The cost of produce right now is pretty awful in most places. I saw tomatoes here for $2.49 a pound, cucumbers at $1.29 each. It’s pretty painful finding decent fresh produce to feed my family. On the plus side, it’s spring and time to get serious about gardening.
Just what you can do for your garden depends on the space you have available for it. You don’t have to have a back yard – a porch or patio will do for some container gardening, or even just a sunny window to grow some herbs.
The first thing you need to do is figure out what will grow well in your area. The easiest way to do that is to check with your local nurseries. This is important even if you’re going to order heirloom seeds so that you can save seed for next year to keep your garden going. You want to know what will grow well in your area, and it’s often easier to speak with someone in person than it is to find accurate information on a shopping website.
Soil is a big issue where I live. Ours is very poor, and drains quickly. If you have similar problems with your soil, I suggest you go to the nursery to find out how to improve it. A local professional will know what local conditions tend to be and what to do about it.
If you have a compost pile, you may already have some natural improvements to mix into your soil. Your compost must be well broken down or it won’t be sufficiently beneficial to the plants you’re planning on growing. This can be much better for your garden than chemical fertilizers.
What to Grow?
Deciding what to grow is an important part of any garden. I prefer a garden that is mostly vegetables, although the occasional fruit such as watermelon is always welcome. For us, tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers are basics.
This is a time to get your children involved. Allow them to pick a few favorites to grow. Sugar snap peas are always a fun one, as are green beans.
If you have the space for a fruit tree, think about dedicating some space to one. It’s a long term plan and you may not get any fruit this year, but in future years you could have more than your family can handle. The plum tree my family had when I was growing up produced more than we could easily give away some years. I miss that tree.
Protect the Garden From Kids and Pets
While you should have your kids involved in planting the garden, I strongly suggest that you fence it off somehow to keep them out of it when they’re playing. It doesn’t matter if they can get in and out easily, so long as there’s something to protect the plants from accidental incursions when the kids are playing.
It can be even more important to limit the access any pets have to your garden. Dogs can dig up your garden or just walk all over the young plants. You usually can’t keep a determined cat from using nice, soft garden beds as a litter box, but you can make it a little less appealing by having a fence they have to get over .
You don’t have to get too fancy with a fence, especially if the garden is a very temporary feature for your yard or you intend to move it around. Get some posts and some lightweight fence material, pound the posts into the ground and attach the fence, and you have some basic protection for your garden.
Be Efficient With Water
Especially if you’re living in an area with watering restrictions, you need to be as efficient as possible when watering your garden. A good quality soaker hose will allow you to water your garden with minimal water use.
Watering early in the day is usually best, so the water can soak into the ground before the sun gets hot enough to evaporate most of it. You can set up a timer so that you don’t have to remember to water first thing in the morning.
In my area, I’ve found that two short watering sessions a half hour to an hour apart are more effective than a single watering session. This allows the soil to get wet enough to easily absorb the water, but also lets the first watering soak in deeper before more water is added. Our soil dries really quickly on a single watering, and this is a big difference for us.
The upfront costs of starting a garden can be a bit painful, especially if it’s your first year and you need all the supplies, with nothing left over or reusable from previous years. It does get better, and the quality produce you can grow on your own should be worth it.