Garden planning tools:
- Garden planner app (apple store); (google play); cost USD1.99
- Garden planner program for desktop; cost USD 25.00
- Le Calendrier des semences de l’Écoumène Calendrier_potager__zone_3-4_v3 et Calendrier_Potager_zone_5-6_-v3
7 Ways to Get a Cheap Garden Bed Growing
- Instant Gardens.
Cut out the tops of the bags, use a long knife to punch drainage holes in the bottoms, and you’re ready to plant smaller crops, such as lettuce, bush beans and basil. Use grass clippings or straw to conceal the edges of the bags and the card-boarded paths — then go get the garden hose! Over the summer, the bags and mulches will kill all of the grass and weeds.
- Lasagna Gardens.
Stake out your beds and pathways, lay cardboard down in the pathways, and then mulch the beds heavily with layers of whatever organic materials you have to smother the grass. If you use the lasagna technique in fall, the beds will be ready to plant in spring. Set transplants into the soil under the still-decomposing layers of mulch. To sow seeds, you’ll need to spread soil over the mulch, or dig to mix the thick mulch (which is slowly turning to compost) with the native soil.
- Till and Rake.
Another less expensive way to convert lawn into garden — without buying soil — is to use a tiller to kill the grass. If you don’t own a tiller, you can rent one or — perhaps even better — hire someone to till the area thoroughly for you. (Tilling sod is best done with a large tiller — check local classified ads or Craigslist to find someone who offers this service.) After the area has been tilled, use a garden rake (not a leaf rake) to go over the area thoroughly and remove clumps of grass and roots to the compost pile. Next, use stakes to mark out where you want each bed and pathway. Rake loosened soil from the pathways into the bed areas, and you’ll have tidy, slightly raised beds without having to spend money to bring in soil.
- Buy Some Soil.
If you go this route, choose a reputable company, ask for a product that includes compost blended with the soil, and verify that the company guarantees the mix is free of noxious weeds (especially nutsedge and morning glory) and herbicide residues. If possible, till the growing beds before you spread the soil.
- Biochar. This is a rather long method to convert your garden: Inoculate biochar (or charcoal) with a mix of 1gal water, 1 cup of urine, 1 Tbsp unrefined sea salt, 1 cup of Nanobio; and let the charcoal soak. Add broken ceramics/bricks and work the charcoal 1 to 1.5ft deep into the soil. The biochar will act like a fertilizer store (which cannot be washed out by rain) and a battery of micro-organisms; it will gradually turn whatever soil you have into rich black garden soil.
- Turn With a Spade.
This method is probably the best because it loosens the soil deeply, but it requires more physical work than other methods. Mark out the garden beds and pathways, and then use a good spade to cut and turn the sod in the bed areas. Take your time, digging maybe one bed per day. Pave the pathways with cardboard or newspaper, covered with grass clippings or other mulch. If you can, apply several inches of compost or mix a good layer of grass clippings into the beds. Rake them smooth, and you’re ready to sow seeds or set out transplants.
- Chickens in the Garden. If you have chickens and a portable coop (see our most recent portable coop plan in Build This Predator-Proof, Portable Chicken Coop for Your Backyard), the birds can do a nice job of killing sod and scratching up the top few inches of soil in new or existing beds. They also add manure to the soil. (For more on gardening with chickens, read Chickens in the Garden: Eggs, Meat, Chicken Manure Fertilizer and More.)
- Fukuoka holes (yes, Masanobu Fukuoka from the « 1 straw revolution« ) – this is the most simple technique if you are able to start small and go ‘one step at a time’: just dig a hole of 2ft diameter and 2ft deep; put 6 » compost in the bottom and cover it with garden soil. Plant plants that go well together; like the « Three sisters » – squash, corn and beans.
Make another hole about 3ft from the first one and plant something else. In time the holes will expand their energy and compostness and slowly slowly your a beautiful garden will emerge!
- Taking on Too Much – better to start small and manage than to start big and loose motivation
Underestimating the Weather – check the zonage for your choice of plants and watch for occasional night-freezes when you want to protect your plants with a tunnel (plastic cover)
Misunderstanding Soil – a good idea to get the pH of your soil and check if it is heavy or light, does it have organic matter etc.; otherwise your plants may grow very poorly
Miscalculating Fertilizer Needs – don’t overdo fertilizing
Crowding Your Crops – unless you do bio-intensive gardening and have enough supply of water, air and nutrients
Inviting Critters – if you have racoons, hedgehogs and all kinds of others – talk to them and work with them