Giving a Plant What It Wants

SAP_1200_2009_07_07_IMG_9876Now that you’ve created a vision for your garden in step 1, we will take an inventory of what you’ve got to offer your plants in terms of light, water, soil, space, and time. Of course, you could always just throw some seeds in the ground and hope they grow, but doing this inventory will teach you how to evaluate what sites are best for bringing your visions and dreams to life. This step will also give you the best chance of success because you will be pairing your plants’ needs with the best resources that you have to offer. Let’s dig in!

At their most basic plants need sunlight, water, air, nutrients and space.

If your goals include growing vegetables, herbs and flowers, you will need to give them as much sunlight as possible. The minimum amount of sun that you need to grow a happy, healthy food garden is 6 hours of sun. If you desire a shady, cool garden full of ferns, then you will want to start your garden in a space with less than 3 hours of direct sun.

Taking an Inventory

For this inventory you will be making a list of possible garden locations. You will be taking notes about each location later, so give each location about half a page of space in your garden journal (for a regular size notebook).


SAP_1200_IMG_1640For the first action step of the week, you will make a list and on it write down all the areas of your garden that give you as much sun or shade as you need for your type of garden. You can say something like, “1. Area to the right of the front door – 6 hours of sun – mostly midday sun with afternoon shade” or “1. Windowsill near kitchen sink – direct sun for 4 hours – evening.”

If you aren’t sure how much sun your potential garden spots receive, then take the next few sunny days and observe the sunlight in the morning, midday, afternoon, and evening. Make sure you take notes about what is sunny or shady and at what time! If you don’t have a garden journal, then I recommend you watch my Wise Tip Wednesday video about this super-important gardening tool!


Now we will evaluate potential spots based on their proximity to water sources. Rain is wonderful, but if you don’t reliably get 0.5” of rain every week during the growing season, you will need to irrigate your garden with water from a hose, a rain barrel or another water source.

Take a look at your list of sites, and make notes about how near or far each site is from a water source. You can say something like “very close – ~10 feet” or “furthest away – too far for a hose to reach”.


SAP_1200_2009_06_09_IMG_6567Next we will evaluate distance from the house for your garden location. Unless your garden vision involves trekking long distances to tend to it, then you will want to locate your garden as close to your house as possible. This will make it easier to check it every day, to harvest frequently, and to take time to bask in the beauty of what you’ve created.

Take notes about each location on your list as to whether it is near or far from the house. You can say something like, “5 feet from back door,” or, “furthest spot from the house.”


Finally you will evaluate whether there are factors that make a location unsuitable for growing plants. Take a look at the spots you’ve identified, and write down whether:

  • things are already growing there (that’s a good sign!)
  • it is soggy or very dry
  • it floods
  • it’s extra windy
  • animals (wild or domestic) can access the location easily
  • the soil looks like it’d barely support even the toughest of weeds
  • there are tree roots that would impede digging

If there’s something else unusual about the spot, write that down, too.


Based on the information you’ve gathered, you can now cross off the locations that don’t meet your sunlight requirements, that are furthest away from water and your house, or that are unsuitable for growing plants due to the factors identified above. If you have multiple locations left after crossing off the least desirable ones, choose the spot that is most exciting to you.

Don’t worry about the size of the plot right now. We are going to keep it simple for your first garden. When you’ve got a season of experience, you can take what you’ve learned and decide whether to expand next year.


SAP_1200_2009_06_24_anathothIMG_9702Finally, we will assess how much time you have to tend to your garden. In an ideal world I’d get to hang out in my garden all day while I write or do my research, with breaks for basking and tending to my plants. That isn’t my reality (yet), so I wake up a little earlier during the growing season and take time to tend to and appreciate my beautiful plants.

Write down some notes about what time of day and how much time you are able to spend in the garden. If you work full time and have 3 kids, you may only have enough time to quickly check on your plants and water the thirsty ones. If you are retired, then you may be free to play in the garden all day. This is an important factor to consider when deciding what and how much to grow!

What Plants Do YOU Want To Grow?!

SAP_1200_DSC_8086Your last action step of the week is to start brainstorming specific plants that you want to grow. Throughout the week write down what you like to eat (veggies and herbs) and flowers you’d love to have in your garden. Take or collect pictures of any desired plants you can’t identify. We will use this information next week.


If you have questions, post them in the comments! I’d love to help you.


Thank you for reading, and I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to know what your gardening goals and desires are, so please tell me in the comments!

4EasyWays-coverforpopupI’ve also created a free guide about how to get free plants to jumpstart your garden. You can get it here.SAP_1200_DSC_9941