Setting up a New Garden: Choose the Right Site

Breaking ground for a new garden

Spring has sprung, and if you're thinking about setting up a brand new garden, here are some tips to get you started on the right foot.


To determine your plant choices, consider how much sun you have

Spend some time watching the sun patterns in your yard. How many hours per day does the site you have in mind receive full sun? Then research the plants you intend to use and match their needs with the available sun in your yard. Veggies do best with at least six hours of full sun. If your garden spot doesn't match your plant's requirements, you can either adjust your plant choices or consider moving the garden to another spot.


Do a soil test—really

The composition of your soil can vary a lot from one side of the yard to the other. Things that grow fine in your backyard may struggle in your front yard. For the most accurate soil test results, type "university extension service" and your state into any search engine to find the nearest soil-testing lab and follow the instructions. After you send in your soil sample, the service will mail back a lab report that tells you which nutrients your soil needs. If you're not composting yet, consider building a simple compost bin this spring. In terms of soil enrichment and excellent drainage, compost is king.


If your site isn't right, try a raised bed

If you have problematic soil, a bad back or serious critter problems, building a raised garden bed can be a great solution. You can build it on the ground or in a raised planter box. On the ground, prepare a gravel base to help drainage and lay hardware cloth across the bottom to prevent critters from munching on all of your tasty plants. A layer of landscape cloth will help prevent weeds. Then build the bed and fill it with topsoil, mixing organic matter (compost!) into the top 6 to 10 in.


— Elisa Bernick, Associate Editor

We've got some great stories that will walk you through establishing a new garden and building a raised bed.

How to start new garden in 8 easy steps

Build a raised garden bed