brook, having water near your garden site is ideal.
I was running multiple hoses back and forth across the lawn to water and it added at least 20 minutes to the weekly maintenance. It was ridiculous and annoying.
I eventually had a pipe installed under ground from the house to the garden and a spigot within the fenced in area. It was a game changer to have the water supply right there!
You’ll also want to consider dealing with drought. We’ve had some dry summers in New Hampshire and I’ve lost plants because I don’t want tostress our well to water the garden. It’s moments like these when shopping the local farmers market is much more appealing!
These are just a few of the things I’d suggest you consider when daydreaming about having a garden in the backyard. I’ve found it relaxing and rewarding to have a garden. My garden doubles as a place to grow food and as a gathering place for family and friends. And it’s a place of adventure and foraging for the kids, which is the absolute best return!