Father and daughter holding small seedling at garden

Green Living: Maximizing Space for a Garden

Warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours are on the horizon across the U.S., and green thumbs, as well as gardening newbies, are ready to toil in the soil.

Gardening is full of health benefits like breathing fresh air, reducing stress, supplying vitamin D from the sun’s rays, and it’s also a form of light exercise. Additionally, growing fruit and vegetables in a home garden helps reduce your carbon footprint and allows you to know exactly what goes onto and into your food.

An added bonus is regular upkeep of your lawn and garden can help protect against some common homeowners insurance claims.

“Diligent gardeners tend to keep their yards well-maintained to encourage plant growth and let their hard work shine, but their efforts can also help protect against homeowners insurance claims like water and fire damage,” said Christopher O’Rourke, vice president of property claims at Mercury Insurance. “For example, keeping gutters cleared of leaves and debris can help prevent blockages that might direct water into the home. Regularly mowing the lawn, pruning bushes and keeping the yard free of grass clippings and twigs is aesthetically pleasing and can help mitigate against wildfire risk.”

Here are three tips to make a home garden a success.

1. Make a Plan

There are a few things to consider before you dive into the building phase. Pick out the plants you want to grow and make sure you have enough space for all of them. Some plants have longer roots and need more space than others. If the plants are too crowded, they will not grow properly.

It’s helpful to sketch out a rough map of the garden to help define what you’re going to plant and where. You can also use this map to keep records of when you’ve planted different crops so that you can rotate them effectively.

If planned thoughtfully, a garden can also help protect your home from wildfires, if you live in an area where these are common.

2. Choose a Good Location

It’s important to pick a good spot for your future crops to give them the best chance to thrive. Don’t plant fruits and vegetables too close to your home; experts recommend these plants be at least 10 feet away from any walls to avoid shadows. However, if you live in fire country, plants that are fleshy and moist can be good to have within the five feet closest to your home as they are reluctant to produce a flame and, if properly maintained, can catch and extinguish a firebrand.

Most flowering plants need at least six hours of full sun a day, however, some plants need partial or total shade to grow. Knowing what you want to cultivate will help determine the best place to build your garden.

 Soil quality is the next big thing to consider when picking a location. There are a variety of ways to test it, including squeezing it to assess its composition, digging a hole and filling it with water to test its drainage rate, checking for earthworms to see if the soil is healthy, and taking a pH test to determine acidity. Another easy way to check soil quality is to look for weed and grass growth in the area. Thick weeds and grass usually mean that the soil is nutrient rich and drains well.

3. Be Strategic and Creative

There are several different strategies for maximizing your chosen space. One method is to plant in triangles instead of traditional squares and rows, which can increase the number of plants you can grow. Companion planting involves deliberately planting certain kinds of plants next to one another to help absorb nutrients, manage pests or attract pollinators.

Planning doesn’t have to be limited to horizontal space. Using raised beds lowers the number of rows you’ll need in your garden, thus increasing growing space. They’re relatively simple to build and also have the added benefits of keeping out weeds and pests like slugs and snails. Trellising allows plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and peas to grow vertically, and can also be decorative, adding character to your garden.

If this project proves to be a lot more than you can handle, consider hiring outside gardening help, but be sure to check their coverage ahead of time. “Before signing a contract with a landscaper or gardener, ask them for their proof of insurance,” said O’Rourke. “If they don’t have coverage, you probably want to find one who does. In most cases, the contractor’s coverage will act as the primary insurance should one of their employees get injured while on the job.”

Now that you have the tools for the job, tackle your own home garden. You’ll be enjoying the fruits – and vegetables – of your labor in no time!