Gardening doesn’t just make your house look good; it is scientifically proven that taking care of plants can also do wonders for your wellbeing. Physical exercise can contribute to weight management and control of blood pressure, but interaction with greenery can improve your mood and mental health as well. This whole act of nurturing plants with your own hands and watching them grow is rather calming.
Playing with soil and plants is a great stress reliever. It’s one of the easiest ways to improve your concentration, and working with nature is almost like an antidote to anxiety and worry.
The whole family working together in the garden provides bonding time and helps kids to know more about the natural growth cycle, which provides a lasting lesson.
Gardens add culinary benefits to our kitchen throughout the year. If you are a person concerned about what they put in their mouth, you should consider creating a home garden of your own, where you will be the authority to grow food the way you want it grown.
Working in your backyard to grow food is a fun and healthy hobby that anyone can learn.
While gardening, you will feel at ease as your troubles simply float away. Home vegetable gardening allows you to be out in the sun, which is good for your physical health. It is shown through research that vegetable gardening lowers blood pressure and improves your concentration level.
Gardening is Economical
Vegetable gardening not only provides health benefits, but it is also a great way to save money. For example, by growing just one tomato plant, you can get 10 pounds of tomatoes over the season. This can save a lot of money.
Growing vegetables from seeds are, even more, lighter on your wallet. Along with being economical, you’ll also find that the flavor and texture of your garden vegetables, is way better than the products you have been purchasing from the grocery store. An added benefit is that tending your garden counts as a workout.
Benefits of Growing Your Food
- Organic produce contains fewer pesticides: When growing food for yourself, you’ll be more concerned about what to put on it and what not to, because you know at the end of the day you’re the consumer. Instead of using chemicals, you’ll go for more natural alternatives.
- Garden food is often fresher: It doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer.
- It is better for the environment: Practices to grow your own food conserve water, lower pollution, minimize soil erosion, increase the fertility of the soil, and use less energy. Growing food without using pesticides is also better for nearby birds and animals as well as people who live close to the vicinity.
Size of Your Garden
The size of the working area should be selected based on the total space available and on the amount of energy you want to invest in the project. If you’re doing it for the first time or consider yourself a beginner, starting with a small area is suggested. It’s better to be excited by what you get from a small garden than be frustrated by the time commitment a large one needs. Even a 100 square foot garden, grown with proper care and planning, can produce a good supply of salad greens for a family.
For beginners, a 10 foot by the 10 foot vegetable garden, almost about the size of a small bedroom, is sufficient to have a good start, and it will produce enough for you and extra to share with neighbors. If 10×10 seems too big, you can go smaller or consider container gardening. Start by selecting up to five or six different types of vegetables to grow. You’ll get enough fresh produce for summer, and it will be easy to manage the chores.
Choose What You Love to Eat
Before picking up your shovel, choose what you like to eat and consider the following:
Think about the need of your family, how much you all will eat, and how likely you freeze, store, can, or give away extra produce. Then make a realistic estimate of the number of seeds or plants you need to sow in your garden. Beginners usually make the mistake of planting more than they require or can handle.
Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini provide multiple harvests throughout the season, so you may not need many plants to cater to your needs. Other vegetables, such as corn, carrots, and radishes are harvested only once and then would need to be replanted, so knowing these things is important, before planting.
Grow With Planning
Planting vegetables of different seasons will provide you with food throughout spring, summer, and autumn. Grow lettuce, arugula, broccoli, peas, radishes, and carrots in early spring. After harvesting your cool-season crop, plant crops of the warm season, such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and herbs.
In autumn, you can get potatoes, kale, and cabbage. By adding some vines like peas and green beans, you can use the vertical space, which will increase the yield of your yard.
In this gardening practice, you can grow different types of crops in one proximity, for multiple reasons which include:
- Pest control
- Providing habitat for beneficial insects
- Maximizing space use
- Better crop productivity
Marigolds can be planted in the yard for the sole purpose of pest protection. Basil plants can be grown near tomato plants to enhance the flavor of tomatoes. Onion and radish grown near lettuce can protect lettuce plants from different pests. Similarly, sage, oregano, and rosemary can repel many pests, and they also attract the bees in the garden, which helps in pollination, which is necessary for certain plants like cucumber, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and peas because they require pollination for their fruit to grow.
Selection of Vegetable Varieties
When choosing vegetables to grow in your garden, see the descriptions mentioned on the seed packets, tag, or label. Different vegetable varieties come with specific benefits.
Some produce plants are smaller in size and ideal for container gardening. Other varieties offer better production, disease resistance, or temperature tolerance.
Ask yourself which vegetables you like to eat, then look into their sizes and care needs. Ask your garden-center staff if you’re still unsure.
Two or three varieties of a vegetable should be grown, so in case one variety doesn’t perform well, other varieties of the same plant can make up for it.
Observe Your Planting Site
If you’re planning to grow plants at the back of the yard, you’ll have to visit it regularly to keep a check on plants that need to be watered and to pick produce that is ready to be harvested.
If your vegetable garden is closer to the house, this will make it easier to harvest fresh produce or choose a handful of herbs while cooking in the kitchen or outside on the grill. It will also help you to control pests as soon as you notice any.
Space for Future Trees
If you’re thinking of adding some fruit trees in the future, plan for them now by envisioning a root spread of 20 feet and the future shading effect of the tree.
Orientation to Sun and Shade
The availability of sunlight plays a significant role in proper garden development. If you set the orientation of your garden from north to south, your plants can get maximum exposure to the sun. The area that receives enough continuous light will likely be the best location for your garden.
There are three essential requirements to get a successful garden:
If a garden gets enough of these three, it has the potential to grow excellent quality produce.
Soil Quality Matters
For healthy produce, your vegetable garden requires the best soil you can give it. Well-nourished and healthy soil is something you know when you feel it. Good soil is easy to dig, and it drains well.
To know the type of soil in your garden, you can send a sample off to an authorized soil-testing lab. You can also examine it yourself, through its texture. Pick up a trowel’s worth and put it in your hands.
- If it has a grainy texture, it means that it is more sandy.
- If the soil feels powdery, it has more silt in it.
- If the texture feels sticky, it has too much clay.
The proportion, in which sand, silt, and clay are combined, determines the soil texture. Nutrient availability to plants and proper water drainage depends on the soil texture.
Dark, crumbly, and full soil is what we need. Luckily, all types of soils can be improved by adding organic matter to it.
If we talk about sandy soils, it consists of large soil particles, so it is quite easy for water and nutrients to leach down through gaps relatively quickly. This can be fixed by adding organic matter in the soil, which fills the pores between the large sand particles, and it eventually improves soil quality by retaining nutrients and water.
Clay soil particles are densely packed with each other, which leaves very low to no space for oxygen to penetrate and plant roots to spread in the ground. By adding organic matter to these types of soil, space can be created between small particles; this way, water drains freely, roots can spread in the soil and oxygen can reach down to the roots.
Preparing the Soil
To prepare the soil for planting, spread any required amendments like compost, and work them into the soil with the help of a spade or tiller. Don’t step over the freshly tilled soil, it will become compacted, and all your hard work will go in vain. Then rake the surface smooth and irrigate it thoroughly. Let the bed rest for a few days before you plant so that the soil amendments can do their work.
Instead of making rows for planting, 3 to 4 foot raised beds can be prepared; this way, we can maximize space in our garden for vegetables to grow.
Several beds can be made according to the shape of your garden to get maximum production from a small space. Unless you’re planning on planting one large bed. In multiple beds, plants with the same needs can be grown together on the same bed, and then rotated to different beds in the next years. Through crop rotation, the soil stays healthier, so from good, nutrient-enriched soil we get healthy crops year after year.
Size of Beds
Beds for veggies can be of any length, but try to keep the widths under 4 feet for the ease of weeding and mulching.
Seeds vs. Seedlings
First, you’ll have to choose whether you want to start vegetables from seeds or through seedlings. If you’ve decided to grow through seeds, then you should know that most annual veggies (e.g., peas, radishes, beans, beets, lettuce, mesclun mix, or squash) should be planted indoors, almost six weeks before the last frost, before transplanting them in the garden. There are some veggies (such as peas, beans, and carrots) that can be sown directly in the garden soil.
For slow-growing plants like broccoli, celery, and kale, the method of buying and planting seedlings works well. Because these transplanted seedlings will mature early and provide you with the earlier harvest, and transplanted seedlings are also more robust against pests during the growing season.
Wise irrigation plays a great role in garden success, especially in hotter and dry areas. In the first few weeks, after seeds germinate or when seedlings are transplanted, frequent watering keeps plants strong. On average, most plants need 1-2 inches of water every week. If the temperature rises, you’ll probably need to water more, but this does depend on rainfall.
Heavy irrigation once a week is better than a little every day. This helps with strong root development because roots are forced to reach down into the soil in search of water. In the case of container gardens, plants can’t do this, so water them more regularly.
Caring for Your Vegetable Garden
After putting all our hard work into planning, preparation, and growing, it would be an embarrassment to let the garden wither away in the summer.
Follow the steps mentioned below to keep your garden going strong.
Weeds are those extra plants that compete with our vegetables for nutrients, light, and moisture. It is necessary to keep removing them so that our vegetables can get enough food and space to grow properly. By hoeing the top inch of soil regularly, with the help of a hand fork, the growth of weeds can be discouraged. By using compost, plastic, or straw mulches, the growth of weeds can also be controlled.
Nourish Your Veggies
Applying fertilizers to your veggies can increase the production of your garden. Some gardeners only apply organic compost at planting time, while others may consider applying a synthetic fertilizer to the warm-season crop.
Resist Pests and Diseases
Some problems require unique solutions, but in general, follow these strategies for keeping pests away from your veggies:
Fight Fungal Diseases
Plants usually become the prey of fungal diseases if the leaves stay moist for longer. To reduce the risk of fungal diseases, water the soil and not the leaves. If you’re using a sprinkler to water the plant, then use it early in the morning, so the plant can have a whole day to absorb it, and also, the sun can dry out the extra bit of moisture. Still, if a plant gets affected by any sort of fungal disease, pull it out from the roots and throw it away. Don’t use any infected plant in your compost pile.
Keep Animals Out
Big pests, such as rabbits and deer, can cause damage to your vegetable gardens. Fencing around your yard can stop these pests from entering the gardening site. It takes an eight-foot-tall fence to restrain deer, from hopping into the garden. A fence needs to go 6 inches down the soil to prevent rabbits from tunneling their way in.
Picking off big insects and the caterpillars by hand is a safe way to deal with limited infestations. Try insecticidal soap spray if the garden is infested by a larger number of insects that can’t be handpicked. Whichever pest-control chemicals you use, follow the manufacturers’ instructions carefully.
Harvesting Your Garden
Its time to get rewarded!
Gardening is all about picking your vegetables after they are ready to be harvested. Many vegetable plants can be harvested several times during their growing season.
For example, lettuce will continue to grow even after you cut some of the young and tender leaves. Cucumber and zucchini can be picked when the fruit reaches the size of a few inches. The general rule for vegetable harvesting is that if it looks good enough to eat, it probably is!
Keep Picking to Keep Producing
Some vegetables must be picked frequently to keep the harvests coming. Beans, tomatoes, and summer squashes are just a few examples where picking will encourage even more pods and fruits to grow.
Similarly, picking old blooms, also known as “deadheading” of ornamental flowers, encourages more flowers to sprout, which eventually increases the display time.
Nourishing the Soil
Pampering your soil is a must, to have a good harvest all year round. Nourish it with organic matter, including manure and compost. Manure must be decomposed for almost six months before applying it because fresh manure usually contains seeds of different weeds and can cause diseases. Due to its high nitrogen content, it can burn plants.
Benefits of using organic matter at least once a year, by simply laying it over the soil surface:
- It improves the overall texture and health of the soil.
- It will also work as a mulch.
- Over time your soil’s structure will get better.
- It provides better draining and a healthier environment for roots.
Organic fertilizers can also be used, but they only provide a short time boost to the soil, unlike organic matter that builds up long-term soil health.
Keep a Record
Nobody is safe from mistakes, but good gardeners learn their lessons. Keep track of When What, and Where you grew, and the type of pests and diseases that attacked your plants, failures you faced, and any action taken against weather’s uncertainties.
Take photos of your plants, then save them with your notes. By making this personal record of minor details, you can improve your garden and your experience as well.
When growing your own food, you have a more diverse and healthy diet, which is enriched with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Food, in its raw and fresh form, is not only delicious but also the most nutritious of all. Growing your own vegetables is thrifty, too. A well-planned and prepared garden will provide many years of productivity with relatively minimal routine maintenance.