Growing your own organic vegetable garden has had a resurgence of interest in recent years, as skyrocketing food costs and lower quality of vegetables from areas experiencing environmental issues such as droughts have people scrambling to find a way to save money and still enjoy a healthy diet. Organic vegetables grown right in your own backyard or even in your windowsill can be a tasty addition to anyone’s pantry when done properly.
But what if you’ve never gardened before or have only grown flowers? That shouldn’t be a discouragement, because with a few simple steps, you can be on your way to enjoying the crisp taste of homegrown vegetables.
The Planning Process
Before starting your vegetable garden, map out the area in which you plan to till the soil and plant the seeds. Tilling is when you turn over the dirt using shovels and spades to loosen dirt and expose the bottom layers of the soil to the sunlight and elements. The plot of land should be in the path of sunlight without major exposure to the elements. Use boxes constructed of wood to set out your vegetables in rows or sections and aid in the prevention of wildlife wreaking havoc in your garden.
Depending on the type of vegetables grown, you may need to plant the seeds either in close quarters or spaced-out rows. Determine the vegetables you want to grow and speak to a professional about the best way to plant them. Choose vegetables that you and your family will enjoy and that require minimal maintenance for optimal output.
Garden tools are an essential part of a healthy garden. The most common tools recommended are gardening gloves, a shovel, a spade, a trowel and a water hose. Make sure to purchase tools designed to lessen the amount of stress put upon the body. Choose tools that will suit your personal size and invest in a good set of either knee pads or a kneeling pad to use when you’re on your hands and knees digging in the dirt.
A good water source is key to a healthy garden as well, and one cannot depend on Mother Nature to provide the right amount of moisture. When watering your garden, a garden hose reel can eliminate stress on your upper back and wrists. The most competent weapon in a garden toolkit is the body, so maintenance of yourself is key! Take rest periods and protect yourself from the elements with sunscreen, a hat and plenty of hydration.
There are two planting seasons when planning a vegetable garden: warm and cool. Vegetables that grow in the warm season are planted in the spring, and cool vegetables will be planted in the fall. If you are planning on growing your garden from seeds, starting them inside your home in pods under artificial light can be beneficial. Once the seeds have taken root, they can be transplanted to the plot of land tilled to begin full growing potential.
The most important part of any vegetable garden is the soil and the nutrients needed to grow healthy vegetables to completion. Garden soil is available at both department stores and garden-specialty locations. If you choose to use the soil already available in your backyard, perform a simple dry test with samples in a plastic cup to determine the amount of moisture in the soil and to test for sandy sections. Vegetables will not grow in sand or dry, crumbly soil. The soil chosen must be a fertile, moist soil that is easy to maneuver and sift through, with some resistance in the wetter sections.
Generally, most soils are not fertile on their own and must be treated with a mixture of nutrients such as compost or fertilizer that is designed with root vegetables in mind. Use fertilizer sparingly because you do not want to overwhelm the soil and upset the natural pH levels. Professionals at any garden store will be able to point you in the right direction for the fertilizer that will best suit your needs, along with the amounts recommended for healthy growth in your vegetable garden.
Gardening can be an outlet for stress and even a way to boost self-esteem. Looking over a plot of land bearing plentiful vegetables for your family dinner table can provide one with a sense of accomplishment. There are trained professionals, chat groups and even workshops you can use when starting a new vegetable garden. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as you step outside the box and try something new — fresh produce is waiting!
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