On Friday, I wrote about 5 “Green” Reasons to Shop At Your Local Farmer’s Market. Another fun thing our family has tried (this is our 2nd year now) is plant our own organic vegetable garden. We have both a small “home garden” and a larger “remote garden”.
Prep your garden location
- Select location – at least 6 hours of sun is considered full sun
We live in a suburb with a postage-stamp sized yard, which does not leave much space in terms of gardening. I did manage to find a small section in our side yard that got enough sunlight to give gardening a try. Kinda along the same idea as square foot gardening, we used the wood base frame taken from shelving in our garage we demolished last year (also a great reuse project!). We added some compost, worm compost, and a bit of steer manure to fill the frame. We added drip line hooked up to our sprinkler timers to get regular water (not absolutely necessary, but we live in an area that has pretty hot summers…so getting consistent watering makes our plants happy and not wilt in the summer heat).
Select the types of plants you wish to grow
Then I selected which plants I wanted to grow.
This will depend on the time of year (ie. summer or fall) and which climate you live in.
Here is what we decided to plant in our “home garden” this year:
- salsa mix peppers
- spinach plant
- (2) strawberry plants
Even living in a community with strict HOA rules, I was able to find a location that was acceptable. It is barely noticeable from the street, in the side yard next to our driveway.
We also have:
(2) citrus trees (one Valencia orange & one Tangerine)
(1) pomegranate tree
In addition to our small “home garden”, we have a larger plot of space at my in-laws house. (Approx. 20′ x 7′ space)
Here is what we planted in our “remote garden” this year:
- sweet peppers
- sugar snap peas
- peanut plants
Last year, we had a lot of successes and some failures. I’m still learning a lot as I go, so there is still a bit of trial and error. We did harvest a ton of squash and tomatoes though! I made many batches of homemade spaghetti sauce along with other recipes. I still have some squash left-over in our freezer from last summer! I also found some unique recipes – who knew you could make radish-top soup?
Track what you plant each year using an Excel spreadsheet
Here are the columns I use for tracking:
- date planted
- plant type
- row #
- plant width (in”)
- row width (in”)
- harvest time (how long each plant will take to harvest)
Maximize the amount of space with a few planting tricks
When two or more crops are planted together. I have tried this for a fast growing crop & slow growing crop for instance (ie. fast growing radishes with slower growing carrots).
I have also done this as a way for natural pest deterrants. For example, plant carrots & onions to deter carrot fly, or plant marigolds in with my tomatoes as a natural pest deterrent.
Several smaller plantings are made at times intervals, rather than all at once.
This is useful, because then you can enjoy an entire season of that particular vegetable instead of having to harvest it all at once.
Use of trellises, etc. to vertical space for gardening. This is especially attractive to small planting areas such as use in apartment or balcony gardening.
Use Organic Fertilizer
- Worm compost (vermiculture)
- Manure (ie. chicken or steer)
So far, we have committed to do organic gardening (which is basically no use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizer). To get our gardens started, we bought a cubic yard of compost from a local dirt yard. It was much more cost effective than the smaller bags you’d get at the local gardening stores; it was approx. $20 which filled up the back of a pick-up truck. We also use compost from our compost bin as well as worm compost. Once a year, we’ll also add a bit of steer manure prior to planting our summer crops.
The initial set-up for the garden takes the longest time (ie. prepping the soil, automating watering, etc.). I do a bit of research prior to the start of the growing season to determine which plants I want to grow and chart it using my Excel spreadsheet. Once the seeds are planted, it is basically on auto-pilot just checking on it from time to time to make sure the watering is sufficient, looking for any pest or diseases, etc. It has been an enjoyable hobby for my entire family, and the fresh produce we enjoy eating and excess we have been freezing or canning to use throughout the year has been great!
And nothing beats making dinners for pennies from your own backyard!