With the weather warming up and the sun finally come back out from hibernation, it’s a perfect time to start thinking about working outdoors, and considering starting your own garden is a great eco-friendly step to start you on your way to becoming more green.
The reality of harmful environmental emissions and the marks that we make and leave on the environment around us are all too close – if anyone is still in doubt about global warming and greenhouse gasses negatively impacting our environment, just look at the winter we’ve had this year.
You can do your part, though, by going green in baby steps, and starting a garden can be the first easy step on your way to a long line of green, sustainable living. Here’s some helpful information to get you started.
Find A Perfect Spot
The first step in starting your own home garden is to find a perfect spot in your yard to dig up, rope off and start planting some seeds in. Decide what you want to grow in your garden and start choosing the location based on how much sunlight and how much shade the vegetables and herbs you’ll be growing will need.
The next step is to start digging! You want a clear slate of dirt to start planting your seeds in, so remove all grass, and you want to mark off your garden with some sort of housing or fencing if you have pets in the yard.
Another option to section off your garden is to surround it in stones. This is a visually appealing divider and it’s relatively easy to train a pet to stay out of the garden even with just the stones surrounding it.
Pay attention to the type of soil that you have in your yard, as some vegetables grow better in certain types of soil than others. Is it full of rocks or is it smooth? Is it dry or decently moist? Besides how much space the vegetables you’re growing will take up, your natural soil type will also determine a lot about what you will and will not be able to grow in your yard.
Choose Your Veggies and Herbs
Next you’ll want to choose seeds to plant in your garden. Base your decisions on where your garden is located, the type of soil that you have and your general location, as well. Some veggies require certain temperatures or atmospheres while others don’t really matter as much. Choose the ones that will flourish in your yard.
The USDA plant hardiness zone is based on your area’s climate and will tell you what vegetables will grow well where you live. This information is usually listed on the back of every packet of seeds that you purchase.
Also consider what kind of herbs you may want to grow. Herbs usually take up very little space in your garden and can be used for a number of different things. Choose ones that you will use often in cooking or home illness remedies and designate a section of your garden specifically to herbs.
Prepare for Planting
You can’t just start putting your seeds in the ground as soon as you buy them and expect them to grow – they won’t. That is, unless you properly prepare your soil before planting your seeds.
Consider renting a rotatiller or garden plow to properly till the soil. Try to remove any stones or rocks from the soil before planting, as well.
You should make large rows in your soil with a hoe to make sure clumps of dirt are broken up and all traces or large debris are removed. Then your garden will be ready for planting.
Sow Your Seeds
Now that your garden is prepared and ready to actually start growing some vegetables, it’s time to sow your seeds. Your packets of seeds will come with instructions on them for how deep to dig a furrow for each seed and how far apart each seed should be spaced.
Start by digging the furrows for all of the seeds in rows based on their instructions. Then dig two additional furrows, one on each side, for each seed furrow. The additional ones should be able an inch deeper than and two inches away from the actual seed ones. These additional furrows will be filled with fertilizer to encourage your crops to grow. To be extra green, choose an organic fertilizer or manure fertilizer for this step.
Cover your seeds with soil and water them with a light spray. Take care not to over-water, but be advised that seedlings need more water to grow before they sprout than after.
Now that your garden has been planted, make sure to take care of it every single day to ensure proper growth of all of your vegetables. Some veggies will take longer to grow than others, so don’t be surprised when some seedlings begin to sprout while others are still buried underground.
Develop a daily watering routine for your crops. Early morning waterings are best and evenings are acceptable, so you are getting water to the plants in time to avoid the leaves burning in the daytime sun.
Try to keep your plants trimmed so they do not grow into each other. Trimming them when they first sprout will be much easier to maintain and will ensure that your plants grow properly.
Be sure to keep your garden free of weeds, rocks and stones, and do your best to keep animals out of it (they can trample and kill your crops – or worse yet, eat them all before you get to them!).
Now that you have your own garden, you’ll first begin to realize that there’s nothing out there quite like the vegetables that you grow and pick yourself to bring in and cook for dinner. They’re the freshest vegetables you can get anywhere and will by default taste far better than anything you can buy at the grocery store. Plus, vitamin levels of fresh veggies are extremely higher than those in store-bought produce.
As far as the environmental benefits go, there are quite a few. First, think about all of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions the vehicles to ship vegetables to the grocery store use. By growing your own veggies at home, you’re eliminating the need for this excessive shipping that’s harming the environment.
You’re also eliminating the need for any kind of plastic or packaging that you find store-bought veggies in, so you’re reducing your environmental impact in that way, as well. And if your garden is completely organic, you’re also sparing your environment harmful pesticides and you know you’re keeping the earth clean.
If you choose to harvest and sell your vegetables at any point, you’ll also be supporting your local economy, and a strong local economy translates to a sustainable life throughout the community. You can also trade your vegetables with neighbors who might grow different items and you can convert to a totally fresh, straight-from-the-garden diet altogether.
If You Don’t Have A Yard…
If you don’t have a yard or don’t have the space in your yard for a garden, don’t worry. You can always grow your crops indoors in pots, or consider a windowsill herb garden. They’re the perfect compromise for someone who doesn’t have access to yard space.
Or try checking out CommunityGarden.org, a website where you can check to see if your town or city has a location that’s up for “rent” for garden space. You can start your garden there, and it’ll be just like you had your own!
Ann Michaels is a freelance writer who loves to grow her own food. Her garden is decked out with tons of vegetables, garden ornaments and even dog garden statues to remind her of her precious pets that can’t go into the garden with her!