Summer is coming fast and it’s time to start planting your garden. Whether you’re a first time gardener or have been gardening for many years, it can be a great time to test your green thumb and provide healthy food for you and your family. It can be surprisingly easy to get started with a garden, and you don’t need much space. Growing up on a farm where my dad gardened every year not only taught me how to garden, but how to make the most of space for crops. Follow my guide to start your garden this season.
Find Your Space
You need to have a little bit of land to plant your crops in, but it doesn’t have to be much. Ideally, you will want to have an area that is at least a few feet wide by a few feet long. If you want to grow vine vegetables, like cucumbers, you need plenty of space for the vines to grow. You’re going to need about 3-4 inches between each plant or seeds you plant, so you need to keep that in mind as well. If you’re strapped for space, you can plant vegetables alongside your house, or some even in pots indoors. Make sure to read on the seed packet or tag on starter plants to see how much space is recommended to grow. Be sure there is plenty of direct sunlight for the plants, as many plants need as much as six to eight hours of sunlight every day.
If you have rich, soft soil in your selected growing spot, you don’t really need to do much other than plant the seeds. If you need a better quality soil, however, choose a potting mix that has nutrients added. You can buy some with special fertilizers, but if you are going organic, be sure to choose one with organic fertilizer. Making your own compost bucket or bin with food scraps can be used to feed your garden as well. I have made my own compost and found it is better at growing my plants than conventional fertilizer.
Seeds vs Starter Plants
Seeds are pretty straight forward and inexpensive, but can require a lot more attention than starter plants. When planting seeds, make a well about two inches deep and place the seeds in the well, burying with dirt. Plant the seeds at least three to four inches apart, then water gently. You will need to check them frequently to be sure they are sprouting, and cover them if it’s going to rain to much. Heavy rain can wash the seeds away or soak them so much they can’t grow.
If you want a jump start on planting, starter seeds can be started indoors and moved outside when it’s warm. When it’s warm enough, simply dig a hole about four inches deep and bury the starter plant’s soil, patting gently, then water. While they are going to grow vegetables more quickly, they are more vulnerable to temperature changes. I recommend covering the plants with plastic wrap if the temperatures are slated to dip, as that will help shield them from freezing.
For both seeds and starter plants, be sure to keep weeds out of your garden, as they can strangle your plant roots and suck nutrients from the soil. When the summer months hit, be sure to weed at least every other day. You can spray weed killers if you choose, but picking them takes care of the problem without chemicals.
Though it can be tempting to pick your vegetables early, wait until they’re fully ripe to harvest them. Some plants, like tomatoes, can ripen off the vine. You can pick those plants and let them ripen in a paper bag in your kitchen until you’re ready to use them. I like to pick a few at a time and put any extras in my crisping drawer of my refrigerator. Some plants will start blooming new fruit, and others will have one harvest and die off. You will probably have a higher yield than you expect, so share your harvest with family and friends.
Your first gardening experience will probably be a rewarding one. The first plant I ever planted on my own was a tomato plant that yielded so many tomatoes I got into making sauces and salsa. With a little patience and care, your garden can flourish and provide excellent nutrition for you, your family and those that share your harvest.