With the rising costs of produce and instability in the food supply chain, starting a backyard vegetable garden is a good way to ensure that you always have something nutritious to eat. Gardening is a popular hobby that has been shown to help relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and improve mood. However, it takes planning and hard work to develop a successful garden. Here are some pointers on how you can enjoy a fruitful garden with minimal effort.
1. Design Before You Plant
Once you know what you want to plant, set aside some time to design your garden. Several features can make planting and maintenance more convenient for you. One of these is the width of your planting rows. If they are too wide, you may have to stretch and reach to access all the plants. If they are too narrow, you risk wasting space. Plan a path around your garden that is width enough for a wheelbarrow or gardening cart.
If you have limited space in your garden, the planning stage is essential to ensure that you make the most of what you have. Depending on sunshine conditions, you can place planting frames against the sides of your house and grow vertical plants such as cucumber. Herbs and microgreens can be grown in window boxes, freeing up ground space for larger crops. On the ground, use succession planting to maximize your yield
2. Raise Your Beds
Raised garden beds and planting stands can make cultivation easier by reducing the need to bend and squat. The typical raised garden is about six to twelve inches tall, which allows for most vegetable roots. If you plan to plant crops with deeper roots, ensure that you place your raised beds on soil instead of concrete and the roots will find their way. You can also raise your beds higher, as long as you make sure the soil stays moist.
Raised beds can be edged with rocks, bricks, or wood. Beware of painted wood or pallets treated with methyl bromide as the chemicals will leach into your produce and be consumed by your family. Prepare your raised bed by lining it with organic material and cardboard to smother any grass, then filling it with quality soil. Fill your beds to the top, plant your seeds or seedlings, and cover the soil around them with mulch.
3. Water Wisely
Water is a precious resource and inefficient watering techniques can hurt your plants and your pocket. Choosing the right time to water such as early morning and late afternoon in the summer allows your plants to soak up as much moisture as possible. Use a smart garden watering system to ensure that water is distributed evenly to all your plants. This will also save you from having to individually water every plot or bed.
To save on water bills, collect rainwater or gray water for your garden. An easy way to collect rainwater is to connect your gutters to a tank. This tank can be connected to your watering system so you never need water from the mains for your garden again. If you are planning to use greywater on your plants, be sure that you switch to eco-friendly, biodegradable cleaning and care products to prevent toxic chemicals from getting into the soil.
4. Choose the Right Plants
Few things are as rewarding as harvesting fruit and vegetables from your very own garden. At the same time, it can be very disappointing to receive a poor harvest after months of hard work. Therefore, you should always choose the right kind of crops for your region and maintenance ability. Ask your local garden store for edible plant varieties that are suitable for your area. They may have hybrid plants that are easier to grow.
You should aim to plant a mix of hardy perennials like rhubarb and quick-growing crops like lettuce. Perennials come back every year, saving you time and effort on planting and maintenance. Greens and herbs such as basil that self-sow save you the trouble of raising seedlings. Consider companion planting as well. The Native American formula of corn, beans, and squash is an example of a highly-productive interplanting strategy.
5. Feed Your Soil
Turning your soil disrupts the delicate biome that feeds your plants. No-dig gardening is not only healthier for your garden but easier for you as well. Instead of tilling fertilizer pallets into your soil, simply place organic matter such as compost and mulch on top of your soil. These materials keep the soil moist as they break down into nutrients. You can purchase compost from local farmers or garden stores.
Most gardeners prefer to make their own compost. Composting your garden and vegetable scraps helps to minimize the waste that you generate. You can purchase indoor compost bins or start an outdoor compost pile. Non-squeamish gardeners can consider vermicomposting, an effective and natural way to compost with worms. Vermicomposting worms can be bought online or from local breeders.
Gardening is more than planting seeds and watering them. With proper planning and conscientious care of your soil, you can enjoy the benefits of a rewarding and productive garden.