Now that spring is finally here, the sunlight will last longer, bringing warmer temperatures and new life into our natural spaces. Early spring is a great time to clean up, get outside, and recommit to your sustainable living practices by starting a new garden.

Sustainable Living: Planning a New Garden

Whether you’re building a new garden from scratch or refreshing an old one, let’s go through what you need to start your garden the sustainable way. 

Best Time to Start a New Garden

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to start your new garden, tend to your plants and flowers, and grow your own food — now is the perfect time to start!

When is the best time to start planting? Most plants can be planted in April when the warming weather is here to stay — but many hardier greens can handle being in the ground a bit earlier, even weeks before the final frost of spring. For accurate planting times for different species, check out this list.

Before planting, you’ll want to make sure you’ve created a plan for your new garden, to make your efforts more successful — and sustainable.

How to Start a New Garden

Starting a new garden can be a rewarding experience. It’s a great way to get some exercise, take in the fresh air, and grow your own organic produce — you can even save money on your grocery bills. If you don’t already have a space to start growing plants, you’ll need to start by building a garden.

Build Your New Garden

When building a new garden, you’ll want to choose a spot that gets good light during the day, can easily drain away excess water, and is easily accessible from your home. Even shady, cool spots can work well for growing many types of plants, as long as you limit watering to keep the soil from becoming oversaturated.

Start Small to Grow Your New Garden

The size of your garden can vary, but keep it manageable for your schedule, especially to start.To be successful, your new garden doesn’t have to be a huge, multi-acre enterprise. In fact, when you’re just planning a new garden, it’s best to start with a small area you can expand on, and grow your garden each year.

To get your garden ready for planting, you’ll need a few supplies:

  • Soil — mixed for gardening to encourage proper drainage and water retention 
  • Tools — for digging, weeding, and pruning plants
  • Natural Fertilizers — ideally made from organic sources, like compost or manure

You can build your new garden on a flat plot, construct raised beds for planting, or practice container gardening, where all of your garden plants are in large pots. Make sure your plants have enough space in their containers, or between them if they’re planted in rows. Proper plant spacing can vary between different plant species.

Choosing Plants for Your New Garden

As you’re building your new garden, you can plan out which plants you want to grow and where to plant them. Choose plants that will add the most value to your life. These can be fruits or vegetables that you use often to cook (tomatoes, basil, zucchini, etc.), are expensive to buy at the store, or are useful to you for other projects (gourds, pumpkin, sage, etc.)

Keep in mind that not all plants will grow well in your region or where you’ve placed your garden. While some factors like shade and sunlight can be adjusted — by placing taller plants in the path of the sun, building your garden in a sunny location, adding shade cloth, irrigation, and fertilizer, etc — some plants do best in other climates or conditions that aren’t practical for you to recreate on a garden scale.

It’s a good idea to plant many different varieties of plants to encourage biodiversity. These can include native flowers and plants that are sure to thrive and provide a habitat for beneficial insects, pollinators, and other fauna. Some plants can also act as natural defenses against pests and protect your garden without the need for harmful pesticides.

Maintaining Your New Garden

Tend to your plants by watering as needed and as close to the roots as possible to prevent evaporation and waste. Drip irrigation systems can be very efficient at this. You can also regularly fertilize your plants using natural fertilizers and compost to add nutrients to the soil.

Avoid using pesticides or chemicals on your garden that could harm your plants or the environment. Instead, tolerate minor insect damage, embrace cosmetic imperfections on your produce, and research alternatives and growing combinations that can deter insects naturally.

Plan to Expand Your Garden Over Time

The first year you grow your new garden you can expect to learn a lot: what plants grow well in what part of your garden, which ones struggled and didn’t thrive, how much water they really need, and the spacing between different plants in your garden. Make notes of what worked and what didn’t and try not to get too discouraged if your garden didn’t produce first-place winners at the county fair.

Next year, try new plants, try different arrangements, and rotate where plants are in the garden to encourage minerals and nutrients to enrich the soil naturally. Continue to expand your garden as you learn more and you’re sure to see better results each year.

Keep Learning Using Local Resources

Asheville has many local resources you can use to practice sustainable living and become a better gardener. Visit your local farmers market and ask for advice, attend a workshop at the Organic Growers School, or dive into some literature at the library. Your community gardens are also a great place to get started and build your gardening skills. If you’re committed to improving your new garden, there are plenty of ways to keep learning and keep growing.

New Gardener Tips for Sustainable Living

Starting a new garden can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to gardening altogether. To help you ease in, here are some of the best sustainable gardening tips we’ve come across:

  • Conserve water by watering plants with collected rainwater from a rain barrel
  • Add mulch to your garden beds to help retain moisture
  • Pull weeds by hand — you get more exercise and eliminate the need for harmful sprays
  • Collect garden waste, yard clippings, and other organic content to add to your compost pile or contribute to your community composting program
  • Reuse plastic pots in your garden and recycle them once they’re ready to retire
  • Avoid planting flowers or plants that are considered invasive to your area
  • Opt for native plants that require less water to thrive
  • Test the soil before making adjustments: over-fertilizing can make plants vulnerable to disease and imbalanced soil pH can also affect plant health
  • If you do add chemicals or synthetic fertilizers, do so during dry weather to avoid runoff.

Ready to sink your hands into the soil? Grow roots at Couch Mountain! In our sustainable mountain community, you’ll have the opportunity to grow your own food, raise chickens, and even contribute to the local pollinator population. To learn more about life at Couch Mountain, reach out to our team.

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