Starting a Garden
I want to start a garden in my backyard. My neighbor told me he started a raised garden and had lots of success his first year. I want to do the same, but would prefer to plant directly into the ground. Can you offer some steps I need to get started? Here is what I have done so far: I have already started indoor seedlings for some of the things I want to grow (tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and strawberries). I have consulted companion planting guides and laid out what I want to plant and where. (I submitted a diagram below.) I have also looked at differing types of compost materials, such as horse vs. rabbit manure, personal composting, and so on. (I am leaning toward buying initial compost and then keeping a compost bin.)
I have looked at information about how to build raised beds, but I don't think I can do it or afford to just buy the boxes. So I want to just turn over my soil, compost it, and cover it with plastic for a few weeks before transporting my seedlings. Is this a good plan, or should I be doing something else?
District of Columbia County District of Columbia
It looks like you have done an excellent job in designing a garden for your backyard. Your diagram looks well thought out. We have detailed information on our Grow It Eat It website (http://extension.umd.edu/growit) about starting a vegetable garden: http://extension.umd.edu/growit/food-gardening-101/step-3-prepare-your-soil. We would add one more step—you should have a soil test done before you add your amendments: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/soils/soil-testing. Under resources, look at HG 110—on the last page is a list of soil-testing labs to contact. You can submit your soil sample in a zipper-sealed plastic bag. You may also want to look at our publication on lead in garden soils, https://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/not_updated/HG18_Le.... Folks with city gardens should consider testing for lead as part of their soil test. And starting your own compost pile certainly makes sense. If you should have additional questions, please call to speak to one of our horticulture consultants. They are available Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. The number is 800-342-2507.