No, you don’t need a green thumb to grow your own food or embellish your home with flowers. All you need is a little dedication, patience and a well thought out plan. Much like everything in life, we become better at whatever we are doing by learning. Often, that learning comes from trial and error, such as the great sweet potato takeover of my own garden last summer. This year the sweet potatoes will have their very own designated spot outside of the garden. Though I am by no means a horticulturalist, between books, articles and a lot of garden disasters I’ve learned a few things to share, so hopefully some of these will help you as well!
~Placement is everything. From the concepts of permaculture, place what needs the most attention closest to the home. Vegetables and herbs need nearly daily care between watering, mulching, weeding and harvesting. Fruit trees, berry bushes and native flowers don’t need near as much attention and therefore can be planted a little further away.
~Don’t be afraid to leave plenty of space between plants. Tomatoes can quickly become extremely large plants making it difficult to weed and harvest. Corn and sunflowers and okra are a garden delight but also begin to block the light for other smaller plants nearby. Pumpkins, watermelons, squash, cucumbers and sweet potatoes vine and spread– without a large amount of growing space they can easily swallow up everything in their path.
~Use a plant companion guide to help you decide what goes where. Different plants attract and deter different insects– companion planting helps create a natural system of protection from pests. This will also aid in good growth space, and help attract needed pollinators.
~Celebrate your successes and accept a lost crop. Last year was an excellent year for cucumbers and a near loss for green peppers in my garden. Having non gmo plants grown chemical free is worth the loss of a veggie or two. Even the hybrids grown with pesticides have their bad years.
Not everyone has the ability to grow a conventional garden. If you face the challenge of not having your own garden space the following are some great ways to keep you growing!
- Container Gardens: You can grow nearly any vegetable in the right sized container. Don’t overcrowd the container to assure your plant has enough nutrients. For example, one tomato plant will likely be the limit for one large flower pot. You can grow in containers inside although you will want to make sure the pot gets enough light and at the same time not too much window heat. Greens especially grow well inside as they self pollinate. Whether inside or out you may need to water quite often which will be the case with raised and vertical gardens as well.
- Raised Gardens: These are a great options for a tenant that isn’t allowed to turn the soil in the yard. Raised gardens can be purchased or built DIY. Make sure you have a depth of at least 6” preferably 12” for happy healthy roots.
- Vertical Gardens: Vertical gardens can be made from wood to plastic bottles and nearly anything in-between. This garden’s name is it’s concept– instead of being limited by one flat surface, build up! Remember the smaller the space and or amount of soil, the smaller the plant should be that you grow.
- Community Gardens: Not only are community gardens a great way to receive the full gardening experience they are also a fantastic community building opportunity.
~Audrey L Elder Meaningful Living