Being ‘green’ can be pricey when it comes to buying organic food. One way to take a huge chunk out of that cost is to grown your own. You don’t need a green thumb, the perfect climate or soil, tons of time nor space. You don’t even need a backyard! If I can garden in a foot of water, you can overcome your gardening hurdles, too.
Choosing the ‘Where’
Vegetables do best in full sun, so the logical first step is to determine the sunniest spot available to you. Think outside of the box! This may be the front yard. Most people in the Midwest feel vegetables belong in the back, with the front left to carefully manicured flower beds and shrubs. However in Salt Lake City and other urban areas of large cities, many people have taken to utilizing the front yard for wonderful mixed gardens of both vegetables and flowers. I think they look fantastic and are much more eco-friendly than green expanses unused lawn.
You might not have a yard at all to work with and that’s ok, too. Just about anything can be done in a container on the patio or deck, provided there is sun. Many communities also have plots available in community gardens. You may also request to utilize space at friends’ and family‘s properties- who are sure to be willing to share in the bounty and maybe even some of the work!
Choosing the ‘How’
How you garden will depend on what space you have available, how much you want to grow and if you have any obstacles like poor soil or health issues. For the smallest of spaces, container or square foot gardening are great options. If you have great soil in a well drained and sunny area, you can till directly into the soil and go to town! Most of us have to amend the soil in some way. Or in my case, have serious water issues to deal with. A raised bed may be the next option if you are still wanting a decently sized garden space and have water or soil difficulties. A raised bed can also be beneficial for people with back issues as they require less bending than traditional beds. Lastly, many people successfully garden out of containers on their decks or patios. This option requires the least effort, space and water. It is also a great option for beginning gardeners unsure of how much they want to do before dedicating space in their yard.
Choosing the ‘What’
You may find the hardest part of gardening is choosing what to grow! There are so many wonderful varieties out there. A tomato is not just a tomato, you have Romas and Beefsteaks and Cherries and Early Girls and hundreds of varieties! Same goes for every other vegetable. Then you can get into whether you want non-GMO(yes, you do) and organic. Every home improvement and hardware store will carry some basic seeds. I've even seen them in Target! Your local nursery may carry a larger selection and be a good resource if you have questions. There are many seed catalogs you can find online, as well, though it seems many of them are now all owned by one large company. Another option- check around your area and see if you have access to a local seed exchange.
Of course, it might be best to first decide what basic vegetables you want to grow before you get technical! Corn, tomatoes, onions, peppers, strawberries, raspberries… chances are there will be more you’ll want to grow than what you have space for. That’s ok! Try to narrow it down to what you actually buy in the grocery store or what you want to make (salsa, anyone?) and go from there. Every year try something new.
Also consider how much you are wanting to harvest. Just enough for fresh eating or that plus enough for canning and freezing? Another option is to share your extra with family, friends and neighbors or donate it to a local food bank/shelter. Consider doing all of the above!
Choosing the ‘When’
Many people in areas with all four seasons think of gardening only in the summer. Not so! Some crops are best planted in cooler temperatures, like peas, beets and spinach. Then there are the usual summer vegetables. Oft forgotten, you can do a fall planting of many of those cooler temperatures again when the hottest parts of the summer have passed. That’s a lot of produce possibility!
There are many creative options in gardening designed to make it possible for anyone in any situation. Whether in a container, raised bed or traditional bed, something is sure to work for you. Check out the following resources that are some of my favorites when it comes to gardening:
Bottom line, get out there! Get those hands dirty, grow some delicious and nutritious food for yourself and your family. Save a little green and be a little green. If you are a parent, it’ll be one of the best examples you can set for your kids.
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