Creating Your Secret Garden | Part 1: Preparing the Land

Spring has sprung and it is time to prepare for the coming growing season! I LOVE this time of year – preparing the land for my future harvest. Yes it is time consuming. Yes it can be expensive to start out. Yes some of your crops may fail. BUT you WILL have fun. You WILL be able to reap what you sow. You WILL be able to make this a family activity. In the next coming months I will be writing a series about one of my passions – gardening. This first one will be one will be about setting up your garden area and prepping the land. It is so important to get a loose game plan together because this is a long term event and ultimately you will run into obstacles that will need solving. Some problems maybe major, others may have to do with esthetics – either way it’s always better to have an end goal in mind. Now just like my other blog posts this will include how to incorporate children into your garden as well. This is a wonderful learning experience for them and oh so fun!

Choosing the type of garden you want – Do you want mainly flowers, vegetables, both? What do you want out of your garden – a place for reflection, rest, or more for bounty? These are tough questions to answer – which you will ultimately have to answer for yourself. Look at pictures – tons of pictures. This about color, layout, and varying heights. Save any and every picture you like – but depending on the type of environment you have there may be very different answers to these question. Growing up in the Delaware Valley of Pennsylvania I could literally drop a seed in the grass and it would sprout a few days later. The soil was dark with nutrients, had natural lime layers, and the biggest obstacle was some rocks. But here in the Upstate of South Carolina I have a new host of obstacles. Clay soil, high temperatures, varying precipitation – just to name a few. It takes must more work and effort to be successful. So take some notes do some observation. What would be best for you and your family? For us it’s a garden where the girls can pick crops and eat them readily. However we hope one take to have a flower garden where the girls can create bouquets as well!

Helpful Garden Type Links

Selecting your location – Sunlight, water, and soil are your basic elements you will need in order for your plants to grow. If this is your first garden start small. They require a lot of work, so don’t overwhelm yourself with something so large. Container gardens are great as well – especially if your yard has lots of shade or not a lot of room. You can also build some small herb or container gardens in your house as well. You will want the garden to be near a clean fresh water source – rain will not be reliable for watering your garden. Most gardens will need lots of direct sunlight. Early morning sun is best – but not always necessary. Make sure you observe your property at different times of the day and preferably different time of year to gain a better understanding of the sunlight on your property. This is such an important factor because it is not something that you will be able to create yourself. You will also need to have the garden in a visual location – not only will you want to enjoy this little piece of heaven but you also want to keep an eye on what it needs. Lastly flat land is best to prevent erosion. For me – most of our property is shady and on a hill so selecting the location for our garden was not easy. We ended up putting our garden next to the road and on a hill. But it is near water, in eyesight, and has minimal erosion due to the beds we created.

Helpful Location Links

What kind of beds will you create – What shape of beds best fit your land? Will you have raised beds? How high will you raise them? Will they be in containers? Do you need terracing? What type of bed is best for the garden you desire? Again this is something you will have to decide for yourself based on the land. For vegetable gardens I recommend raised beds. It helps keep the weeds and vermin out. It is definitely not full proof but it does help a lot. Keep in mind the lay of your land and what will be easy for you to maintain. We have had our raised beds for five years and I can’t image not having them! We bought 8ft. 2x6in and 4ft 2x6in boards, spray painted them (because I LOVE color and hate any color close to tan), and added joints to create our super fun bed! (Links for bed shapes) Keep your options open and don’t be afraid to get creative!

Helpful Bed Type Links:


{My Garden Beds By Lauren Carlisle}

What about vermin? This is one of the inevitable problems you will face. You may not even know what to prepare for until the garden is in place. But do think about what type of  bug repellent will you use if any? Are the repellents environmentally friendly? What will you to with the wildlife? What can you do to prevent them from messing with your vegetables and flowers? What about weeds? How will you prevent them? I tend to take a more natural approach to pest prevention. We use human and cat hair to keep most wildlife away. We also use red pepper/garlic spray to keep the bugs out. I have also been known to enclose my beds in chicken wire. Ultimately it depends on the type of environment you have – but please consider all possibilities before submitting to a chemical and hazardous solution. After all everything runs downhill and into our water source.

Helpful Links for Pest Control:

Compost? Fertilizer? What will you need to be successful? I cannot stress enough…. Get your soil tested! It is so easy, cheap, and will save you hours of experimenting, failed attempts, and possibly tears. Because I will in the Upstate I would get my soil tested at Clemson University. You send them a pound of dirt. They will send back what minerals are in your soil and what type of minerals you will need in order to have the best growing experience. Many agricultural schools have this testing as an option and you will have your results fairly quickly. Over and under fertilizing can have serious harmful repercussions for your garden. So get tested!

Tools for the trade – There are lots of helpful tools for gardening. There are also many unnecessary ones but can be super helpful. Here are my favorites that I use on a mostly daily basis. There are many others I could list – but it may be overwhelming so here are the basics.

How to incorporate kids? – Ok by now you may be thinking “ok this is a lot of work and now I am supposed to incorporate kids? I may have made a mistake…” But don’t panic! Include your children on all these decisions. What kind of garden would they like? What do they want it to look like? Come up with a list and have them help you narrow it down. Use lots of pictures for reinforcement! Let them help you create your beds. Go to a nursery or home depot and browse the plants. What catches your children’s attention? Kids are also great at spreading dirt! Don’t be afraid to put them to work! They can also help you paint the beds and decide where everything should be planted. It can be hard to include the kids in the beginning – but when you get to planting and harvesting them will be the masters! Keep it light and simple. You will not be disappointed. This is a wonderful learning opportunities for your kids!

Gardening with Kids Links:

Whatever you choose to do make sure you go at it full force. Creating a garden is a commitment – much like parenting. You need to nurture, protect, and encourage your plants to grow. But in the end you will have a wonderful blessing as your result! Again don’t be afraid to start small. You will be surprised at how much of a bounty you can receive from your container gardens. Plus your children will love every step of the way – from planning, playing in the dirt, to planting, harvesting, and ultimately cooking! So go out there and get started – and make sure to check out my next post about planting your spring plants!ciao_laurencop_sig-01

Lauren Cop is a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) of Irish Twins by day and coaches
Volleyball and Track in her “me time”. A Clemson fanatic, alumni and general sports enthusiast. She loves reading, gardening, food, and traveling. Follow herTwitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The Olive Shoe | Paperie & Design | Celebrating Creativity and Creatively Celebrating is designed and run by Lauren {LAC} James © 2015 LAC James All Rights Reserved.

Lauren {LAC} James is a Sr. Designer of Product Graphics for an international manufacturing company by day and a creativity crusader, designer, planner extraordinaire, artist and blogger in her “free” time. Follow her and The Olive Shoe on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram! Pleasesubscribe to receive emails, of course, come back and visit again soon!

Please visit the online art gallery {Art by LAC} and Etsy Shop too!

Other Posts by Lauren Cop:


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