Not much beats biting into a sweet tomato, still warm from the sun and that you grew yourself, or raising the perfect combination of colorful perennials. Having a garden means experiencing multiple rewards, but it's not the type of project that can successfully happen merely with good intentions. Some researching and planning is needed before planting occurs. Deciding a garden's overall function offers a good starting point. Considering design elements, careful plant selection and having the right tools to nurture plants as they grow are also necessary steps.
Choose One Purpose
First decide what you want your garden to accomplish for you. Will it provide vegetables throughout the summer and enough to can for winter meals? Will it attract, feed and protect butterflies? Perhaps only herbs will be grown for culinary use, dried bouquets or to sell at farmers' markets. Maybe a perennial flower garden is desired that will showcase blooms throughout the growing season. There are numerous themes and functions that gardens serve, according to University of Florida Extension.
Location is Key
A garden's location is crucial to its success. Many flowers, vegetables and herbs enjoy lots of sun. Purdue University's Extension suggests finding a spot that receives at least six hours of daily sun and has soil that drains well.
Grow Hardy Plants
After a good site has been chosen, plants should be selected that will serve the appropriate function and be able to grow in the climate they will be planted. Seeds can be purchased at places like local nurseries, home improvement stores and groceries, but Washington State University Extension warns care should be taken to buy seeds that will grow in that particular USDA hardiness zone. Growers can read up beforehand on plant requirements and physical characteristics, which are used to determine how big the garden should be. Purdue University advises graphing the garden's outline on paper to help visualize where plants will be planted.
Graph a Design
Graphing the garden will also help growers decide on how other design and functional features, like stepping stones, walkways or a bench, will fit it. Taller plants will create more shade, and so their placement should be carefully considered, as should varieties that are shorter and may be better suited for borders. Order, function and beauty are the goals, University of Illinois Extension states.
Have the Right Tools
Soil needs to be sufficiently churned, or worked, before planting begins. Rototillers, shovels, spades and rakes help accomplish this task and can be used to incorporate organic matter that will make the soil more fertile for growing, the National Gardening Association says.
Provide Growing Room
Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service suggests gardeners avoid planting plants too closely, and working in the soil and with plants during soggy conditions. It encourages mulching to help retain soil moisture, thinning young plants so they have room to grow and examining the garden often for pests and diseases.