People everywhere are discovering the joys that come from gardening. Creative approaches to raising fresh vegetables and herbs are bringing people together like never before. With access to virtually any kind of food in the grocery store, is there a point to raising a garden? Every person will answer that question with a different emphasis, such as saving money, freshness, organic methods and saving time. Regardless of the reasons, virtually anyone can raise a few favorite foods during the growing season.
Winter doldrums provide an excellent opportunity to visit the local library and check out excellent books that contain valuable, local gardening information. Browsing these colorful volumes restores hope that spring will come again. The growing season can be met with excitement and a plan for the new garden.
• Favorite vegetables – Careful evaluation of the family diet will provide guidance for the selections that must be primary candidates for the garden. Some people love salad, and others prefer root vegetables. Saving money on the summer grocery bill is achieved by replacing some of the primary purchases with homegrown bounty.
• Expensive foods – Carrots are very inexpensive in the grocery store, but beets can cost a fortune. Salad greens are expensive in certain areas. Tomatoes are priced based on the quality of the commercial crop. More expensive grocery items should be grown in the garden to save the most in the food budget.
• Easy to grow – Older gardening books will contain rating systems for each region of the country where various vegetables will grow well. In the first year, choose the vegetables that grow easily. All plants need soil augmentation and fertilizer, but other special requirements can be discouraging to the new garden.
• Seeds – Vegetable plants grow well from seeds. Planting seeds directly in the soil works well in some climates. Starting seeds indoors before the final frost is essential in areas where the growing season is shorter. Tomato plants are difficult to start from seeds, but they are available from many different sources. Cost must be considered when acquiring the right seed-starting equipment.
Where to Plant
City dwellers have found that gardening is possible almost anywhere. Rooftop gardens, plot gardens and public spaces are used for vegetable gardens. Creative placement will leverage unused space and bring enjoyment to everyone.
• Containers – Lettuce, tomatoes and herbs are perfect candidates for container gardens. Plant selection should align with how the crop will be used. Plants will mature at different rates, so the gardener should be attentive to the peak harvest time for each.
• Small plots – Almost any space can be turned into a small garden. Maybe a neighbor has an unused portion of his yard that could be shared for a portion of the yield. Most vegetable plants do not grow large, so careful planning will optimize the available space.
• Among flowers – Border gardens that appear to be full of flowers might offer some space for a vegetable plant in among the perennials. Pepper plants, squash plants and herbs add texture to flower gardens. As the flowers fade in the fall, the vegetables will be bearing a healthy crop.
• Large plots – Significant space can be daunting to the new gardener. Instead of planting an acre of garden the first year, consider a phased approach that will be manageable until gardening skills are acquired. Large areas require more water and work to keep the area free from weeds.
How to Plant
Every location offers different advantages for growing a garden. Experts know exactly when to start each year, and new gardeners are wise to listen to the advice offered at the local nursery. Weather is unpredictable and unforgiving. Garden plants require certain care to produce at peak levels.
• Appropriate seasons – Lettuce requires cool soil for proper germination. Tomatoes will not produce if a late spring frost shocks the plants. Northerners love to push the planting dates earlier each year. This can be costly when plants must be replaced because of severe spring weather. Novice gardeners must observe and follow the calendar and recommended planting times to achieve the best results.
• Hot house – Growing seasons are lengthened by savvy gardeners who utilize simple hot house structures in the early spring. Plants are protected from extreme temperature swings until the soil temperatures have risen enough to plant in the garden area.
• Soil and fertilizer – Basic knowledge about the soil composition enables the new gardener to add an appropriate amount of organic material. All gardeners have favorite fertilizers that range from milled manure to sophisticated organic mixtures. Experimentation is the best way to find the preferred method for the area.
• Sunny area – Vegetables love sun. Gardens locations should have significant exposure to sunshine. With proper water, the sun will grow beautiful vegetables for the harvest table. Most new gardeners learn quickly that the fun in gardening is stepping outside to find something new each day as the summer progresses.
Slower is faster when planting the first garden. Significant financial investment is not necessary for the gardener who wants to save some money on the grocery bill each summer. Savings is achieved by planting vegetables that will replace some portion of the weekly grocery purchases. Annual changes to the garden plan provide variety and fun for everyone.