As we are all spending more time at home this summer, it may be the perfect time to start your first at-home vegetable garden. Gardening can bring a sense of order and calmness to the chaos of the year 2020. It is a fun activity that the whole family can get involved in to make the long days at home go by just a little bit faster. Plus, the end result is yummy home grown vegetables that will help boost your immune system!
Select and clear the area for your garden. The goal is to select enough garden space to meet your needs without taking away from your ability to enjoy your backyard with your family. You also need to take into consideration which vegetables you plan on growing as some plants take up more space. And don’t forget to check for sunlight. Most vegetables and herbs need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Once you have selected your spot, make sure the area is free of grass, debris, and leaves. Dig or till up the soil before planting to freshen it up as well as allow roots to penetrate the soil more easily. Another popular idea is to use raised planting beds. They allow for a longer growing season with better drainage and fewer weeds.
Fertilize your soil. The more fertile the soil, the better your vegetables will grow. Unless you are purchasing pre-fertilized soil, most soil will not contain the nutrients that your garden needs to thrive. The only way to truly determine the level of nutrients in your soil is to test it. These are usually available for free or at a low-cost from your local cooperative extension.
Choose your plants. You want to select plants that will grow well in the area where you live and in the space that you have available. Of course, if you won’t eat it and you don’t have anyone to gift it to, there is no reason to grow it in your vegetable garden! When you are planting, make sure to give each plant room to grow.
Add some mulch. Applying a layer of mulch that is 2-3 inches deep around each plant will reduce weeds and reduce moisture loss through evaporation. If you use an organic mulch, such as bark, compost, or cocoa bean shells, it will nourish the soil as it decomposes.
Keep your garden watered. A rule of thumb for watering is that plants need around one inch of water per week during the growing season. Sunny, windy conditions dry out soil more quickly than cool, cloudy weather. If you are still not sure, feel the soil 3 to 4 inches below the surface. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.
Attract the birds. For some natural pest control, incorporate birdbaths or birdhouses into your yard. Birds will help control the pests that frequently attack gardens, all while leaving friendly insects such as spiders or ladybugs alone.