Vegetable Gardening For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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Creating a new garden bed can time consuming, but with good planning and some muscle, it'll be worthwhile. Decide where the garden bed will go and draw a plan on paper. Then, you'll need to clean up the area so the soil will be easier to work. You can clear your garden area any time during the year, but the season before planting works best. You can clear the area the day before you plant, but you may have more weed problems later.

If you already have an established garden, clean up any debris in fall or winter, depending on where you live, and till the ground before planting.

Here are the basics of clearing your garden spot:

  1. Outline the areas of your garden plot that you want to clear.

    To get your edges straight for a square or rectangular vegetable plot, stretch a string between sticks and mark the line with a trickle of ground white limestone, which is available at garden centers.

    For a round garden, use a hose or rope to lay out the area, adjusting the position to create a smooth curve.

    If you want several individual beds separated by permanent paths, outline each bed independently with string, sticks, and limestone so you don't waste time improving soil that you'll never use. But if you think that you may change your garden layout from season to season or year to year, work the entire area within the outline.

  2. Clear the surface by first removing plants, weeds, brush, and rock.

    If necessary, mow the site to cut back the grass and weeds close to the surface of the soil. If your garden area contains a lot of perennial weeds or if you need to clear an area of a warm-season lawn (like Bermuda grass), make sure that you first kill these weeds or grasses. You can kill weeds and aggressive grasses two ways:

    Hand dig and sift: For a small garden dig up the earth and carefully sift the soil, removing sod and root parts that may come back next year as weeds.

    Apply a covering: An easy, chemical-free way to clear your garden is to cover it with clear or black plastic, cardboard, or even old rugs. After a month under these impermeable coverings, existing plants die from the lack of sunlight. You must plan ahead to use this method, and it may not look pretty, but it works like a charm — especially on annual weeds. For perennial weeds, you may need to dig out their roots, too, after applying the plastic.

    You can buy plastic in rolls at hardware stores or home improvement centers; check department stores for old pieces of cardboard and carpet stores for old rugs. Use the thickest plastic or cardboard you can find — it should be at least 2 millimeters, but 4 millimeters is even better.

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The National Gardening Association is the leading garden-based educational organization in the United States. Visit http//

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun, and accessible to everyone.

The National Gardening Association offers plant-based education in schools, communities, and backyards across the United States, through the award-winning websites and

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