Grow a Garden of Eatin’

264-wheelbarrow-of-veggies-closeupDo all the fresh veggies appearing in the local farmers’ markets have you inspired? Victory gardens are back in style. Maybe it’s the economy. Growing your own can save you money, although your initial investment may take several years to pay off. Or perhaps you want to plant crops that are normally expensive at the market.

Gardening is good for you. You control which chemicals (if any) you use in your garden. Plus, it provides a great excuse to go outside and get some exercise.

tomatoes-greenhouse-2008sept08-lah-296Maybe you’re just tired of buying produce that looks like it hitchhiked from several states away. Who wants fruit that was picked green days before, and will never develop its intended sweetness, or even ripen at all? Fresh-picked vegetables are more nutritious, plus their flavor is worlds apart from what is trucked in from out of state. We all know how much tastier a vine-ripened tomato is, but peas, corn, beans, and many other crops are equally more delicious. You might even find yourself enjoying foods you’ve always rejected before.

Whatever your reasons, there is a certain satisfaction that only comes from producing your own food.

cabbage-home-lah-003The first step in creating a veggie (and fruit and herb) garden is deciding where to put it. With a few exceptions, food plants require full sunlight—a minimum of 6 to 8 hours per day. The garden should be near enough to the house that you’re willing to check on it regularly. Plus, you’ll want to go out and pick your fresh herbs and veggies while you’re making a meal. It should be in plain view where you’ll be reminded to care for it. You’ll also need a near-by water source.

Pick a location where something is already growing. You probably don’t want to dig up some valuable landscaping, but if your intended garden spot won’t even support weeds, you have a problem.

broccoli-tacoma-lah-3Excessive wind can stunt your plants, blow mulch around, and topple corn or pole beans. If the place you have in mind is too exposed, consider adding some snow fencing or other barrier to block prevailing breezes. A windscreen that lets some air through is preferable to one that is solid.

If you space is too limited, or your yard is fully landscaped, you can also grow many food plants in containers. As a newlywed in a small apartment, I managed to grow corn on our tiny balcony! The key to successful containers is size. Make them as big as is practical. Larger containers hold more moisture, so plants won’t dry out on a hot day. They give your crops more space, and mitigate the extreme temperature fluctuations that can damage or kill roots.

Again, place your containers where they’ll receive full sun, be sheltered from strong winds, and receive plenty of attention.

Another possibility is to include food crops in your general landscape. See my posting on Eating Your Landscape for more ideas on this topic.

Picking a location during the summer allows you to prepare for next year’s garden. You can start by removing any existing plants. If there are weeds, controlling them before they set another seed crop will save you hours of misery next year. Over the next few months, I’ll explain how to kill existing weed seeds, improve your soil, plan your garden, and be all ready to plant come spring.

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