Garden Planning – Step 2: Pick Your Plants

Garden Series: Choosing Your Plants

By now, you should have your growing space all sorted out. For easy reference, we recommend writing down the conditions of your growing space. This will make it easy for you to reference when picking out your plants.  

Example:

Full sun (approx 6hrs), raised beds, easy access to water

Or

Part sun (approx 4 hours) in ground planting, limited water access.

 

Now, before we dive in we want to give a bit of a disclaimer that we ask you to do some research in the section below😱 Don’t let this intimidate you – growing a garden is a learning experience so get pumped your plants won’t be the only ones growing this season!  (Plus, thanks to technology, all of the information can easily be found with a quick Google search.)

If you are hoping to utilize your garden to cut down on your grocery bills, create a list of your favorite fruits and vegetables. If your goal is to brighten up your outdoor space with flowers, consider planting pollinator plants and native flowers like the eastern purple coneflower, to attract helpful bees and butterflies to your garden.

Eastern marigold

Eastern purple coneflower

If you have the space, we suggest planting a mix of flowers and fruits!

Flowers like marigolds send off odors that repel herbivores, like deer, that might try to eat your produce. If you plan on growing fruit, it is critical to plant pollinators nearby so that bees and other pollinators can pollinate the flowers so that the fruit can grow. In short, no pollination = no fruit production. 

 

Bee on Marigold

Bee on Marigold

When picking your plants, another awesome thing to consider is companion planting. You can think of companion planting as placing your plants with their best friends. When we are next to our best friends, we tend to do better, keep our attitudes positive and grow to be healthier and more confident individuals. The same can be said when planting certain plants next to each other.

As you choose plants for your garden, whether you are focused on vegetable crops or simply a healthy pollinator garden, do a bit of background research to see which plants like each other the most. 

Companion planting with lettuce and scallions

Companion planting with lettuce and scallions

 

A popular and effective trio is corn, beans and squash. This trio is known as the Three Sisters Guild, and was learned from the Indigenous peoples of this region. The corn stalks grow tall, and suck up the nitrogen in the soil, the beans vine around the corn stalks, bringing nitrogen back into the soil, while squash creeps along the ground, covering the soil helping to avoid erosion, and contain moisture that’s usually lost through evaporation as the sun hits the soil. 

Start with a list of all the things you want to plant. Once it’s complete, cross reference with your growing conditions. It is important to note how much sun, water, and space plants will need (this will come in handy for the next step in our gardening series). 

When you do your cross reference, hopefully the plants align and the things you want to grow will work with your conditions. But most likely there will at least a few outliers that don’t work for your area.

For example, if some of your choices require full sun, but you were planning your garden in a shadier area, you have two options: Research and choose plants that do better in the shade or consider moving your garden to a sunnier spot.

Your growing requirements don’t have to exactly match up with the plant needs, but keep in mind that if you plant something that likes a lot of sun in a shadier space, it will most likely not grow as well and will probably produce less. Same goes for water and space requirements.

But ultimately, growing a garden is an experiment. So if you are dead set on growing tomatoes and the only spot you have to grow them in a space that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, go for it! The worst that can happen is you have an unhappy plant and some more garden experience. 

Stay tuned for next week when we create planting plans and discuss the best way to start growing!

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