When planning a garden first decide what type of garden you want and how much space you have to work with. The books I've read state that the novice gardener should start out small because a larger more ambitious project can be overwhelming. The size of your garden also depends on what types of plants, fruits and veggies you are planning to grow. Are you planning on planting a salad garden or do you want to make it through most of the winter without having to relie as much on your local grocery store. Either option can prove very economical if you live in an area like mine where fast food joints abound and grocery stores are a rarity. Just imagine the amount of money you'll save on gas if all you have to do is take a few short steps to your garden to harvest your produce!
Start your journey by visiting your local library. Gardening books are on display right now. Check out at least two or three books to use as reference. I'm using Rodale's Successful Organic Gardening; Companion Planting and finding it extremely useful. After you've conducted your research, decide what types of plants you want to grow. The next step is very important. Deciding where to purchase your seeds! I've obtained a lot of my seeds from the seed exchange in Old Town last month. Seed exchanges through gardening groups are a good way to get seeds for free and you can also gleam a lot of useful information during the process. I've also purchased some of my seeds at the Family Dollar Store in my area. Organic seeds can be purchased at any gardening supply store. There is also a good variety of organic seeds at the local Coop's. Folks at the Coop are very friendly and willing to offer a plethora of organic gardening information.
Your next big item purchase should be a bag of potting soil, preferably organic. While you are out purchasing potting soil check out the prices for seedling pots. Seedling pots are tiny pots made out of a paper like material that decomposes when you transplant your seedlings in your garden. If you feel like spending the extra money splurge and buy some, if not, use empty egg cartons. I usually have a stash of empty egg cartons on hand which I have acquired throughout the year.
After you've purchased the main ingredients to start your seedlings go to your kitchen and clear off a table or small section of counter top and commence! Mix a couple of scoops of potting soil with some water in a bowl until the soil is just wet and pliable enough to scoop into the pots or egg cartons. Follow the instructions on your seed packets for each type of seed in order to determine what depth you should plant your seeds. I recommend using a small spoon to scoop the wet potting soil into the pots or egg cartons because it's easier to control the amount of soil you place in the pots. Some seeds like Marigolds require that you barely cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil while corn and pumpkin seeds require that you plant the seeds at a depth of four inches.
After you've planted your seeds place the pots in an area where they can benefit from the most direct sunlight. Water your seedlings with a spritzer bottle set on "mist" several times a day. It is most beneficial to start your seedlings inside because most of New Mexico is in zone seven so the last frost in some areas could be as late as May! Also, as we've seen lately, your seedlings will not be beat up by the winds outside!
Seed germination varies so be patient, your seeds will sprout! Some will seem to sprout all at once like my radishes! Peppers, marigolds, and cilantro seem to take longer to sprout. I'm still waiting for my Marigolds to sprout as I write this blog but at least I won't have a shortage of radishes and tomatoes! Yummmmm! Happy planting!