Choosing a Site

Ideally, site selection for a garden involves choosing a spot with good light, ample space, good soil, and proper drainage. Since the ideal rarely happens, in reality, site selection usually involves picking the spot that you HAVE, and then making it work for what you need.

So, first, see what you HAVE...

  • Yard space
  • Porch or balcony space
  • Window space
  • Border space
  • Greenhouse space

Then look at making it into what you need, or figuring out creative ways to use it so that the disadvantages become an advantage.

Pretty much ANY available space CAN be used for gardening. But you'll need to adapt to use some areas.

  • Grow things that do well with the limitations - for example, if you have alkaline soil, don't try to grow blueberries, try potatoes or other root crops instead, which seem to do fairly well in alkaline soil. Or if you have a shady spot, grow cole crops there - they do ok in the shade.
  • Change the area - fertilize, use reflective surfaces nearby to throw more light in, add acid or alkali to the soil, dig a drainage ditch, etc. Changing it is more expensive than just working with it.

The point here is, that when you select a site, you are choosing a lot of other things too. If you choose a shady spot, you are also choosing to compensate for that in one way or another. If a shady spot is all you have, then you'll need to use it if you want to garden. But just because that is all you have, doesn't mean you can't do something fabulous with it.

It is always easier, and less expensive, to work WITH the limitations, than it is to try to correct or work against them. For the sake of labor and cost conservation, this should always be the first strategy. Sometimes you will just NEED to push something further - when you do, you can try these strategies:

  • Try varieties of plants that can handle the poor conditions better.
  • Make the changes in stages. You can often do things a little at a time, for example, building better soil through adding compost a little each year, to spread out the labor and cost demands.
  • Consider other resources - what other resources do you already have that might be used to compensate?
  • Consider building a natural self-sustaining method of compensation. For example, raise rabbits to provide fertilizer (or to feed a vermiculture system), which will provide long term self-sustaining soil enrichment, or get geese to help keep noxious weeds under control.
  • Select multiple sites and organize plantings so the plants that can handle the limitations best are in each area.

The first year is usually the hardest. Over time, your garden can improve, and should become more manageable.


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