Easy Home Veggie Garden
We all know it is best to eat local, organic and fresh. But did you also know that you should eat what is seasonal? If strawberries are not in season, it doesn’t matter how good you think those bioflavanoids are for you when it’s been picked in another country. It was picked when ripe so gas was sprayed on that apple to ripen it while it sat in warehouse for 2 months. By the time it reaches you, even though it is red, it is nutritionally devoid. So what’s the point of eating what you assume is healthy, when it’s actually become dead food? Natural enzymes? Gone! Nutritional Value? Zero!
The best way to eat local and eat real food is to start in your own back yard. Even a small garden, planted with the produce your family enjoys can be a great learning experience for kids, and starts the love of fruit and veggies early. Even if you don’t have a lot of room, you can grow in containers, or use this compact pallet garden idea:
(Check your local home improvement or big box store for leftover pallets to use).
Types of Home Gardens
1. The Container Garden
This is the kind of garden I’m keeping – it’s an easy way to start, and works well if you have limited space. This is just my second year container gardening, and last year I struggled: The lettuce burned up in the sun, the peppers grew into a lovely plant with no actual vegetable, and the squash vines choked out the tomato plants but never actually bore fruit.
Like me, you may have a trial-and-error period, but ultimately, it’s worth it. This year, I am successfully growing potatoes, basil, and oregano, and the first few sprouts of greens and spinach are starting, which makes me feel confident that this year will be a success.
Container gardens are very easy to set up and get started. The only supplies you need are:
- Gardening soil
- Hand rake or tiller
- Compost (for heavy-feeding plants like squash)
The amount of money you need to spend on your initial setup will depend on where and when you purchase your supplies. During the gardening months of early spring, most feed, grocery, and dollar stores practically give their gardening soil away. Containers will range anywhere from $5 to $10 a piece, while the rest of your items, such as seeds and hand rakes, generally range in price from $2 to $5 per item.
Overall, a small patio container garden should cost you no more than $100 for initial setup – and will probably cost much less if you grab a few containers from friends and neighbors no longer in need of them.
What to Grow
The most important thing to remember when planting in containers is that the roots of the plants can only go down so far. Make sure your containers are deep and wide enough to accommodate your vegetables. For example, most of my vegetable containers are approximately 12 to 14 inches wide and 10 to 12 inches deep. Depth is especially important when growing root vegetables, such as potatoes.
Here is a list of 10 vegetables that grow really well in containers:
- Green onions
- Green beans
While carrots and tomatoes grow well together in the same container, squash needs to be grown in its own separate pot – it’s a heavy-feeder that needs lots of compost other plants do not. As its vines grow, it can choke out other plants and keep them from moving past the seedling point.
2. The In-Ground Garden Bed
If you have good soil and a little extra room, the in-ground garden bed can be a very economical choice. An in-ground garden of 500 square feet is enough to feed a family of four for eight months out of the year with plenty left over to share with family, friends, and neighbors.
For an in-ground garden, you’ll at least need a hand tiller, seeds, and compost. You will also need a trellis and stakes to properly grow tomatoes and squash. A small fence of stones, bricks, or wood will help prevent ground runoff after especially heavy rains.
If you have good soil and are going to plant directly in the ground, you’ll save a lot of money by not buying gardening soil. Bricks and wood can be inexpensively obtained, and seeds and root vegetables can be taken directly from store-bought produce.
Your cost will depend on the size of your garden. Initial setup can run you anywhere from $100 to $200, if you purchase everything outright.
What to Grow
With an in-ground garden, your options are limited only by your imagination. The most common vegetables and fruits grown successfully in in-ground gardens are:
3. The Raised-Bed Garden
This might be my next project if all goes well with the container garden vegetables. A raised-bed garden gives you a little bit more room to experiment and will offer higher yields. This type of garden is also ideal for a slightly larger space, and can be a great alternative to direct-to-ground planting, especially if your soil conditions are not ideal.
If you’ve thought about growing vegetables in a raised-bed garden but were immediately turned off by the prices of pre-made beds, you can build them yourself for a quarter of the cost. For this horticultural adventure, all you’ll need is cut cedar boards (the wood is rot-resistant), a couple of layers of newspaper, top soil, peat moss, compost, grass clippings, seeds, water, and a hand tiller.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, building a raised-bed garden should cost no more than $10 for the frame itself. With the additional cost of the soil, seeds, and hand tiller, you’re looking at an approximate overall cost of $50 to $100 dollars given that lawn clippings, newspapers, and water are generally free. For additional savings, an extra hand tiller can always be borrowed from a friend or neighbor and compost can be made at home as outlined later in this article.
What to Grow
Anything you can grow in a container garden you can grow even better in a raised-bed garden. You have more room, the soil is warmer, and the drainage is much better.
Plants that grow well in raised-bed gardens include:
4. The Window Box Garden
Even if you live in an apartment, you can still try your hand at horticulture with a window box garden.
All you need for a successful window box garden is a window box or hanging box (to hang off your deck), garden soil, seeds, and water.
A window box garden is small, and is one of the most cost-effective ways to grow herbs and vegetables. A basic cedar planter, garden soil, and seeds should run you approximately $50 to start. Remember, seeds can also be obtained from food you buy at the grocery store so you can stretch your dollars even further.
What to Grow
The best type of vegetables to grow in a window box garden are lettuce, greens, and spinach, as they are sown on top of the soil and do not have deep roots. If you would like to grow tomatoes, carrots, and tubers, build or buy a deeper box. Spices such as oregano, basil, and chives also do quite well in a window box garden.
What to Plant Now
I love this resource from www.MotherEarthNews.com that tells you what to plant when, based on your location. They also have a cool garden layout tool, and seed resources. Looks like I’ve got to get moving on my beets and asparagus!
If you don’t have a green thumb, go to the farmers market and know who you are buying from. Do they spray their crops? Local produce always tastes the best and has the most nutrition because it was probably picked yesterday AND it is always in season if it is local produce. Plus you can make a new friend AND learn something new as you experience foods you’ve never tried.
So what are you going to plant right now?
Beets and Berries,