Grow Your Own Vegetables: It isn’t rocket science.
There’s nothing better than getting your hands dirty and reaping the rewards of your hard work, especially when it comes from the garden. Organic, home grown fruits and vegetables are free of pesticides and other chemicals that can damage our bodies over time.
There are many great reasons to start your own vegetable garden.
- Control your food — The only way to know exactly what is in the food you are consuming is to grow or make it yourself…and a garden is a great way to do it! You have absolute control over how the garden is grown, the seeds and fertilizer used, and have intimate knowledge of each fruit or vegetable.
- Save money — The cost of organic produce at a grocery store is usually more expensive if you are concerned about chemicals and trying to eat healthy. Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs can ease the stress on your wallet and mind.
- Freshness — Produce in the store may have been sitting there for days. It may be handled frequently, be bruised or limp, or the quality can be questionable. Picking fruits and vegetables from your garden ensures you are getting your produce at the peak of its freshness.
There are different ways to accommodate growing a garden even if you don’t have a lot of space for a dedicated garden plot.
Grow Your Own Veggies in Garden Boxes: A Garden Patch Alternative
Raised garden beds are gaining in popularity, and for good reasons. You don’t need to have a lot of ground space in which to cultivate the garden, and keeping the whole setup off the ground not only provides good drainage but helps keep pests, like snails and slugs, away from the crops. The sides of the vegetable bed also help keep the soil from eroding or being washed away due to heavy rainfall. Keeping the garden raised also means you can have a longer growing season because you are able to plant earlier and the soil will be well-drained and warmer than in-ground gardening.
A garden box is not the same as a planter, which is an elevated platform with a structured bottom to keep the soil from falling out. Raised garden beds have sides but are open on the bottom to provide access to the ground. This means roots have the advantage of going deeper than with a planter. They are traditionally made of Western red cedar, but Vermont white cedar, yellow cedar and Juniper also make great garden box material because the woods are naturally resistant to rot and last a long time.
You can buy pre-constructed raised garden beds or make your own. The process is fairly simple. With a bit of lumber, hand tools and elbow grease, you can construct a garden box to accommodate some types of fruits and most vegetables. Click here for a step-by-step guide to building a raised garden bed.
The word community means “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common; a feeling of fellowship with others.” Community gardens recognize that everyone working together for a common goal brings a sense of harmony and abundance to the community at large, something that is often missing in society today. In this scenario, a large plot of land is planted and tended to by local volunteers. The food is then distributed to everyone who wants or needs it.
The American Community Garden Association (ACGA) operates in both Canada and the United States, and is a network of volunteers, professionals and supporters of community gardening in rural and urban communities. A cooperative effort improves a person’s quality of life and stimulates both social interaction and self-reliance while providing food for everyone to partake in. Check with your city officials to see if a community garden is in operation, or click here to find a registered garden through the ACGA.
Potted Gardens for Small Spaces
One drawback to growing your own vegetables is that you might not have the significant amount of space it takes to make a sprawling garden, but you still want the benefits of fresh herbs and produce. This is where potted gardens take centre stage. Often called container gardening – it is suitable for a variety of living spaces, requires less maintenance than a traditional garden, and can be portable. The pots/planters can be placed around the patio or balcony for a functional decoration while the plants mature, and then brought inside after their prime, if space is available.
Virtually any container can be used for this type of gardening, like terra cotta, plastic, wood, cement or ceramic. The soil remains contained throughout the entire growing process and the containers present a deterrent to a variety of pests. Make sure the bottom of the container has several drainage holes, as plants can’t grow in soil that is constantly wet. Also, because the container does not have access to the ground, the potted garden will need to be frequently fertilized and watered to ensure the produce is getting the proper nutrients to thrive. But the rewards are well worth the effort. Click here for a good perspective on how a potted garden works.
Gardening Tips to grow your own veggies
If you are ready to start your own home-grown experience, here are a few things to consider:
- March and April are typically the best months to start your vegetable garden – the last frost has come and gone and the soil is thawed. If the ground is still cold or partially frozen, seed germination will be slowed and the vegetables will be more susceptible to disease or infection.
- Plan what you’re going to plant before you start, and consider how much space you have to work with. Some vegetables, like tomatoes, potatoes and onions, are able to grow in a small environment; others, like beans, melons and pumpkins, need more room to grow and spread. Decide how big or small you want your garden to be, and then choose the right vegetables for your growing space.
- Prepare the soil for planting by turning it with a hoe or shovel, and make sure it’s slightly damp before adding 4 to 6 inches of your organic compost material to the loose soil. The mixture should sit for a few days before being mixed into the soil. You are then ready to plant.
- The general rule of thumb concerning planting is that seeds should be in rows 2 to 3 inches deep and 4 to 5 inches apart. Rows of seeds should have 2 to 4 feet between them to prevent overcrowding. If you are unsure of the planting instructions, refer to the seed packet for more information. You should begin to see seedlings within 3 weeks of planting; be sure to keep the soil moist and the garden free of weeds to ensure a great harvest.