Gardening can be intimidating. Many people decide to give it a try and promptly abandon it when they walk into their overwhelming home gardening center. There are twenty different kinds of soil amendments, rows of gardening implements, too many books to count, and a wide variety of seeds, seedlings, saplings, bushes, perennials, annuals, and starter kits available. Too many choices!
The truth is this: gardening can be very simple, and it can be done anywhere. You don’t need a tiller, a truckload of manure, and acres of land to grow fresh, organic produce for your family. Here are some simple tricks to get started in your own backyard (or patio!):
Grow what you like
Does your family hate tomatoes? Don’t grow them! Do they love green beans? Plant double!
Seeds are cheaper, but seedlings are easier. If you are a first-time gardener, you may just want to purchase seedlings. Ask the nursery or home improvement center what to plant now, and don’t rush the season. If you start with seeds, you can extend the growing season by starting your seeds inside and transplanting, but keep it simple if this is your first foray into growing your own food.
Plant your garden close to the kitchen if you can. This will make you more likely to use what is ripe. It also makes it easier to send little helpers to the garden to harvest if you can keep an eye on them. Make gardening a family affair, too. A small “pizza garden” with one tomato, one basil, and one green pepper plant will make pizza night that much more special!
Traditional gardens are grown in rows, which can be a wasteful use of small resources. You can grow more food in a smaller space if you grow vertically. Think potatoes in a bin that grows with them, beans up a trellis, and herb gardens in a pallet.
It really is all about the soil. Yes, sun and shade and water matter, but you can have those elements perfect and still have a sad garden if your soil isn’t healthy. Since you may be starting a garden in a container, you have the perfect opportunity to purchase organic soil that is perfect for your purpose and has a good balance of nutrients. Don’t spend your budget on fancy gloves or tools. Buy some “black gold” instead and watch your plants thrive!
Place your containers on casters and roll them to the sunshine. Look into shade-loving veggies (lettuce and spinach, for example) if you don’t have much sun. Consider hydroponics. Or maybe even plant your own spice rack in canning jars mounted on the wall.
Start with something you know will be a success. When you buy green onions for a recipe, don’t throw out the roots. Submerge them in water and watch them grow their tops again. Keep the water clean, and you can grow them indefinitely (although their flavor will get mild over time). Re-grow celery. Re-grow lettuce. These can be grown in a coffee mug on a window sill, requiring very little direct sun, time, or attention.
And finally, just grow it!
The benefits of growing your own food are tremendous, and with a little trial and error, you can be enjoying the literal fruits of your labor in very little time. Gardens can be planted in coffee cans, old gallon milk jugs, and in plain terracotta planters on front stoops, back porches, and fire escapes. Once you have some experience, you can research more about things like companion planting and planting in succession, but for now, just get started!
Where will you plant your first seed (or seedling)?
Image by Kristine Paulus via Flickr