People have been growing their own food since the dawn of time, but lately there’s an increasing movement for people to go back to their roots. Like the victory gardens found in America during World War II, people are planting their own food in their backyards. It’s a trend to bring healthier, less processed foods to the table.
It might seem next to impossible to start your own garden, but you can do it with just a little legwork. In addition to determining what you’re going to grow, you need to figure out what kind of garden you want and where it’ll grow best in your yard.
Here are 7 simple steps to starting a vegetable garden:
1. Choosing a Garden Location
Most plants like a lot of sunlight, so you’re going to want to pick a location in your yard that receives the most light. If you are planning to plant directly in the soil, you’ll also want an area of the yard with good drainage to keep the soil from staying soaked.
If you just have a back deck and little yard, don’t worry. You can still utilize the space to make a garden. You’ll just want to utilize more container gardening than planting directly in the soil, but this will give you more control over what is in your plants’ soil.
Other factors come into play for your garden’s location. You’ll want it to be conveniently located, especially if you have a lot of acreage. You are also going to need to have ready access to a water source, unless you’re planning to carry a watering can to each plant.
2. Making Your Garden
When you’re picking the area for your garden, you also need to decide what kind of garden you’re going to have. Are you going to strictly utilize containers for your garden, which can limit how big your plants get? Are you going to dig directly into the ground or build a raised bed? You might even be planning a mixture of these options, and that’s just fine, too.
Building a raised bed is one of the more efficient ways to garden. You’ll need to either build your raised bed from scratch or purchase a kit. Either way, raising the level of the bed up will usually make it easier on your back, as you’re not having to bend over quite as far, and easier to manage the soil.
When you control the garden bed, such as using containers or a raised bed, you will have to worry less about weeds. You’re also going to have control over what type of soil you have. You can amend the soil as you’re putting it in the garden rather than needing to till the soil and amend it directly.
3. Improve Your Soil
If you’re using pre-existing soil, you need to have a sample of the soil tested. Testing the soil tends to be inexpensive and you can even find ways online of testing your soil with ingredients you have at home, such as vinegar. The easiest way to test it, however, is to get a kit at your local hardware store.
Once you find out the ingredients of your soil and its pH, you can determine what will grow best in your garden. You’ll also be able to determine what you might need to do to amend the soil. Often, you might need to add ingredients such as lime to the soil to correct the pH.
If you’re using containers or a raised bed, you shouldn’t need to amend your soil too much. One of the big things that you need to add unless your soil already has it is organic material or compost. This can include finished compost or well-rotted manure that has broken down.
Once you’ve planted your garden, you should add mulch around your plants. Adding mulch will help keep the ground cooler and allow the plants to retain more of their moisture. It’s especially important to stick with this step if you live in a hot climate, where you’re already going to be watering the plants every day.
4. Picking Your Fruits and Vegetables
When you’ve decided to start a garden, you might have plans for an overabundant harvest. You dream of juicy, ripe tomatoes and baskets full of squash. You can make this a reality, but you’re going to have to plan for it to make it happen.
You need to determine what plants you are going to plant in your garden first. This will be related to the kind of soil you have, as well as how much room you have to work with. Rather than indeterminate tomatoes, you might stick with a determinate variety that won’t spread out too much if you have limited space or are using containers.
Some people pick a variety of plants without even knowing how they taste. You can do this, but if you’re going to put in the hard work, you should pick plants that your family already likes to eat. Easy staples for your first garden include lettuce, tomatoes, and beans.
You can also pick plants that are decorative to add a little flare to your garden. Some peppers are intensely colorful and make for a nice addition to your harvest. Be careful about planting hot peppers where visitors might touch them though, such as in your front yard, as these can cause issues from the burning components.
When you pick your vegetables to raise, you might also consider companion planting. This method involves planting plants near each other that tend to promote the other’s growth. For example, beans fix nitrogen in the ground, improving the soil for other vegetables to use.
5. Planting Your Garden
Once you’ve decided on your choice of vegetables and picked the spot in your yard, it’s time to plan your garden’s layout. You’ll want to take into consideration how much space each plant will need and what plants like to grow near one another – or not, as the case may be.
After you’ve planned your garden layout, it’s time to get to planting. For beginners, it’s usually easiest to get plants that have already been started for you. Local nurseries will often have plants that are going to grow well in your environment and can help you determine how they should be planted.
If you’re starting plants from seeds, you need to follow the directions on the seed packet carefully. For instance, if you plant them too deep, they won’t grow. You might need to start these plants earlier, which should be considered and may involve setting them up to grow in your house before moving them outside.
6. Taking Care of Your Garden
Hopefully by this point, you’ve researched at least a little about what the plants you’re planting need. As you’ve planted them and mulched them, you’ve set the grounds for success. Now it’s time to maintain that progress.
Keep your plants watered. Different types of vegetables need varying amounts of water, and you do need to be careful of overwatering. You also want to water the roots or base of the plant, rather than all of the leaves. Getting water all over your tomato plants can cause them to develop diseases such as powdery mildew.
Your plants might also need to be fed. Organic gardening isn’t just a trend, it’s healthier, so stick with organic fertilizers to use on your plants and use them sparingly. Too much can burn the plant and cause it to fail rather than thrive.
Take care of your plants by pulling weeds that sprout up around them. These weeds can sap nutrients from your plant’s soil as well as block water and sunlight from reaching them. You should also pull dead plants and keep your healthy thriving plants pruned appropriately for the best growth.
7. Enjoying the Harvest
After all of your hard work, it’s time to enjoy the bounty that your plants produce. If some of the plants don’t thrive, don’t fret. You can find a variety of solutions online, or you can go talk to your local nursery. The plants might just need a little food and water.
You’ll want to make sure that you pick your vegetables when they’re done growing, or you’ll be trying to eat an immature vegetable. Many plants are done growing when they finish changing colors, such as peppers and tomatoes. You should see an all-around, even color, indicating that it’s ripe.
Root vegetables should be harvested before they get too big, or they will be tough and woody tasting. Beans should be harvested before they get too long, as well, or they can get stringy and tough. Summer squash should be harvested before they get too big, too.
It’ll take practice to determine when to pick your vegetables, and don’t worry if you forget a monster zucchini on the vine. Chalk it up to experience and move on. You’ve got lots of veggie-rearing years to come.