STARTING YOUR HOME GARDEN
Savoring the sweet crunch from a just picked snap pea, the crispness of fresh cut lettuce doesn’t have to come from only a farmer’s market or home produce delivery services. You can take matters into your own hands, growing fresh produce in a home garden, and ensuring that your family is eating high quality produce.
My home veggie garden started out over ten years ago, and only during the summer, with a few tomatoes placed in pots and a couple more in the ground where the sun seemed to be the hottest. Today I have a year round fruit and veggie garden with five raised beds and garden beds, that boasts blueberries, pears, beans, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, garlic and more. A home garden has so many benefits beyond the obvious benefit of providing so many nutrient rich high quality and pure fruits and vegetables. Right now, I have some hardy cold weather vegetables growing (see picture) including sorrel, spinach, lettuce, onions and garlic.
6 Simple Steps:
- Find a nice sunny and hot spot. Look for a nice flat area so it will be easy to access for water, weeding and picking. Depending on where you live, you may want to check your soil for contaminants.
- Make a list of your family favorites. You should plant foods that you like to eat, but it’s also fun to try new varieties or an entirely new food.
- Buy seeds and vegetable starts. Some veggies like peas, carrots, beans and lettuce can be started from seeds, others like tomatoes and peppers will be easier to grow from small plant starts.
- Get your soil ready. Plants prefer rich, moist soil, so check your soil by taking a scoop in your hand and squeezing. You want it to clump without being like clay, or fine like sand. I like to mix in a nice rich compost and some fresh potting soil every year. Adding a good organic fertilizer will also give your plants a better start.
- Plant your seeds and starts. Try to plant the taller crops in the back so they won’t block the sun for the smaller plants.
- Water and watch grow! Water regularly to encourage good growth.
What To Plant:
Some of the best things you can plant in the next month or so include tomatoes, green beans, carrots, peppers, lettuce, and radishes.
My Gardening Experience
Every year my kids help me plant seeds and vegetable starts, make sure the plants stay watered, and serve as the lead taste testers. It’s not uncommon that a backyard pick up game of soccer or basketball is interrupted for a water break and a quick snack of whatever is growing in the raised bed. My son’s favorite is the lemon sorrel which seems to find it’s way into any of the dishes he wants to create. (At eight, he’s learning how to cook and how to incorporate what we’re growing in the garden, from the sorrel to the herbs used to flavor his creations.)
And when our home garden produces more than we can eat, our surplus goes to neighbors or passersby, building community and educating more people about the sustainability of eating local and growing your own food. I also enjoy experimenting with “USDA-approved” canning recipes that create a unique and flavorful food that can be used throughout the year—think sweet green tomato jam or Chinese plum sauce. Yum!
It may sound intimidating or overwhelming to get started, but there’s nothing magical about it, it takes trial and error, and determination. Start out small like I did, and you’ll gradually expand your garden to include a large variety of produce.
Here are a few other gardening resources to get you started: