Planting a Garden to Use for Food
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If you’d like to reap the benefits of fresh food, saving money on produce, avoiding all sorts of unknown chemicals, and lowering your carbon footprint by decreasing your food miles, an at-home garden is just what you need. Here at Modernize, we help homeowners live greener lives at home, regardless of where they live or how much space they have. So whether you’ve got a big backyard or a tiny apartment balcony, read on for tips on how to start your own garden so that you, too can enjoy the fruits of your labor (pun absolutely intended).
Decide What You Want to Grow
Think about what your family likes to eat and how much food you can actually use in to order to prevent food waste. It’s best to start small and scale up. After all, a $2 tomato plant can easily produce 10 pounds of fruit throughout the season, so you may not need many tomato plants. Lettuce and other greens also grow fast and require little maintenance. Carrots or radishes may only produce once, though, so if those are favorites, you may need a couple of plants. Also consider how much time you have to devote to your garden. Try not to plant more than you can tend.
Select Your Garden Space
Raised beds are a great option for gardeners who have poor soil—rocky, clay, or sandy. They provide your vegetables with a better environment to grow in (because you are providing the best soil), as well as the water drainage necessary for vegetables to thrive. Two 3×8 gardens and one trellis will easily feed a family of 3-5 people. Here is a great tutorial to help you build your raised garden beds with helpful hints for tending your garden once your seeds start growing.
If you decide to plant directly in the ground or used raised beds, make sure you thoroughly remove grass beforehand to prevent weeds from growing up through your garden. Removing grass can be hard work, but a sharp garden spade should do the trick.
Containers gardens are ideal for gardeners with limited outdoor space. There are tons of plants that will do well in containers—from tomatoes, herbs, and lettuce to the more unexpected like carrots, strawberries, onions, eggplant, and bell peppers. Your only real limitation with container gardens is the depth of your pot. When it comes to pots, terracotta is a favorite, but it can be very heavy to move. If you are going to need to move your plants around to make the most out of direct-sunlight, you may want to go with plastic containers that are lighter to lift. If you are very limited on space, consider going vertical with this cool re-purposed pallet garden.
Ultimately, wherever you choose to garden, you’ll want to stake out a location that provides the most access to direct sunlight, at least six hours a day.
Skip the Fertilizer and Compost
Compost provides you with nutrient-rich soil, without the expensive cost and chemicals that come with store-bought fertilizer. According to Gardener’s Supply Company, “Organic matter improves the fertility, the structure and the tilth of all kinds of soils. In particular, organic matter provides a continuous source of nitrogen and other nutrients that plants need to grow. It also provides a rich food source for soil microbes. As organisms in the soil carry out the processes of decay and decomposition, they make these nutrients available to plants.”
Via Birds & Blooms
It’s so easy to build your own compost bin and begin diverting food scraps that would just fill up your trash can more quickly and eventually head to a landfill. Fourteen percent of municipal solid waste is food scraps. When these scraps sit in a landfill, the anaerobic process releases methane—a gas that’s twenty times more dangerous as carbon dioxide.
Plus, if you have kids that are into dirt and worms, a compost bin is a sure fire way to get extra help cleaning up dinner plates!
Keep in mind that most fruits and vegetables are full of water, so it only makes sense that they’ll need watering frequently—every day or two. If you aren’t getting any rain, you’ll want to make sure that your plants are getting about an inch of water a week. This watering can made out of an old milk jug (pictured) is a DIY project that’s simple and practically free.
Consider a Natural Pesticide
For me, one of the best parts of growing my own food is knowing exactly how it has been produced. I want to avoid exposure to unknown chemicals whenever possible. Weed ‘Em & Reap has a great recipe for natural pesticide that won’t make you think twice about enjoying your harvest.
Via Weed ‘Em & Reap
Don’t Be Shy About Harvesting
Isn’t this the most exciting part? The general rule is that if it looks good enough to eat, you can probably pick it! Plus with many plants, the more you harvest, the more it will grow. Bon appetit!