As we discussed in part 1 of the green thumb series soil can almost always be amended to make it viable for growing a garden. What is more difficult is finding the right location for your garden. While gardening of some type can be done almost anywhere, there are plenty of variables that can affect where and what you grow.
Plants need 3 things in order to grow, light, water, and good dirt. The location you choose for your garden can be watered, the soil can be amended but you must consider whether your plants will get enough light in order to grow. Choose a location that gets at least 8 to 10 hours of sun a day minimum. This is normally a south facing area. Take a look around possible spots and see if there is anything that can interfere with full sunlight. Trees, sheds, even shrubs can block light to your garden. The less light your garden gets the slower your plants will grow.
Adapting to the Light You Have
Sometimes there is nothing you can do about the sun exposure you have, or perhaps you only have a little bit of garden in full sun, and want to plant more. There are ways to adapt to what you have available. There are a number of plants that can be grown in less than 8 hours of sunlight and will thrive just fine. While you won’t find any vegetables or fruits that can grow in dense shade, there are several that have reduced requirement that may suit your space. Here is a table of plants and their specific light requirements.
Sunlight for Common Fruits and Vegetables
|3 to 6 hours of sun or constant dappled sunlight||6 to 8 hours minimum||Minimum of 8 hours a day|
|Salad Greens such as leaf lettuce, endive, arugala, romaine, cress||Beets||Corn|
|Beets||Cabbage||Squash - winter or summer, includes pumpkins|
|Leafy Greens such as kale, spinach, mustard greens||Cilantro||Green Beans|
|Potatoes and sweet potatoes|
Keep in mind that many plants will grow in partial shade and still provide a crop, just a diminished crop as compared to what they would have done in in full sun. As long as you are aware of this, you can still get a decent crop.
Other Location Factors That Can Affect Your Garden
There are a few other factors that you should keep in mind when planning where to put your garden. These factors can be adapted to fairly easily, but if you do not take precautions they can also affect how well your garden does.
Choose an Area Sheltered From Winds and Storms – High winds can play havoc with your crops, knocking plants to the ground, toppling trellises and damaging plants. If you cannot shelter plants and still provide them with full sun, you may want to consider putting up some sort of wind break. Determine which direction prevailing winds come from and add in a few shrubs, or other wind blocks to keep wind from wreaking havoc. Just be sure to position them so they do not affect sun.
Working with sloped Gardens – Working on the side of a hill or mountain presents some of its own special challenges. These areas are prone to erosion, so you must be prepared to protect all of that soil you worked so hard to develop. Heavy rains become your enemy and in unprotected gardens can sweep away soil fast.
Terracing is the ultimate solution to this problem, but it is expensive and takes a lot of time and effort. If you want a garden but are not in a place to terrace it just yet, consider building up berms in your garden to prevent the soil from washing away. Mulching the garden after it is planted can also help keep the soil in place. Finally the closer you plant plants together, the less soil that will be washed away. It can affect plant production when planting closer, but only slightly.
Another problem with hill gardens is that they can be difficult to keep watered. Much of the water runs off and never penetrates deeply. This is where slow drip irrigation can help. Use soaker hoses, install slow drip irrigation units or make your own irrigation stations out of two liter bottles and gallon jugs. By putting holes in the bottom of your bottles and sinking them into the ground next to your plants, you guarantee that water gets down to the roots where it needs to be. Simply make holes in the bottom of the bottle, remove the lid and sink the 2 liter bottles in next to plants. When it is time to water, fill up the bottles and the water will soak into the lower layers of the ground.