Join me as I show you how to grow your best garden! Does starting a garden feel overwhelming? Not sure where to begin? Keep reading as I answer the top questions for growing your own food.
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What do I need to grow my best garden?
Below we will discuss soil amendments, plants, deciding on a location, other helpful hints for getting your garden planned and planted.
What is my growing zone?
This is an important piece of information when planning your garden. You need to know what you can plant and when to plant it.
A great resource for this information (and lots of other helpful gardening info) is your local cooperative extension office. Another option is The Old Farmer’s Almanac or you can even just google “last frost date” or “growing zone.”
How do I know if I have the right soil to grow a garden?
Loamy, sandy, clay, mix? Some plants grow better in certain types of soil. Will your soil need amended or supplemented with certain minerals such as calcium or potassium?
Healthy garden soil is essential because it will provide your plants with the nutrients they need to grow well and produce an abundant harvest.
Soil testing is a great way to determine what your garden may need. Your local cooperative extension office will often have kits for you to gather some soil and send it off for testing. You may also find such kits at your local garden center.
If you have thick clay, like I do, you may want to consider raised beds in the future if you decide gardening is a hobby you want to continue. Soil amendment can be very beneficial for this type of dirt. Compost, manure from a local farm, or even natural fertilizers can work wonders to boost the nutrients and minerals in your garden.
At the end of your growing season, cover crops are a wonderful way to prepare the soil for growing your best garden next year.
What are the best vegetables to grow in my garden?
Take inventory of what your family typically eats. You don’t want to grow banana peppers if no one will eat banana peppers. Also, you will need to find out your grow zone to know what you can and cannot successfully grow.
If your garden will be in an area of your yard that receives full sun (6 hours or more), this is where you will want to plant fruit and root vegetables to have the tastiest crop and the best yield.
Planting in a space that only gets 2 to 4 hours of sun? This is where many of your herbs and leafy greens will thrive. Mostly shaded areas that still receive some sun are best for leaf lettuce, spinach, some varieties of cabbage, radishes, leeks, and turnip greens.
When space is a concern, you may want to plant vegetables that are high yield and continue to produce through the growing season.
Some of these vegetables are leaf lettuce, cucumbers, kale, bush beans, chard, tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, and pole beans.
Vine plants such as peas or beans are another great solution when space is limited.
Do I grow from seed or buy seedlings to transplant?
You can start plants from seed, or buy plants as seedlings directly from a local garden center or even your farmers market. I personally recommend purchasing seedlings to start.
Starting from seed can be a bit tricky, and putting forth all of that effort only to have your plants flop over can be quite defeating. Ask me how I know. It is so important to know what grows best in your climate, or grow zone, and when you need to plant them in the ground to be able to harvest.
How much should I plant to grow enough food for me and my family?
The answer to this depends on your gardening goals. Do you want to grow what you want to eat during the summer? Want to grow what you need to last you until the next growing season? Are you growing to share with friends and family?
Just like we discussed above, you will want to take inventory of what your family eats. How many times a week does your family typically eat corn? How much do you use for a meal?
For instance, this past fall I canned 2 bushels worth of grapes to make grape juice. We have already used it all. So I will need to consider expanding that amount next season. Since we were on the topic of corn, I froze quart bags of cut from the cob corn. I used 35 ears of corn, and I think we only have about 4 or 5 bags left.
My ultimate goal is to grow what we will need for the year, but that is a tall order, and takes some effort to build up to. I personally don’t recommend pursuing that right from the start, but I will not stand in the way of your dreams of a pantry full of mason jars.
How big should my garden space be?
It is so tempting to dive right in to gardening and plant those huge market gardens we see on some YouTube accounts. Trust me, I’ve been there. And though it pains me to admit it, my pragmatic engineer husband was absolute right in suggesting slow growth (see what I did there?) in expanding my garden space.
My recommendation is to start small. I started with a 10′ x 10′ space, which worked out really well. It gave me enough space for trying a few different plants and some berry bushes, with room to grow (okay, I’ll stop with the puns.)
Don’t forget, the bigger your garden plot, the more weeds there are to pull. This is definitely something to consider because when the heat of summer approaches, you will want to be some what strategic about your weeding schedule.
Don’t have enough space, or cant dig up your property? Try container planting. We will will talk about that below. Also, you will need to take into account sun exposure, and how much your plants will require. But we will talk about that below also.
What is a good location for my garden?
Where do you have space that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day? Is there an accessible water source? Any large trees nearby?
Take a walk around your property. What will work best for your space, your needs, and the requirements of the plants you will be growing? For obvious reasons, flat ground is easier to work with.
But if you don’t have any flat ground, you can still make your space work. Just be aware of where the slope is in relation to what you have planted so that you can try to prevent as much run off as possible.
There are so many options when it comes to finding space for gardening. When all else fails, container gardening is an amazing way to still grow your own food. Container gardening is also a great option for anyone who is renting, has to follow HOA rules, or just is short on space.
Additional Resources for How to Grow Your Best Garden:
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