Home Garden, Grow What You Eat

So you want to grow your own this year?  Why not!  Growing your own fruits and vegetables is good for you, and studies have shown homeowners who grow their own are healthier than those who do not garden. Just imagine arriving home from a long day and enjoying a fresh salad, or my personal favourite – a toasted tomato sandwich!

To be a successful vegetable gardener you need some basic knowledge and the right location. The best spot to grow your edibles is in full sun, with a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. The more sun the better the garden. To build a great garden you need a good foundation. Most edibles thrive in rich soil that is well drained. My preferred mixture incorporates compost, manure, and loam.

To create the perfect vegetable garden I recommend building a raised garden with a soil depth of 14 to 16 inches. Raised gardens reduce weeding and are less strain on the back. They can be built using almost any material, but beware of pressure treated lumber as the treatment may leach into the soil.

No space? No problem!  As long as you have sun and room for a container, you can grow edibles. Basil, rosemary, parsley, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and radishes can all be grown in a pot. The only requirements are that your containers need to have drainage and the right soil. Garden soils are too heavy and will keep plants wet for too long, whereas potting soils and container soils absorb and dry out easily and are a must for container edibles.

Grow what you eat.

Too often people decide to grow weird and wacky edibles they don’t really use. If you don’t eat that many tomatoes don’t plant too many. Remember that one tomato plant should produce enough tomatoes to feed a family of four.

Pay attention to space.

Some edibles get big quickly. Watch out for perennial edibles that get out of hand! Never plant mint in the garden as mint can easily become an invasive plant taking over your entire space. My rule:  Mint should only ever be grown in a pot.

Some vegetables need extra care.

Many tomato varieties require staking and the removal of “suckers” during the growing season for optimum yields. Squash type plants should be monitored for powdery mildew. Strawberries need winter covering after the growing season. Know the needs of your plants.

Watering:

Edibles should never be watered at night. The best time to water any garden is in the morning.  Always remember to water the roots and not the leaves. Overhead watering increases disease and can be harmful to the plant. [/one_half]

Fertilizing:

If you have good soil with great nutrients then fertilizer may not be necessary. I usually recommend amending edible gardens with sheep manure in fall and spring. For those who have poor soils or grow edibles in containers my favourite fertilizer is water soluble 20-20-20.

Harvesting:

Remove it even if you don’t use it! Never let your herbs go to flower or seed. Rotten edibles, herbs gone to seed, and weeds are all signs of a forgotten vegetable garden. Remember there are low maintenance gardens but never a NO-maintenance garden.

One final tip:

Frankie Flowers “Get Growing” outlines the vegetable garden season by season and even has a harvest guide.  Available most places books are sold.

This article was originally published in On the Go at http://bit.ly/UFWlbU