Growing a Home Garden 101

Home Gardening

We’re sure you’ve noticed the local food movement gaining momentum.

Farm to table, slow food, organic gardening – they’re all accelerating trends attracting more and more people to home gardening.  

And sure, planting a garden is nothing new, but if you haven’t started one of your own yet, here are some things to consider:

Benefits of Home Gardening

— Food tastes better when it’s homegrown. It just does. Something about the love that goes into it? And the fact that the food doesn’t sit in cold storage for days. Try a store-bought tomato and then compare it to a garden tomato. See? Also, surely you’ve noticed how expensive organic food is at the store. Grow your own and avoid spending that money.

— Homegrown food saves you money. Get this: the “famous” Burpee Seed Co. estimates that for every $50 spent on seeds and fertilizer, $1,250 in produce is grown. That’s huge. Take a look at this infographic for projected cost savings.

Home gardening cost savings

— You know what is on your food. If you don’t use pesticides, there will be zero pesticides on your herbs and vegetables.

— Home gardens are environmentally friendly and sustainable. We could all use more of those two things.

— You have herbs at the ready. How many times have you bought a package of fresh herbs at the store, only to use a little of it while the remainder goes to rot? With a home garden, you just pinch off what you need and leave the rest to continue to grow. Plus, if you dry your herbs, you don’t need to buy them in those expensive bottles at the grocery store.

Home Gardening Container

Types of Home Gardens

CONTAINER GARDENING


This style of gardening is just as it sounds: vegetables and herbs are grown in plastic, terra cotta or other containers instead of planted in the ground. Container grading is good for small outdoor spaces or more urban environments. 

— What you need


For container gardening, you typically need containers, garden soil, hand rakes, seeds, and compost. Containers should be deep and wide enough to provide enough room for what you grow – especially if you plant root vegetables. Aim for containers that are at least 12 inches wide and deep.

— What to grow

Many vegetables grow well in containers. The most popular include lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, green beans, squash, and tomatoes. Often, you can combine certain vegetables in the same container, but ask a gardening expert about which ones should go it alone. Squash, for example, needs its own pot due to its heavy vines and food needs.

Check out this how-to on container gardening.

Ground Gardens

 

 

GROUND GARDENS


Again, this is just as it sounds: vegetables are grown in the ground (this is what you see when you think “garden”). In-ground gardens are good choices for homeowners with enough room and good soil. About 500-700 square feet is a good rule of thumb for garden size.

— What you need

To start a ground garden. you’ll need seeds, compost and a hand tiller. Be sure to buy stakes and trellises to support squash and tomato plants. Fencing off the garden with rocks or bricks can help prevent runoff after rain.

— What to grow

Nearly anything can be grown in this type of garden. Try corn, eggplant, potatoes, beets, squash, and even watermelon and pumpkins.

See how to make an in-ground garden happen here.

RAISED BED GARDENS


If your soil isn’t the best for growing an in-ground garden, a raised bed garden is a good alternative. Raised bed gardens also require enough space, so if you’ve got it, you’re good.

— What you need

There are pre-made beds available for purchase, or you can build them yourself with rot-resistant wood (like cedar). Fill the beds with newspaper layers, top soil, peat moss, compost, and seeds. Hand till your creation and add water.

— What to grow

Raised bed gardens are like big container gardens, so anything you grow in containers, you can plant in a raised bed. Rhubarb, spinach, beans, and broccoli all grow well in raised bed gardens. 

Learn how to build a raised bed garden here.

Homegrown tomatoes

VERTICAL GARDENS


If you’re very challenged for space, a vertical garden may be your ticket. In this type of gardening, plants grow upward rather than on the horizontal surface of a garden. When choosing a vertical garden site, find a place that receives plenty of sun. Many vertical gardens use drip irrigation for watering.

— What you need

An iron frame, garden rack, or wire cylinders (e.g., a “tomato cage”), fabric, fertilizer, a watering system, stakes and poles for support, and trellises depending on what you grow.

— What to grow

Cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and bell peppers grow well in vertical gardens.

See the different types of vertical gardens here.

How to Start: A Brief Outline

Check your space —

Look at your outdoor space and decide what type of garden you will grow. Pick a spot that receives full sun a lot of the time because many vegetables require up to 8 hours of sunlight. If you don’t have a full-sun spot, grow vegetables that do well in shade such as spinach and lettuce. 

Prepare your space —

If you have grass growing in your the space you choose for your garden, dig it up with a sod cutter.

Dig down to the dirt and get rid of any debris, including roots and rocks. Set your garden apart from your yard and grass areas by digging a trench at least 6 inches deep and 2 inches wide. You can also use edging materials to define your garden.

Check your soil —

Amend your soil as necessary. Vegetables thrive in soil that’s rich in organic matter.

Check drainage —

Soak your soil with water, wait 24 hours and then pick up and squeeze a handful of the dirt. If water still is present in large amounts, add some compost or organic matter to increase the soil’s drainage. If the sol falls apart easily, it’s too sandy and if it sticks together, you may have too much clay in your soil. If your soil isn’t optimum, consider building a raised bed garden.

Prepare your garden —

Loosen your soil with a tiller or by hand and then add more soil amendments if necessary. Smooth the soil surface with a rake and water, land then let your garden “rest” for a few days.

Choose what to grow —

Every vegetable has several varieties that dictate how large they’ll grow, are more cold- or heat-tolerant, and disease resistant. Research which varieties will do best given your climate and region. 

Plant —

Place your plants where they’ll go before you plant, considering adequate spacing for optimal growth. Place soil on top and around the plants or seeds.

If you’re planting seeds, mark seed rows in your garden and make a furrow at the recommended depth for your seeds and cover the seeds with soil. Water lightly.

Mulch —

Mulching the oil helps with weed control and moisture retention.

Water —

Water prodigiously to give your garden a good start.

Lettuce homegrown

Factors to Consider When Deciding What to Grow

— What your family likes to eat and how much they will eat from the garden

— Soil type

— Amount of sunlight

— Your climate (“cool weather” vegetables include radishes, broccoli and letter, while warm weather” vegetables are summer squash, and tomatoes) and region.

— Garden size (is there adequate drainage? root room?)

— Your level of experience and amount of time you can dedicate to planting and maintaining the garden

Speaking of climate and region, in Southern California, artichoke, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collards, endive, garlic, kale, lettuce, onion, peas, radishes and swiss chard are best grown in the fall and winter; and beans, chives, corn, cucumber, eggplant, radishes, squash, swiss chard, and tomatoes can be grown in spring and summer. Plant watermelon and pumpkin in the summer, too.

Growing a Home Garden

Home Gardening Tips

— Water at least twice a week, but get familiar with how much water each plant requires and adjust accordingly. Watering in the morning or at night is best.

— Fertilize as needed.

— Weed often. Weeds will steal nutrients from your other plants.

— Pick your vegetables. Many plants will cease yielding new vegetables if you don’t pick what they give you.

— Make insect repellant instead of buying it. Grind dry chili peppers and sprinkle around your plants. This will do a good job of repelling ants. You can also mix a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid into one quart of water and spray plants to get rid of other pests.

— Use chicken wire to keep out rabbits and other burrowing animals.

— Make your own compost.

Your Turn…

If you have the desire and inclination, growing a garden is fun work for the whole family, and once you’ve eaten a salad with 100% homegrown garden vegetables, you’ll never go back. What do you grow in your garden?

 Photos: From MorgueFile.com