Loft Bed Beginner Tips

1. Start with simple herbs.
If you're new to gardening and want to start small, you may find yourself tending to a raised bed or deck planter as a way to get your feet wet. With limited space and time, you may also want to plant as many plants as possible—this can be detrimental to your chosen plants. Everyone grows tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers in deck pots, right?

While these are great for growing plants, they also require a lot of care and attention, not to mention water, especially if you're growing them in pots. Instead, Arthur says, start with something simpler and easier.

"I tend to drive people towards plants that will survive - like herbaceous perennials. Something like thyme is easy to grow once established. Something like mint, same thing. Little water, little care , so much that you need to pay attention because they fly away on you. But when it comes to growing, it’s so easy.”

2. Understand the needs of plants.
If you're ready for something more challenging and you have time to care for more edible plants, Arthur has this advice: "The most common mistake people, especially first-time growers, is misunderstanding the needs of plants Plants. We know that food-producing plants, like tomatoes and peppers, need more sun, more water and lots of nutrients in the soil."

Before choosing plants or seeds for your beds, do some research. How much sunlight does your bed receive throughout the day? Should you add some amendments to your soil before you sow your annual plants? Thinking about the answers to these questions will help you avoid some of the garden failures Arthur talks about—and get the best results possible.

3. Plant leafy vegetables in shade.
If, like many gardeners, your plot is challenged by shade at certain times of the day, fear not. Some of the easiest vegetables to grow don't mind a little shade.

"Anything that's big, green, and leafy grows better in less sunlight," Arthur says. "So lettuce, spinach, kale...their leaves work like little solar panels, so their ability to convert sunlight into energy is significantly better than plants with small, skinny leaves."

Opt for leafy salad mixes, or top those mottled beds with enough lettuce leaves or lettuce to serve your family's salads in season. There are so many wonderful vegetables available for purchase right now.

4. Start with the right soil.
If you're gardening in raised beds or patio pots, chances are you've purchased mixed soil to fill the space. That's a good thing, because Arthur worries that people, especially those in urban centers, worry that the soil in their backyards may be contaminated.

"The reality is that more contractors than ever before are burying rubbish, and a lot of times people buy properties that - while new to us - may have had previous owners that you don't know do in your area. What. If you’re growing food in your backyard, unless you test the soil properly, you’re essentially betting what’s in the field.”

Plants take nutrients and other components from the soil and pass them on to the edible parts of the crops we eat. That's why Arthur chose to have raised beds in his garden. "It allows me to control exactly what happens in that space. I don't have to worry about what was there before. I don't have to worry about nutrient levels because I'm starting over from the soil I want to put in."

For the best all-purpose soil to get your beds off to a good start, Arthur recommends a triple mix. This commercial term refers to soil mixed with other substances, such as manure, sand, perlite or vermiculite.

"Join your triple mix for the first year," Arthur said. "Everything will grow happily, you don't need to add anything."

5. Track your crops year by year.
Keeping accurate records of what you put in each bed each year will help you make informed decisions each planting about what amendments your soil needs. Since every plant has different needs, Arthur's book provides a handy table for explaining exactly which amendments the plant has removed from your soil, and which amendments you need to put back. For example, tomatoes are like calcium-rich soil, so previously used beds need to be

It's a good idea to give tomatoes a calcium supplement before planting another crop. Draw up a simple planting map and store it in a safe place for future reference. Review each year before planting.

6. Carefully pair plants.
Gardeners often notice that certain plants do well when planted next to certain other plants. Likewise, some plants do not grow well when paired with specific plant families. This idea of companion planting has been around for a while, and gardeners like Arthur pay attention to the anecdotes and studies that tell us companion planting does work.

"We know now through all the new research that not only do things like beans and tomatoes not mix together in the garden, but they hold a grudge against each other and don't even want to be planted in the same place for two years...they're the West Side Story of gardens.

7. Plant in rows to make weeding easier.
When the time comes, how should you sow your seeds? Should you spread the seeds all over your bed to keep weeds from sprouting, or buy one of these planting cubes from your local nursery to make the most of your space? With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to know which way to turn.

According to Arthur, if cutting down on weeding time is your goal, there's only one way to get there. "I like to weed in long strips, so I like the planted beds to line up at least six inches. That way I can put a hoe directly in the middle."

While he's experimented with seeding cubes (which he says are great for small spaces) and seeds (which are good for production), nothing simplifies weeding quite like old-fashioned row seeding. That's because no matter how you sow your crops, weeds will sprout. Gardening in rows means you don't have to be a botanist to tell weeds from edible garden seedlings.

"I've found that if I don't deal with the weeds in the first place, my plants won't even grow before the weeds take over," Arthur says.

8. Enter xerophytes.
When considering what to plant in patio containers, consider how often you need to water on sunny days to keep plants from wilting. Growers usually sit on a sunny balcony or patio because (as mentioned above) many plants need 6-8 hours of sunlight per day to grow. To make your life easier, Arthur recommends planting drought-tolerant plants in these locations and reserving high-demand plants as raised beds in the garden.

"I tend to keep Mediterranean plants [in pots on my deck], so a lot of rosemary, basil, a lot of Mediterranean plants and herbs because they're used to the heat and the dryness.

He also had great success with lavender, winter and summer herbs, and many xerophytes (plants with special adaptations to thrive in the absence of water).

"Xerophytic plants tend to have gray leaves, or leaves with a gray sheen. That's a good indicator that they can handle hot, dry conditions."

9. Utilize mulch.
To conserve moisture and prevent weed growth, consider using mulch over your beds. Every fall, Arthur covers all of his raised garden beds with newspaper. Then he buried the newspaper in the compost amendment. "In my case, I added things like composted chicken manure, any excess soil I left in the bag..."

Newspaper takes 4-6 months to break down. In the process, it improves the soil and stops weeds from growing. "When I come to spring, I put everything in and we're off."

Farming for Arthur requires a small and lightweight handheld tiller. "It's about 8 inches wide, quick, easy, and painless. And because it's handheld with the long handle, I don't have to compact the soil."

You can also mulch as soon as your plants are established, being careful to leave enough space around each plant stem.

10. Go for it.
Whether you have a few hours a week or more, there are gardening jobs for everyone. From raised beds to planters to a few pots on your windowsill, you can grow food in and around your home. Knowing your plants' needs and the constraints of your location is key, but ultimately you have to take that step.

Using Arthur's motto, right plants, right places, you can buy seeds or seedlings that are right for the space in which you plant them. You can learn along the way.