Whether you love vegetables, want the thrill of making something from almost nothing, or are worried about supply chain issues, having your own backyard garden is an amazing adventure. We’ll break down what you need to know to get started and provide you with some tips so your garden will thrive.
Learn about growing food in your backyard: If you have the space in your backyard, why not turn it into a garden? Start by deciding how much space you have and then plan what crops you want. Pick your favorites so you will be excited about the garden. You may have enough space for tons of plants or you may have to scale down and use containers. Whatever resources you have, however, are enough even for a small garden and this is a good place to start.
Things to Consider When Growing Food at Home
We all have grand ambitions when it comes to gardening but the simple truth is we can only do so much if we have the space. Before you start dreaming about your ideal garden, you should take a look at the space you have on offer.
When it comes to space, it’s important to think about plants at their full size. When you first plant seeds or small plants, you might think you have a lot of space. In actuality, full-grown plants can double or triple in size.
Space also refers to the location of your garden. Almost all vegetable and fruit plants need full sun so even if you have a giant backyard, it won’t matter if it is continuously shaded.
You may also want to consider ease of access with your space. If the only location you have in your backyard is far away from your home, you may not visit as often as you want, and therefore won’t tend to the needs of your plants.
Finally, your garden space should be close to a water source. Having to haul buckets of water from a tap is not only hard to do but is not very sustainable. Your water hook-up should be close to your garden and if not, you should have a long-enough hose to make watering easier.
The scope of your garden will be entirely dependent on what your goals are. You may simply want a small herb garden on your patio to enhance your dishes. Or, you may want enough vegetables to feed your family plus extra to put up and can.
Before you start your garden, think about what your goals are. Then, make a plan that lists your available resources and how you will achieve those goals.
Goals are great but they should be realistic and based on what you have available. Still, there’s no reason not to dream big as it may inspire you to achieve what you really want.
Choosing Your Seed
Now comes the exciting part about planning your garden: choosing what you will grow. Most gardeners will start their crops by seed to maximize their costs but if you are new to gardening, you can also purchase small seedlings.
Some towns will offer seed exchanges where you can browse local growers and purchase local, organic seeds. Otherwise, you can head to your local gardening center or even look online.
Start by thinking about the types of food that you like to eat as this will encourage you to stick with gardening. You may then want to narrow down your seed selection as each fruit or vegetable has many different varieties.
Seed selection also involves planning your garden. Some plants, like spinach, only grow in cooler weather. Some, like peppers, need hot weather.
Different crops have different lengths of growing seasons. For example, if you want to grow pumpkins, you need to give them plenty of time to mature.
Gardening takes a lot of planning and this is essential to maximize your space. It’s also important to know when to plant your seeds as you don’t want to miss the window and have to wait a whole year.
Your soil is the foundation of your garden. Unfortunately, you can’t simply start digging in your backyard and expect good results with your crops.
Before you plant anything, you want to ensure your soil is the best it can be. It should have important nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
If you aren’t sure if your current soil is good, you can always purchase a simple soil testing kit. This will show you what deficiencies your soil has and you can then amend it as need by.
Try to add organic matter to your soil. This can be manure, compost, or bone meal.
Work the organic matter into the soil and be sure to add more once or twice every year. You should especially add more nutrients after you are finished growing a particular crop.
Types of Gardening to Choose From
Those with small spaces will naturally turn to container gardening as it will allow you to still have gorgeous food, even if you only have a small patio or balcony.
With container gardening, you should start with a large pot as this will create a better environment for your plants. Fill it with nutrient-dense soil.
Not all plants do well in containers, so you want to stick with ones that thrive in these conditions. Tomatoes are great, as are blueberry bushes.
Herbs do especially well in containers and you can even place them in smaller pots on your kitchen windowsill.
If you are really short on space, you may want to try vertical gardening. This is where you purchase a special hanging apparatus that has plants grow vertically.
A simple option for vertical gardening is strawberries. You can even put some plants in hanging baskets and the fruit will grow over the sides allowing for easy picking.
Vertical gardening is also great for smaller crops such as lettuce and other leafy greens.
Square Foot Gardening
A bit more complicated, square foot gardening is all about dividing your garden into square feet. The purpose of this is to use as much space as possible when you have a limited area.
With square foot gardening, you usually want to start with a raised garden bed. This should have a wooden frame and be a few feet above the ground which you can then fill with quality soil.
You may also want to plant complementary crops in this method to maximize the area. For example, cucumbers and tomatoes pair well, as do spinach and beets.
Types of Food That’s Easy to Grow at Home
You can’t really get easier than lettuce when you are starting out with a garden. Simply pick your favorite variety, sprinkle the seeds in some dirt, and in a few weeks, you will have a salad to eat.
Lettuce seeds are very tiny so you only have to cover them slightly with soil. Also, you should keep the soil moist but well-drained and plant in either the spring or early fall as lettuce doesn’t like hot temperatures.
Who doesn’t love crunching into a fresh carrot? This is a simple crop that you can have your kids help you with, and as a bonus, they will be eager to pull them and eat them.
You do want to thin your carrots as they start to grow, in order to allow them enough room to become large enough to eat.
Most farmer’s markets will hand out tomato plants to children and for good reason. This plant is technically a fruit but unlike other fruit plants, it doesn’t need help from pollinators.
Instead, the fruit pollinates itself and soon you will have bright red tomatoes. There are many tomato varieties to be found, so choose your favorites.
You may be wary about growing beans because many varieties need a trellis for the vines to grow. However, you can also grow bush beans which don’t need any extra support.
Beans have the added advantage of growing in poor soil. So, if your soil test comes back and you’re lacking in the important nitrogen, simply grow beans and don’t worry.
Gardening is meant to be enjoyable. Get your kids involved and don’t worry about being perfect, especially the first year in.
All gardeners will make mistakes and this is how you learn. If a certain crop doesn’t work out one year, simply try for a different one the following year.
Team up with your friends
There is a certain part of the summer when everyone you know has zucchini to give away. If you can plan your gardens with your friends, you can divvy up your favorites and share your excess.
Accept the weather
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you plan, the weather may have alternate plans. Sometimes it simply doesn’t get hot enough for your peppers to redden, and sometimes it is too hot and your plants are scalded.
Growing food in your backyard is an amazing experience. By planning your garden and working hard, you can feed yourself and your family.