Let's Get Dirty in the Garden

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

Gardening may seem like a simple task; you place seeds in soil, water them, let the sun shine down on the soil, and watch it simply grow, then you can pick the vegetables, and enjoy them! Just kidding, there is definitely more to a ‘simple’ garden. Follow the steps below to create a healthy, thriving garden!

  1. Planning is key! First, sketch out the area of your future garden, size the beds if you are adding raised beds in your garden, and then thoroughly research where each vegetable plant will go. This is important since some vegetables thrive when grown next to certain vegetable types, but do not grow well near other types. Additionally, some vegetables require more sunlight while others can grow in shady spots that do not receive as much sun throughout the day. Some vegetables also grow wide while others grow tall, which is important to consider to ensure your vegetables get ample amount of space. Always keep note of where you put each vegetable type so that you can rotate them the following year, making sure the plants are not prone to disease.

2. Choose your vegetables wisely based on where you live. Obviously, the climate is very different depending on where you live, and plants will grow differently based on the climate. If you live in a desert climate, but want to grow juicy pineapples like your sister is growing in Miami,FL, keep in mind that you likely will get very different pineapple growth results. Since different regions have different growing season lengths, if you live somewhere with a shorter growing season, it is recommended to grow short-growing vegetables like radishes, carrots, salad leaves, lettuce, asparagus, and spinach, while plants like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, winter squash, and melons have longer growing seasons. When deciding what type of veggies you should grow, remember to only grow what you or your family will eat! Otherwise why waste money and time on growing veggies that you will not enjoy?

3. Gather the essential tools you will need to start your garden! This includes a garden trowel, a fork hoe, a garden knife, pruners or garden secateurs, a heavy duty hoe, an oscillating hoe, a digging spade, a hand rake, a hose with a wand or a watering can, gloves, and potentially a wheelbarrow. Other items recommended to have are upcycled popsicle sticks for vegetable markers, pencils, knee pads since you will be kneeling while gardening, and some sort of sun deflector like a hat.

4. Decide if you want to include other types of plants near your garden such as pollinator-loving plants! This will allow the pollinators to easily access your garden and pollinate them which will help your plants thrive.

5. Protect your veggies from pests such as rabbits, deer, and insects. To protect from deer and rabbit, some fences can work, but they aren’t fool proof. If the fence is eight feet high or more the deer won’t get over it, but that doesn’t mean that rabbits can’t get under it. Other ways to deflect deer from your garden are to hang soap that deer find unattractive, plant onions on the border of your garden, or add garlic sprays or fish emulsion to your soil, which also helps feed your plants with sources of nitrogen. Other ways to deflect rabbits are to use soapy water, vinegar, or cayenne pepper in your garden, which will keep the rabbits away, hopefully. Using mesh or netting on your plants can also be a beneficial way to stop them from getting eaten by pests. Rabbits do not like tomatoes, garlic, hot peppers, catnip, basil, and mint, so using these plants will also help keep them away. Other pests including raccoons, skunks, and opossums are best kept away by using fencing. Netting over plants will help keep birds away, and chain-link fences that go deep underground can help deflect groundhogs and other underground pests. A good way to get rid of insect pests is to leave ladybugs in your garden alone, or better yet, introduce ladybugs into your gardens. Ladybugs don’t eat vegetation, but rather they protect vegetation by eating pests, like aphids.

6. Add compost to your soil. Compost adds important nutrients to the soil, so even if you live somewhere where the soil is mostly clay or lacking nutrients, adding compost will allow your plants to thrive. Composting can be done at home by using produce scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea grounds, and other natural waste (excluding human and animal waste), which will break down and turn into a soil-like substance. Add this on top of your garden’s soil to keep your plants happy and healthy. The more worms the better!

7. Make sure your vegetables get ample amounts of water, especially if you live somewhere with little precipitation. You can do this by setting up an irrigation or sprinkler system that is set on a timer to water your plants thoroughly, or alternatively, you can hand water your plants. A few factors will determine how much water your plants need. For example, the more sunlight your plants get, the more water they most likely will need. Additionally, some plants are just thirstier than others, so it is important to know the needs of the vegetable plants you are growing.

8. Always keep in mind the sun requirements of your vegetable plants. Since most plants need around 6-8 hours of sunlight daily, planning your garden ahead of time is critical to know which spots receive sunlight and how long during the day the spots are receiving sun. Some vegetable plants require more sunlight while others don’t mind shady spots or partial shade.

9. Now that you have a thriving garden, here are some ways in which you can use your favorite veggies. If your garden is full of more plants and vegetables than you eat on a regular basis, you can use berries or other fruits to make jams, or with extra tomatoes, you can make a tomato jam or chutney. Pickle pickle pickle! Onions, garlic, cucumbers, radishes, and so many more vegetables that you grow can be used as a great addition to your meals by pickling them. Dehydrate your vegetables to make some sort of vegetable chip that will last a bit longer than fresh produce. Additionally, you can make a broth using the vegetables you grow and with your homemade broth, you can make a lovely vegetable stew or soup with all your home grown veggies!

10. Last, but not least, enjoy! Enjoy the entire process, from planning, to growing, hand picking, and cooking your vegetables!

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