Don’t be intimated about starting a vegetable garden of you own. It can be as easy or as complicated as you make it – so, just give it a try and keep it simple! Here are some tips to help you get started.
I bet you thought I gave up on this whole blog thing since it’s been eons since I posted anything. NO, I most certainly did NOT give up on this blog – it’s my favorite hobby! But you know how it is with hobbies: you usually only get to do them when you’re not doing something else you’re supposed to be doing…like working, cleaning, etc. Well, it hasn’t been cleaning holding up this hobby, that’s for certain! Well…that’s not totally accurate either….ANYWAY, we had a floor refinishing situation going on at our house, thanks to our two newly adopted Basset Hounds (more about them later), and I have been a traveling fool for my job lately. Alas, just not a lot of time to blog!
I have been thinking about this post for weeks because it’s about GARDENING and it’s time to start thinking about gardens! My favorite time of year…except for the insanely schizophrenic weather that comes with it. TEASE! One day warm and sunny and the next frigid and snowing. Sigh..but it means warm temps are definitely on the way to stay – soon!
I have ordered most of my plants and seeds and I’m drawing pictures of this year’s layout of scraps of paper when I’m supposed to be working. I plan to pot some pansies and petunias this weekend – weather permitting – and I want to put in my cold crops by the end of the month – weather permitting.
People who haven’t grown a veggie garden often fear that it’s too hard to start from scratch – or they worry that their lack of garden knowledge will result in dead plants and disappointment. I’m here to tell you that it’s just not that hard. Plant it, water it, weed it and pick it! Well..there are a few other details, but really, my dad’s number one life rule applies: KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! No, you’re not stupid, but it makes for a funny acronym….and you had to know my dad.
If you haven’t gardened lately – or ever – here are a few simple things to consider when getting started. Like anything new, you just have to start and that’s the hardest step. After that, everything else is easier.
Do you have a large expanse of available space in your yard that gets sun most of the day? If so, you can just till up the dirt (or install some raised beds) and plant away. If not, don’t worry: you can still grow veggies! Container gardening is all the rage and it works well for all sorts of veggies. The beauty of it is that you can put your containers wherever you want, so you can place them in the best spot to get lots of daily sun – or – move them around, as needed. Setting your larger containers on a wheeled plant dolly will make this task super simple. Vertical gardening is another garden fad for the space-challenged gardener. Yet another option is to have a few smaller garden zones around your yard. Maybe you’ve got a few feet of planter box or an edge of dirt along the driveway – spread out your garden; there’s no rule that says it must be set up in a neat square with long rows. A few feet here and a few feet there and you’ve got a harvest. And don’t ignore your front yard either – veggies make beautiful flowers, too, so why not throw some in among your daisies?
How will you water your garden plants? If you live in a wetter climate, you won’t have to worry as much, but you may have to worry about too much water. I live in what we call ‘high desert’ conditions which means that although we have snowy winters, we don’t get a lot of summer rain. I generally have to water daily. Plan to water a few times a week, at a minimum. Plants do prefer even, regular watering, so you should consider how you can deliver that. My method of choice is soaker hoses. These are hoses from which water slowly seeps. I turn it on about 15-20 minutes a day during the hot summer days and it waters my plants slowly and evenly. Apparently, watering this way ensures nice root growth whereas watering with a sprinkler can be so-so because the water will blow around randomly and then sit on top of the plants instead of getting into the roots as efficiently. Top-down water can also cause mold due to the water sitting on the plants. I know, when it rains, it’s top-down watering, right? Well, let’s just say that when nature does it for us, it’s always better, but may not be as efficient. Drip irrigation is another method that works well in any garden, but it will require more time and money to set up at the outset than laying down some soaker hoses. Finally, passive water collection and irrigation techniques are very eco-friendly and most are pretty easy to get set up. For example, a 1 liter bottle with a few holes poked into it and the top cut off and buried in the dirt works as a slow watering tool.
I’m not going to lie: I spend A LOT of time in my garden during the summer and then a lot of time in the kitchen in the Fall dealing with harvest. I work at home, so I’m able to run outside and turn on hoses and maybe pull a few weeds, as needed. If you’re more time-challenged than I am, you may consider starting small to see what the time investment looks like for you. Like having pets and children, if you’re going away for the week on vacation, who will care for your garden? Automatic timers on the faucet can help a lot, but what about containers? Do you have a reliable and willing friend or family member who can help you out? Do you want to spend a few hours a week weeding? Do you like sitting in dirt? When it’s harvest time, will you have time to chop and freeze or can and preserve your bounty? Again, if you’re not so sure, keep it small: plant a couple of things you think your family will enjoy and see how it goes this year. Next year, expand according to your available time.
- My garden 2011 – first, very small attempt at my current home
4. What to grow
I have seen people plant acres (ok, not really THAT much) of something like radishes. Nobody really needs bushels of radishes, do they? Well, if you do, go ahead and plant the whole packet of seeds, but if you only like to have one or two radishes a year on a salad – at a restaurant, then radishes aren’t your crop of choice. Skip them and plant what you and your family LOVE to eat. You have to LOVE it because if your crop works, you’ll be eating plenty of it. Most gardeners have learned the hard way that a couple of squash plants is more than enough for most average households. Five plants can feed a small country. There are no rules about what you have to plant. I used to think there was some code that required that I had to plant zucchini, carrots, green beans and tomatoes or I was not a real gardener. This year I do not plan to have either zucchini or green beans because I just don’t need or want them. Gasp! I will be planting Brussels sprouts and tomatillos because I like them and because I want to :). If you haven’t gardened before and you want easy growers, try carrots, lettuce, squash, onions or beans – but only if like to eat them. Don’t forget the herbs to make all of the usual veggies taste even better. Basil and cilantro grow like weeds, so they’re good bets for first-timers and they are very multipurpose. Also, remember, you don’t have to plant every seed in the packet – share with friends if you don’t need 300 carrots. One rule of thumb I have learned, however, is that you should have at least two of each plant for pollinating reasons. Finally, throw in some flowers among your veggies. Marigolds and nasturtiums are excellent choices: marigolds help repel many garden pests, like aphids and nasturtiums are said to improve the flavor of tomatoes. True? I don’t know, but why not have a pretty veggie garden – OH, and they will attract the precious bees who will come handle the pollination for you!
Don’t be scared – just give it a try and see how it goes! I started small and I read some gardening books to learn along the way – and talked to other gardeners for tried and true methods in your geographical area. As always, Pinterest is a great resource for easy garden ideas. See my Gardening and Greenhouse Dreams boards for my favorite ideas.
We’ll talk more about how your garden will grow and how my garden does grow as we dig through the 2013 season.