Do you dream of a backyard filled with delicious dinner ingredients but don't know where to begin? Maybe you've been gazing at that perfect patch of sunny space in your yard but worry that turning it into a garden will be a difficult chore. Forget your worries and start planning your menus, because creating an in-ground garden can actually be a pretty simple process! Here's what to do.
1. Choose the right location
First, select a space that's fairly level and drains well, as your plants will be unhappy in standing water. Choose a location near the house, if possible. The more visible the garden, the more likely you'll be to spot any problems like droopy plants or pest-eaten leaves early on, giving you time to handle them before they get out of control. A garden located near the house or walkway also makes it easier to quickly harvest a handful of herbs when you're cooking or to pluck ripe tomatoes at their prime.
When selecting your site, look for a space that receives six to eight hours of full sun. Most vegetables and fruit, like peppers, tomatoes, and melons, need full sun to thrive and produce bountiful harvests. If your space is only partly sunny, don't despair—you can still grow crops like lettuce, kale, and many herbs. Know, too, that the amount of sunlight the space receives might vary during the year. A garden space that's full sun in December may turn into a shady spot once the deciduous trees leaf out in the spring.
Also, locating your in-ground garden near a water source will make your life much easier. Gardens need about an inch of water each week, and during dry periods, you'll need to assist Mother Nature in watering the garden. When that happens, you won't want to have to drag a hose across the lawn.
Think about garden size, too. If you're a new gardener, you may want to keep your first in-ground garden relatively small.
Finally, remember that existing shrubs, trees, or other plants near the garden will compete with your vegetables and herbs for water and nutrients. Also, avoid planting near black walnut trees, which contain a toxin that kills vegetable plants.
2. Create the design.
Once you've selected a site for your in-ground garden, spend a little time envisioning how you'd like it to look. Measure the space and use graph paper to plot out the dimensions. If it covers a sizable area, divide it into beds that are no wider than four feet so you can reach across to plant, weed, and harvest without having to step on the soil. Be sure to leave space for paths between the beds, and make them wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow.
3. Choose your plants.
Next, think about what you want to grow. Make a list of vegetables and herbs you like to eat and add them to your garden plan, paying attention to how much space each individual plant will need. The vegetables and herbssections of our websitearegreat resources for this information, as well as info on plant sizes, sun needs, length to harvest, and more.If you plan to grow peas, pole beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, or other vining plants, sketch in trellises or cages to support them. (Make sure to place these where they won't shade other crops.) Place crops that spread—like pumpkins and watermelons—where they can grow out onto the grass and not take over the entire garden.
To find the best tomatoes and peppers for your needs and your garden, check out our interactive Tomato Chooser and Pepper Chooser. And don't forget to add some flowers to your plan that will help draw pollinators!
4. Remove the existing lawn.
Now it's time to head outside to your garden area. Measure out your garden beds according to your plan, then outline them by sprinkling some flour or placing stakes in each corner and attaching strings between them. Once you've outlined your space, rake it to remove any debris. Then, remove the grass (and any rocks or sticks you dig up) with a sod cutter or sharp spade.
5. Build the soil.
You may think you're ready to plant, but there's one more important thing to do first: Improve the soil. Strong, healthy plants need good soil to thrive and produce well, and your existing soil may not be rich enough to support your garden. The easiest way to improve your soil is to mix a few inches of Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables and Herbs in with the existing dirt to both improve the texture and add just the right nutrients to get your plants off to a strong, well-fed start. (Bonus: It will also help protect against over- and under-watering.) A couple of other options are to mix compost in with the native soil or, if you're feeling ambitious, do a soil test and follow the instructions for adding amendments.
6. Set out your plants.
When you're ready to plant, choose Bonnie Plants. With more than a 100 years of experience, we know how to grow strong, vigorous plants for your garden. You can find your nearest Bonnie Plants retailer here.
Set your plants out according to your garden plan, then check each plant tag to see how deep to plant it. Dig holes, place plants in the holes at the right depth, then fill in around the plants with soil. Gently press down around the base of each plant and water well to remove air pockets and settle the soil. After all of your plants are in their new home, add a layer of mulch around the plants to help the soil retain moisture.
7. Maintain your new in-ground garden.
Congratulations—you've created an in-ground garden! Of course, you'll need to do a little maintenance during the growing season to help your plants along:
- Check the soil regularly to see if you need to water. Stick your finger about an inch into the soil. If if the soil feels dry, it's time to water. Aim toward the base of each plant to avoid splashing water on the leaves, which can lead to disease.
- Keep an eye on the surrounding lawn to ensure it doesn't start creeping back into the garden beds. Also, remove weeds frequently so they don't steal water and nutrients from your plants.
- Now matter how nutrient-rich your soil is at the beginning of the season, you'll need to add more food to keep up with your hungry plants' appetites. Give them regular helpings of Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed Tomato, Fruit, and Vegetable Food, which contains natural ingredients like kelp, bone meal, feather meal, and earthworm castings, plus extra calcium for stronger cell walls, to help plants grow strong and deliver a big harvest. Be sure to follow the directions on the label.
- Keep an eye out for pests and take care of them as soon as you see them. A strong stream of water can remove aphids and hand-picking worms (like cabbageworms or tomato hornworms) is easy.
Now comes the best part—harvesting and savoring your delicious crops! If you're not certain when to pick your vegetables and herbs, you'll find tips on our Bonnie Plants website. Looking for ways to use your harvest? You'll find garden fresh recipeson the Bonnie Plants website, too.Aren't you glad you dug up that bit of lawn and created your own in-ground garden? Soon, you'll be growing so much produce that you'll have plenty to share. Enjoy the harvest!
Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
I am an expert and enthusiast-based assistant. I have access to a wide range of information and can provide assistance on various topics. I can help you with your questions about creating an in-ground garden, as mentioned in this article.
Choosing the Right Location
To create an in-ground garden, it is important to choose the right location. Look for a space that is fairly level and drains well, as plants will not thrive in standing water. It is also beneficial to select a location near your house or walkway, as this makes it easier to spot any problems with the plants and quickly harvest herbs or ripe tomatoes. Additionally, most vegetables and fruits require full sun to thrive, so choose a space that receives six to eight hours of sunlight each day. If your space is only partly sunny, you can still grow crops like lettuce, kale, and many herbs. Keep in mind that the amount of sunlight may vary throughout the year. Lastly, consider locating your garden near a water source to make watering easier, as gardens typically need about an inch of water each week.
Creating the Design
Once you have selected a site for your in-ground garden, spend some time envisioning how you would like it to look. Measure the space and use graph paper to plot out the dimensions. If the garden covers a sizable area, divide it into beds that are no wider than four feet so you can easily reach across to plant, weed, and harvest without stepping on the soil. Leave space for paths between the beds, making sure they are wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow.
Choosing Your Plants
Next, think about what you want to grow in your garden. Make a list of vegetables and herbs that you enjoy eating and add them to your garden plan. Consider the space each plant will need and sketch in trellises or cages for vining plants like peas, pole beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Place crops that spread, such as pumpkins and watermelons, where they can grow out onto the grass without taking over the entire garden. You can also add flowers to your plan to attract pollinators.
Removing the Existing Lawn
Before planting, you will need to remove the existing lawn in the designated garden area. Measure out your garden beds according to your plan and outline them by sprinkling flour or placing stakes in each corner and attaching strings between them. Once you have outlined the space, rake it to remove any debris and use a sod cutter or sharp spade to remove the grass, rocks, and sticks.
Building the Soil
Improving the soil is crucial for the success of your garden. Mix a few inches of Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables and Herbs with the existing soil to improve its texture and provide the necessary nutrients for your plants. Another option is to mix compost into the native soil. If you want to be more precise, you can also do a soil test and follow the instructions for adding amendments.
Setting Out Your Plants
Once the soil is prepared, it's time to set out your plants. Choose strong and healthy plants from a reputable source. Dig holes according to the planting depth specified on the plant tags, place the plants in the holes, and fill in around them with soil. Gently press down around the base of each plant and water well to remove air pockets and settle the soil. After planting, add a layer of mulch around the plants to help retain moisture in the soil.
Maintaining Your Garden
To ensure the success of your in-ground garden, regular maintenance is necessary. Check the soil regularly to determine if watering is needed. Stick your finger about an inch into the soil, and if it feels dry, it's time to water. Avoid splashing water on the leaves to prevent disease. Keep an eye on the surrounding lawn to prevent it from encroaching on the garden beds, and remove weeds frequently to prevent them from competing with your plants for water and nutrients. Additionally, provide your plants with the necessary nutrients by using a fertilizer specifically formulated for vegetables and herbs. Finally, watch out for pests and take appropriate measures to control them. Harvest your crops when they are ready, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
I hope this information helps you create a successful in-ground garden! Let me know if you have any further questions.