For a few years now it has been my dream to grow my own vegetable garden. When I envisioned buying a home, one of the key features it needed to have was a large backyard with room to plant a garden. I look forward to the day that I can pull my organic veggies from the yard and bring them in the house to cook.
As far as dreams go, that sounds pretty simple to accomplish, right? For me, not so much. As much as I want a garden, I’ve been so intimidated by the process. I’m completely ignorant of what it takes to grow and maintain a garden.
Last week, I remedied that. I spent time at Chastain Farm. They offered a class on how to plant a spring garden. I have to tell you, it was so amazing to me. We toured the farm, saw the resident goat and roosters, and ended up in their vegetable garden. I learned so much. They even allowed me to plant some tomatoes.
Obviously, I’m not at the point of growing a full garden in my backyard on my own. But I can start somewhere. The beauty of gardening and growing your own food is you can do it almost anywhere. You don’t even need to have a yard. A good friend of mine lives in a loft apartment in midtown Atlanta and she has a garden. As long as you have a small area that gets adequate sunlight you can start a garden. That can be your patio, deck, or even kitchen window sill.
What I love most about having a garden is that it disputes the common misconception that it’s too expensive to eat organic, healthy foods. You don’t have to shop at Whole Foods to get organic fruit and veggies. You can grow them yourself. Talk about economical.
So, for all the aspiring gardeners like me who want to grow your own food, here are seven tips to help you get started.
- Choose a location that will get 8-10 hours of sunlight a day. Just make sure it’s close to the house and a water source.
- Test your soil. You want to make sure you have good soil. The better the soil, the better the garden. Pull random selections of soil from the area you want to plant; at least eight selections are recommended. The ideal testing time is the fall. In Georgia, you can get your soil tested through the University of Georgia extension office.
- Start with a small area. Don’t try to tackle a huge garden the first time out. Square foot gardening is a great option. You can also create a container garden or salad bowl garden. It can be as simple as you need it to be.
- Grow what you like to eat. Keep it simple. Don’t try to grow everything. This will be difficult for me because I love so many veggies. I’m going to stick with those that have a quick maturation time.
- Make a plan. What you’re going to plant? When do they need to be planted? Be sure to mark out the square footage. There are several resources to educate you about square foot gardening. (www.squarefootgardening.org.)
- Plant in succession. You don’t want to plant everything at the same time. This will prevent being overwhelmed from everything harvesting at the same. Stagger your planting.
- Record what you plant and where. This will make it easier to identify what you planted once the harvest comes in. One tip is to use the labels inside the packaging of whatever you’re planting. Or you can cut up slats from old blinds, write what you planted on it with a sharpie and stick it in the ground. You can use these year after year.
At the time of this writing we’re about a week and a half from April 15th. For most of the world that day is significant because it’s the tax deadline. But for gardening enthusiasts it’s a safe time to plant a spring garden. It’s typically the time that spring has sprung without the fear of a cold weather snap ruining spring plants, especially tomatoes.
So, who’s with me? If I’m brave enough to take this on, anybody can. The best part is we’re not alone. There are plenty of resources available to help you get started and to support you throughout the process. Here’s one that I like – www.gardeners.org.