HOW TO PLANT A GARDEN
Have you ever thought about growing your own garden at home but am not sure where to begin? Growing your own vegetables and fruits is an easy way to save you money not only through the summer months but also through course of all the seasons. Plus, planting a garden gives you the pleasure of enjoying delicious, fresh, home-grown fruits and vegetables right from your own backyard that far exceeds any grocery store produce. There is nothing more tastier or satisfying than enjoying the sweet, juicy flavors and vibrant texture of fruits and vegetables that you have grown yourself.
Learning what types of vegetables to plant in your garden and how to tend to them is a lot easier than you may think. If you take some time and plan it right, you can enjoy a beautiful garden full of fresh sun-kissed vegetables and fruits without having to spend a tremendous amount of time tending to it. Gardening is making a comeback and more and more people are creating gardens in their backyard and communities as an alternative for far healthier choices. There is nothing better than walking into your own backyard and picking the fruits of your labor or plucking sprigs of savory scented herbs from the pots on your patio. This old school hobby provides you with many benefits, its relaxing, its good for your health, provides you exercise, enhances your mood, and it can provide you valuable family time when you spend time in the garden together “nothing gets better than that.”
Gardening does take planning, so are you ready to get your hands dirty?
TIPS ON START A VEGETABLE GARDEN
Whether this is your first garden or you are a seasoned gardener you must first decide what you want to plant in your garden. If this is your first attempt at gardening, I would suggest you start off small, you don’t want more than you need because if you have too much the rest would go to waste. A good rule of thumb would be to consider how much your family will eat, keeping in mind that many vegetable plants such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash will keep providing throughout the season where carrots, radishes, onions, and corn, only produce once. You will also have to determine whether you are starting your vegetables from seeds or if you are going to buy plants. The next thing you will need to do is determine how much space you will need. Once you figure out what you want in your garden, you will be able to determine the appropriate size of your garden to grow your vegetables.
MAPS & GARDENING
Plant Hardiness Zone Maps are used by gardeners and growers to determine the best type of plants that will thrive in their location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones. The map is available online and to find the hardiness zone in your area, simply type in your Zip Code. These maps are great for beginner and seasoned gardeners when selecting plants, but it is important to understand there are many other environmental factors that can contribute to the success and failure of a garden such as rapid changes in temperature, exposure to cold, humidity, pollution, how they are planted, and the size and health of the plants.
PICKING THE PERFECT SPOT
It doesn’t matter how big or small you decide to make your garden, there are three things that are very important to help your garden grow.
- Full Sun is essential, most vegetable require at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight to help your plants grow and bear a substantial amount of vegetables. Without enough sun your plants may also be more susceptible to insect and pest attacks or diseases. If you find that you do not have a spot in full sun to plant your vegetables, you may want to try planting vegetables that may grow better in partly shaded areas such as peas, rooted vegetables (beets, carrots, potatoes), and leafy vegetables (chard, spinach, and salad greens). But always remember to check your area for seasonal planting and sun exposure because extreme hot temperatures can destroy pollen on the flowers which will limit your produce supply. For example; if daytime temps stay above 90° F. and nights don’t drop below 75° F your plants will be craving some afternoon shade.
- Plenty of water is necessary to help your plants grow and it is important to remember that your garden should be watered regularly during dry-spells. The best time to water your garden is in the morning because watering in the evening may cause plant leaves to retain moisture overnight which can lead to disease, especially with disease prone plants like tomatoes. If you find that it is necessary to water your plants in the evening, water around them and do not get the leaves wet. When you are planning your garden try to plant it where you have access to a water source, but if this is not possible, a long garden hose will allow you to give your garden the water source it needs. If you are going through a heat wave, you may want to water your garden frequently (1-2 times a day) and you may want to cover your garden with an old sheet or sheet cloth to protect it from the extreme temps, but only do this through the period of the heat wave and then go back to your normal routine.
- Good Soil is the key to having a successful garden. Soil that is moist, well-draining, and rich in organic matter is best to harvest fresh produce. You can use compost or composted manure, peat moss, mulch of untreated grass clippings or weed-free straw in your garden area to help retain moisture. Once you determine how big you want your garden, it is time to work the soil. If you do not want to spend a lot of money on garden equipment, you can use a garden shovel, a metal rake, a garden fork, a hoe, and a wheel barrow. Simply turn the dirt over, break it up, and rake out the excess grass and weeds. After your soil is worked, add your organic matter (compost or composted manure, peat moss) and work that into the soil. If you do not want to dig your garden by hand or you have a large garden, you may want to invest in a garden tiller. Once your soil is worked and prepared, you are ready to start planting.
SPACE SAVING GARDENS
If you live in an apartment and want to grow your own vegetable garden, there are ways to maximize your space and create a balcony or fire escape garden. All you need to do is determine how much sun your garden will get to help you select the right vegetables to grow, how much space you have for apartment gardening, what type of containers maximize your limited space such as hangers, side by side containers, vertical garden planters, or windowsill boxes. Don’t let limited outdoor space prevent you from trying out your green thumb. There are many tricks to growing a garden and it can be done in less space than you may think.
Many people that have decks and patios like to keep some of their vegetables and herbs near by. Even if you do have yard space for a garden, vegetable garden containers can also be used to grow some of your plants on the deck and patio in fact, almost any vegetable that can be grown in an outdoor garden plot can be grown in a container. In addition to my garden, I grow tomatoes, beans, peppers, fruit trees, and herbs on my deck. This also provides me a convenient and fun way to grab some fresh herbs and vegetables when I am grilling and it makes my deck look totally awesome too.
FENCING & SUPPORTS
Once you have your garden planted, you may want to consider surrounding it with a fence. A fence can serve two purposes. If you live in a area with a lot of small critters, this can deter them from nibbling away at your plants and your growing crops. There is nothing more frustrating than watching all your hard work disappear from various pests such as moles, chipmunks, groundhogs, and in some areas deer, etc., and we all remember Peter Rabbit. Mr. MacGregor was constantly chasing him out of his garden, those cute little furry pests can do a lot of damage and rob you of your plants and crops. The second purpose that a fence can serve is a vegetable support. Many vegetables grow much better with vertical supports. vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and other climbing or vining crops can be carefully tied to the fence for support, or carefully weaved through the fence to act as a trellis as they grow. It is important to remember that free standing vegetable supports should be placed early before they actually need the support.
WHEN TO PLANT
Once the weather starts getting nice many gardeners are in a hurry to dig a hole and plop in a plant. There are some vegetables that can be planted in the spring and fall and withstand cooler temperatures and other that need to be planted in warm summer temperatures. If you are not sure when to plant certain vegetables, each state usually publishes a guide listing planting dates for all the vegetables online. A good rule of thumb that my dad always went by is to plant your summer garden between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, this typically ensured that the threat of frost has ended and warmer temperatures are beginner. Other vegetables should be planted later into the summer because they are fall producing vegetables for instance, kale, spinach, and collards and considered hardy vegetables and can tolerate temperatures in the low 20s and high teens so they can be planted in late summer to produce a fall harvest. There are many vegetables that will continue produce well after a first frost. Below is a list of vegetables that can tolerate the different temperatures so your plants do not become stressed and will produce good fruit.
Summer vegetables are planted after the last frost need warm weather of 65 to 90 degrees F and are only for summer gardens because frost and cold temperatures will kill them, these include:
- Southern peas
- Summer squash
- Sweet potatoes
Semi-hardy vegetables can tolerate temperatures in the range of 30-32 degrees F and will produce in spring and fall gardens including:
- Chinese cabbage
- Irish potatoes
- Lettuce and gourmet salad greens
- Swiss chard
Hardy vegetables can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 °F before dying off and upon warmer temperatures they will continue to grow between freezes, these include:
- Brussels sprouts
- English peas
- Mustard greens
Most herbs need to be planted in the summer because they can not withstand cold temperatures and even though herbs are considered annuals, they can be grown as perennials if they are brought in the house during cold winter months.
VEGETABLE NUTRIENT CATEGORIES
There are different categories of vegetables, such as bud, bulb, flowers, leafy, root, stem, tuber, vegetable fruit and vegetable seeds. There are different colors of vegetables, and each color of the vegetables provides different nutrient content.
- Red vegetable nutrition benefits: red vegetables (tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit), contain lycopene” and “anthocyanins.” These vegetables may help reduce your risk of several types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer.
- Orange/yellow vegetable nutrition benefits: orange and yellow vegetables (yellow beets, butternut squash, carrots, yellow peppers, yellow potatoes, pumpkin, rutabagas, yellow summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, yellow tomatoes, yellow winter squash), contain “carotenoids.” These vegetables help to maintain healthy mucous membranes and healthy eyes.
- Green vegetable nutrition benefits: green vegetables (spinach, green peppers, peas, cucumbers, and celery), contain “lutein” which helps maintain healthy eyes. Green vegetables, (lettuce, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts), reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke and they are high in potassium which can help regulate blood pressure. Other green vegetables include: Artichokes, Arugula, Asparagus, Broccoli, Broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, Green beans, Green cabbage, Celery, Chayote squash, Cucumbers, Endive, Leafy greens, Leeks, Lettuce, Green onions, Okra, Peas, Green peppers, Snow peas, Sugar snap peas, Spinach, Watercress, Zucchini.
- Blue/purple vegetable nutrition benefits: blue and purple vegetables (purple asparagus, purple cabbage, eggplant, purple Belgian endive, purple peppers, purple-fleshed potatoes) contain “anthocyanins” which acts as powerful antioxidants and reduces the risk of certain types of cancers, stroke, and heart disease.
HEALTH BENEFITS CONTINUED
If you have been contemplating whether to start your own vegetable garden, here are a few positive reasons to get started. Vegetables are a recommended daily dietary intake and growing fresh vegetables is a great way to improve health. Vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked, canned, frozen, fresh, dehydrated, mashed, whole or dried and choosing from these categories can certainly appeal to every pallet. They can be eaten separately, mixed with other foods, or in a drink. Vegetables provide you with vital nutrients, such as dietary fiber, potassium, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, all important for your wellbeing and health and reduces the risk of some diseases including:
- lower in calories
- reduces risk of developing decreased bone density
- decreases developing kidney stones
- reduce the risk of diabetes
- reduce the risk of obesity
- reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack
- reduce risk of some cancers
- reduce blood cholesterol levels
- lower risk of eye and
- digestive problems
INSPIRE YOUR GREEN THUMB
Whether you are new to gardening or are an experienced gardener, I would like to share some some handy tips with you to get the best from your garden. Gardening is easier than it looks if you plan right. Whether you have all day or just a few minutes, you can enjoy the freshest, tastiest, and most vibrant fruits and vegetables right from your patio and/or your backyard. Gardening is fun and rewarding and all that is needed is a good spot with healthy soil and a few plants. Begin small at first because if you are like me, your garden will continue to grow every year as you get more and more experience. Don’t get discouraged if you loose a plant or two (this is normal), my dad always said plant one extra for the worms and rotate your vegetables meaning, you should plant the same vegetable plant once every three years in the same spot.
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