It’s that time of year again folks… Time to get out your gardening gear, get down on your hands and knees, and get familiar with your soil. Will this be your first garden, or your 40th? Will you grow organically, or are you comfortable with spraying your family’s produce with nerve agents? I’m biased, of course.
How big will your garden be and what will you grow?
These questions (and many more) are all things you will need to consider before you get started, so let’s buckle down and figure things out! Here are a few great reasons why growing a garden is a fabulous idea.
Why grow a garden
Ahhh gardening… How I love thee… Let me count the ways. These points are from my FCN thesis on the benefits of a garden.
- Saves you money. The cost of produce is on the rise, and growing your own not only saves you money, it also frees you from the worry of fluctuating prices!
- You control the pesticide use. Can’t afford to buy organic? You can now! This will be our third attempt at a garden, and we have yet to use any chemicals. There are many natural ways to fend off pests and disease. One trick that my wife and I employ is to plant a Marigold border around our garden.
- Fresh and ripe. Store bought produce is often picked before it is ripe. This is done to prevent spoilage and decrease damage. The problem is, picking produce before it is ripe reduces its nutritional value.
- Great taste. The taste of a fresh, organically grown fruit, vegetable, or herb far exceeds that of its store bought counterpart.
- Ability to preserve. Growing your own food gives you an opportunity to preserve your food for use throughout the year. This allows you to enjoy the fruit of your labors even in the dead of winter.
- Education. A garden is a great way to educate your children about health, independence, and hard work.
- Free therapy. Gardens provide you with an opportunity to commune with nature, which is definitely good for the soul.
Why are you growing a garden? Be sure to list your reasons before getting started.
Expanding upon previous garden experience
Was your last garden big enough? Did you grow the right foods? Do you wish you had grown more herbs? Did your soil have the right texture and nutrients? These are a lot of the questions we had to answer after our first garden.
If this is your first time I have some simple advice for you… Do NOT be intimidated. A simple garden is not as complicated as you might imagine. In fact, if you are like me, you may find that gardening is the easy part, and that food preservation is your biggest challenge!
If you are just starting, a solid game plan is to grow what you normally eat, while always remembering to expand your horizons.
Plan your space
Where will you plant your garden. How big should it be? What will you grow?
After 2.2 years of gardening, the best lesson I’ve learned is to give yourself more space than you think you need. Our 2nd garden was two boxes with the following measurements: 1 – 8×4 main box and 1 – 2×4 herb box. To our surprise, this was about half of what we actually needed.
Tomato plants should have a minimum of three feet between them but, because we shorted ourselves on space, we were forced to put plants about 1 foot apart. The result? Space-limited plants wind up being stunted and difficult to harvest.
Do you have enough sunlight? We didn’t. Make sure you put you garden in a south facing area with plenty of sunlight. If you plan to grow crops that require less sunlight, be sure to plan accordingly.
Prepare your space
Give yourself plenty of time to get outside and prep your garden area. Use the plans you set forth from the previous point to implement your strategy. My advice is to set aside more time than you think you’ll need because gardens have a way of becoming quite the time suck.
Ensure you have the proper tools, all the necessary supplies, and be ready to get dirty.
Determine your food source
Will you grow things from seed or buy plants? Should you get your seeds from an organic seed exchange, or are you cool with corporate seeds?
You should be aware that your opinions on this matter will change with time, study, and experience. For us, the more we learn about the precise source of your food… The more you will want to be involved in the process of growing it.
Determine fertilizer and water source
Will your garden be organic? How do you plan to fertilize it? How will you get rid of weeds, insects, and other pests?
This may sound simple, but like all aspects of gardening, it may not be. What water source will you put your garden near? Are you okay with using a city water source, or should you consider putting in a few rain barrels as a source of natural irrigation?
Plan for your bounty
What are you going to do with your harvest? Will you freeze it, can it, sell it? Do you have the necessary hardware for preserving your harvest?Â And do you know how to operate it?
Last year we purchased a pressure canner, but never ended up using it… This year will be different. We’ve already tested it and learned to use it, and have all necessary peripheral equipment.
When planning your garden please be sure you plan how you will harvest your bounty… Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
What will your garden look like?
If you’re planning a garden, what will you be growing? How big will it be? And what do you intend to do with your harvest?