Tips for growing your own food from Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark.
Have you ever thought about growing your own food? Getting started is easier than you might think and maintaining a vegetable garden comes with a lot of health benefits in addition to providing you with fresh, nutritious food. Gardening is a source of aerobic exercise, and it can both boost your mood and lower stress levels, according to AARP.
Below, we’ve answered some common questions you might have when it comes to starting your own garden.
Where should I start my garden? Whether you only have a small patio or a large yard, you have a few options for starting a garden:
- Containers are ideal if you don’t have a lot of space and want to get started with little work. You can find small, medium, and large pots in a variety of heights, and can easily grow lettuce, garlic, peppers, and herbs.
- Your yard is a great place to start a garden, either directly in the dirt or using a raised bed. Raised beds can come in a ready-to-build kit or you can get your own wood to build them yourself. These are a good option if you don’t have ideal soil for growing, but you have a good amount of space (most garden beds are at least 2×4 feet).
- Community garden plots are a great way to garden if your yard doesn’t have ideal soil, but you still want to plant more vegetables than will fit in a few containers. The 712 Initiative runs CreekTop Gardens, a small community garden full of plots to rent.
Wherever you decide to plant, you’ll want your garden to be in the sunniest spot possible (if you’re growing in containers, you can move them around to get the best sun depending on the season). Most plants need at least 6—8 hours of full sun (not shaded light) every day to thrive. Ideally, you want your garden to be on flat land, though you can build terraced beds into a slope if that’s all you have to work with.
What should I plant? Now comes the fun part — this is entirely up to you! When you’re planning your garden, consider the time of year, weather conditions, your growing season, and what you’d most like to cook with. In general, you can plant:
- Seedlings of hardier vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, Brussels sprouts, onions, potatoes, and Swiss chard, in early April.
- Warm-weather vegetables that are easy to grow, like tomatoes, peppers, basil, summer squash, cucumber, and eggplant, in mid-May or after the last frost.
If you don’t know what you want to plant or what works best for your area, head to your local nursery or garden center. You’ll find seasonal seedlings (small plants started from seed that you can transplant) and knowledgeable employees to help you out. You can also find gardening resources from our state university’s extension website.
What else do I need to get started? In addition to your seeds or plantings and a space to put them, you’ll need some basic tools including:
- A hand trowel or spading fork
- Pruning shears
- Watering can or nearby hose
- Wheelbarrow (if transporting soil or using larger garden plots)
- Tomato cages (for taller plants that need support, like tomatoes and some peppers)
Once you get started with growing, your garden will require regular care and upkeep. Remember to water regularly, keep weeds at bay, and be on the lookout for crop-destroying pests and diseases.
Starting your own garden is a great way to ensure you have access to healthy, delicious food. Don’t have space for your own garden? Join us at CreekTop Gardens this summer!