For those of you ready to dig into some soil this weekend and in the weeks to come, I know you'll find this primer from Katie of Imperfect People to be extremely helpful!
The warmer days and new life pushing through the soil gets me so excited about spring gardening!
One thing I have learned for certain is if someone as unorganized as myself can garden, then you can too!! You don’t need all the expensive equipment, professional layouts, or even years of experience, all you need is a willingness to give it a try.
Why plant a garden?
- Produce is at it’s peak nutritional value when ripe. Fruits and veggies that have to travel to the super market are picked well before they are ripe. While it may become ripe by the time you eat it, the nutrition comes from the stem of the living plant. Once harvested, a vegetable is as nutritious as it is going to get. Nutritional value actually decreases every day past harvest.
- You control the form of pesticides, and or fertilizer
- You learn more about what grows in each season
- It is great exercise
- It is soo rewarding
- Who doesn't like having an abundance of fresh veggies for a fraction of the cost? In fact, The National Gardening Association estimated an average gardening household experiences a 750% average return on their investment!
If I have convinced you to give it a go, here is a step by step guide for getting started: First things first, pick a spot a sunny spot in your yard. Veggies and herbs needs about 8 hours of good sunlight a day. Also be sure to consider access to a water source.
Speaking of water, in the heat of the summer (especially here in the south), veggies need a good soaking at least once a day. I lose a lot of gardening friends with this fact, but don’t click away! There is hope for us forgetful gardeners! I suggest a drip irrigation system. It is MUCH cheaper to install and uses way less water than a sprinkler irrigation system. It is also very easy to do yourself … no really, it is. Step by step instructions here. Most garden centers sell everything you need. I have my drip irrigation on a $30 timer that automatically waters my garden everyday and a hose on the other end for watering plants not on the drip.
If a drip irrigation is for some reason not possible, make life easier for yourself and plant your garden on a regular route you walk everyday - the walk to the car, the walk to the mailbox, etc. Above all, CLOSE TO THE HOSE!
Wherever you choose to plant your garden, chances are right now it is currently growing grass (and or weeds). If you have a tiller, a friend with a tiller, or a budget to rent one that is the ideal way to go, but for the rest of us, here is a good solution:
First get your irrigation laid, then lay several layers (about 10) of damp newspaper or cardboard over the surface of your garden (and irrigation). This is a great chance to reuse/recycle your waste.
If you are anxious to get started and don’t have that much newspaper or cardboard on hand you can ask some friends for theirs, or contact the local newspaper station as they often have end rolls of paper without print that they discard with LOTS of paper left. (FYI cardboard from cereal and cracker boxes work great too.) Make sure you overlap every piece because grass is RELENTLESS!
Then cover it all with mulch. I use pine straw since I can rake it up for free but crushed leaves, bark, or cedar mulch is all great too. Now you are ready to plant!
If you are a rookie gardener, I suggest buying plants rather than seeds. Seeds are the more frugal option, but can be a little tricky. You want your first garden experience to be rewarding and headache free! You can try seeds next year.
When you are ready to put your plant in the ground tear a hole in the newspaper/cardboard and dig a nice big spot to loosen up the soil around the plant. As you mix the soil together be sure to add some nutrients. Compost is great if you have it, if not, several handfuls of chicken manure or organic fertilizer is great too! Make sure you mix it in the soil well so the roots don't stay right by the fertilizer.
Remove your plant from its pot, loosen up the roots of your plant, and place in the soil. Be sure to plant tomatoes deep and everything else at soil level. Once the plants are in the soil make sure you water them once a day (except when it rains). If you added lots of compost when you planted then no other fertilizer is necessary. You can also water once a week with fish emulsion or any other type of organic fertilizer.
Now it is time to sit back, and wait for lots of fresh veggies! You can continue to enjoy your garden until the first freeze in the fall, and then you can try cool season crops!
What are your thoughts on a backyard garden? Are you planting a garden this year? Do you have any gardening questions? I love your feedback!
Katie has been organic gardening for 7 years and teaches gardening classes. She writes at www.imperfectpeople.net talking about living simply so we can give generously and how we are all imperfect yet loved by a PERFECT God. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook