How to Grow a Garden

By Wendy Kelly

North Texas, United States

Any experienced gardener will tell you never to stop learning. Don’t wait till you think you “know it all” to begin. Some guidelines are helpful, and plants do have certain needs such as food, water and shelter.

While it’s a nice idea to start off big, think small first. Nature is complicated, and it’s hard to find the right balance. So to avoid getting frustrated, begin with one or two vegetable beds at first.

Building the Bed

Soil in our North Texas region is hard to deal with. While you can amend the soil with minerals, a much easier and more economic solution is to build a raised bed. At Out Teach, formerly known as REAL School Gardens, our beds measure four feet by eight feet and are built at a depth of nine inches. We have found that size to permit a fruitful amount of plants while keeping the soil deep enough to hold moisture through our hot Texas summers.

Here are a few tips:

  • Your beds should be placed in an area that receives six hours of sunlight.
  • You might want to consider their proximity to a water source and their protection from extreme winds.
  • If you walk by your beds everyday, you will notice any problems before they start.
  • Keep an eye on weeds, water and pests.

Strengthening the Soil

Soil will rarely have enough nutrients on its own, so add an organic mixture of minerals, sand, clay and fertilizer. Organic fertilizers can be purchased at nurseries and should have enough nitrogen and phosphorus in them. Make sure to fertilize plants as soon as you plant them and after they fruit.

Managing the Mulch

Mulching around your plants with wood chips or hay will help hold in moisture. Make sure your mulch doesn’t touch the stem of the plant or it will rot.

Growing the right plants at the right time is very important. Wherever you live, it is important to consult a local planting calendar.

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Math Resources
  1. If a rectangle has an area of 80 square feet, how long is it?
  2. A vegetable bed has an area of 60 square meters. If its perimeter is 32 meters, what is its length and width?
  3. If you wanted to determine the area and perimeter of a bed that was five feet long and three feet wide, what would you do?
  4. When placing 48 feet of fencing around a vegetable bed to keep out rabbits, you know the length is 14 feet. How could you determine the width?
  5. If three pounds of fertilizer covers 100 square feet, approximately how much will you need to cover a flower bed that is five feet wide and 60 feet long?
Extension Question

How is knowing where your food comes from important?

Explore Further
  1. How-to hints on planting a school garden
  2. Let’s Move campaign on school gardens
  3. The benefits of REAL school gardens
  4. School gardens and sample math activities 
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