The following is a series of photos taken by Outreach Librarian Christopher Bisonette that will offer additional information, tips, and how to information for your educational enjoyment.
One of the most important aspects in creating and starting a garden is picking the location. This location where ever it may be in your yard should have plenty sun, perhaps a little shade, and access to water like a hose or sprinkler system. This picture shown above is an example of a poor location for a garden. This particular had some sun in the morning and late afternoon, but not enough direct sun as gardens need five to seven hours of direct sun per day. The garden I grew last year in this location was very good. It had to much shade, the trees dropped all their leaves onto this spot thus stunting most of the vegetables I had planted, and it didn't have a lot of sun as I stated earlier. This spot really caused me a lot problems so shall serve as a example of what not to do when picking a location for your garden.
This photo is an example of much better location for a garden. It was maybe 50 feet from my old location in the shade. This gets the needed five to seven hours of recommended sunlight for a successful garden to grow. However, this photo was taken right at the very beginning of the process when I had just started taking measurements for the garden, which I will talk about in different photo. On the right side of the photo you can see a fence that had some garbage, overgrown bushes, and plenty of weeds. With the permission of my landlord I will cleaned up the fence area and cut back a lot of the brush and actually bought myself maybe another 45 minutes of sun at the end of the day. The reason I cut this back was because this area had more shade than I wanted and to avoid last years issues cut some of the brush back to allow for more sun. Later photos will show before and after pictures of the cut back brushline. A few quick tips when cutting back brush is make sure you have the appropriate equipment like work gloves, shovels if want to dig up roots, and perhaps an electric or gas hedge trimmer to make it easier to cut the brush back. Make sure you wear proper clothing like long pants and long sleeved shirt to avoid poison ivy, bug and tick bites, and thorny plants that could easily cut yourself on. Gloves will provide protection to your hands and keep them from blistering. One final tip is make you take breaks when working in direct sunlight to prevent heat exhaustion, wear sunblock to prevent sunburns, and make sure you drink plenty of water so as not to become dehydrated.
This is a photo of the initial brushline that I had clean up before I started rototilling my garden. There were several branches, bushes, vines, and other related plants along this brushline that I had to cut away. The tools I used and I would recommend were a battery powered hedge trimmer, a wheelbarrow, garbage bags, possibly an ax, gloves, and perhaps eye goggles to protect your eyes. I would also recommend wearing work boots, long socks, work jeans, and perhaps a long sleeve shirt. This clothing will help protect you from scratches, bugs, and other related outdoor issues. This job could easily be done by one person, but perhaps having a second or third to help clear away the brush would make the job go faster. Make sure when clearing brush in direct sun to take breaks, drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen. One thing to note is that the brush is blocking our the sun some, which will inhibit plant growth depending on the type vegetable, fruit, or herbs being grown. Clearing this brush will provide some additional sunlight time.
This photo shows a completed job on the fence line cleanup and as can see it looks a lot better and you can see the shadow of the roof line of the next door house. Clearing this brush away actually provides an additional thirty to forty five minutes of extra sun, which as stated earlier is very important for vegetables, herbs, greens, and fruits.
This is a photo of the estimated size and shape of my garden. Shape and size of garden is an important aspect in gardening because if you make the garden to small you might not have space to plant everything you might to plant. Plants will overrun and crowd each other out for sun. So space is a critical for most vegetables. If you make the garden to big you might not be able to handle the garden itself as gardening takes a physical toll on the body. So a tip before you start planting is to determine what you want to plant and do a little research on plants spacing needs then consider the sizing of the garden based on what you want planted. Herbs for instance only need little pots to grow in and don't need a ton of a spacing. So if that's all you want to grow then little pots and planters are good. If you want to grow corn, pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers then you take into account that these types vegetable plants need lots of spacing to grow either along ground, fencing, or trellises. Shapes of gardens are somewhat important in that if you only have a small space then you need to take that into account when creating your gardening.
This photo is an example of me cutting a pattern into ground to create the shape and outline for my garden. I use this cut line in the grass to serve as a line of demarcation that I can follow when using the rototiller. You don't have to make cuts into the ground if you don't want to and if you think your good enough at eyeballing the size of the garden and just rototilling it.
Now once you have decided the location, size, and shape of the garden it is time to get to work using a rototiller. This photo shows an example of a standard four bladed rototiller that I used when creating my garden. The rototiller is designed to dig into the ground and tear up the sod and expose the dirt underneath the grass. Rototilling also allows the soil to be aerated, which is important in the growing process because it allows vegetable roots to grow deepers and grow more vigorous. You can keep going until the grass is completely shredded and you only a dirt spot. Make sure to rototill deep into the soil to really loosen up the soil. I would estimate to go maybe a foot or so as vegetable plant roots will grow deep like carrots, parsnips, and other similar types of vegetables. Most common rototillers are gas powered using oil to keep the the engine running. If the rototiller doesn't start then check the gas tank to see if you have gas, then make sure to check spark to see if it's still good, and then check the oil to make sure you have oil in the rototiller itself. The spark plug lasts a long time and may only need to be cleaned with a wire brush once or twice a year. The wire brush removes any debris or rust from the spark plug keeping it clean and useable. A dirty spark plug will not work if it is dirty. Make sure to also check the oil levels in the rototiller to make sure it has enough oil to run, It doesn't really need to be changed a lot since your only using the rototiller once or twice a year. (Important tip: "Do not ever start" the rototiller engine without oil in the engine or else you will seize up the rototiller engine and utterly destroy it).
This is a picture of a standard tomato cage. Tomato cages come in metal, plastic, or wooden frames. I have personally used metal and plastic tomato cages with a preference for metal cages as they last a longer. Plastic cages are bulky, a complete pain to assemble, break, bend, and twist after one or two seasons. They are useful because they tend to be bigger than metal cages and make great climbing trellises for cucumbers, beans, and peas. Metal cages are far more versatile to use and last a lot longer. Their cheap to buy and you can get your money's worth in a season or two. However, they do rust after several seasons, can be bent over time, and hard to fix once they break. I do like their versatility because I can use them tomatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, and other vined plants. A quick little story of mine is several years ago I planted a summer squash and placed a tomato cage above it to first see what would happen and second to allow the vines to go up the cage. Well I left for vacation and I came back a week later the squash had gone from looking like a normal summer squash on the ground to shooting up over ten feet in the air. I was astounded that the squash had done that since I have personally seen a squash do this. I attempted to cut the leaves of the squash down some and the more leaves I cut off the faster it grew and produced way more squash than I had ever seen a plant do. Summer squash typically yield five to six squash, but this plant produced ten to twelve that year.
This is a photo of a standard trellis that I have used the past couple years. Again trellises like tomato cages come in metal, plastic, and wooden designs. I would prefer the use of metal trellises as again they are more versatile and can be used for cucumbers, peas, and beans. However, they do rust and can break over time by rusting out. They are hard to fix once they break. The wooden trellises I have been using have been adequate for the price that I paid for them, but two of the three that I bought broke after one season of use. It essentially rotted out. Metal and plastic trellis are a bit more pricey than the wooden trellises.
This picture is an example of what a completed garden should like with soil amendments. The dark soil indicates that the soil is rich and conducive for growing. I would suggest that once you rototill your garden is to let the garden settle for a couple days. Some people suggest letting the gardens to sit for several week to months so that nutrients breakdown and helpful microorganisms can re-establish themselves in the tilled soil. Personally, I also find the soil too loose to plant anyway on the same day of tilling hence why I often wait a few days to a week or so. (Please note this is an example of what a garden should look like and not where it should be located as the new garden is right behind this picture).