23 April 2012

Tips for Starting Your Own Vegetable Garden.

One obvious benefit of growing your own food is the cost savings.  A single plant will cost the same as a single, store-bought bunch.  But your plant will continue to “produce”, will always offer fresh, convenient ingredients, is organically-grown and is of itself an unprocessed, whole food!

Our family started a garden last summer.  We don’t have acres with a lot of space to plant, nor do we have ideal soil for growing, so we built raisedbeds for an easy way to begin our garden in a neat, compact way.   Note: choose a south-facing site with maximum sun exposure. 

Learn from our mistakes and respect the space you have, don’t over plant.  We went off a design provided by our local greenhouse, but still ended up with carrots too tight to grow, zucchini leaves overshadowing the lettuce, and overlapping tomato plants that resulted in hard-to-reach, rotten fruit.  

Having learned from last year’s experience, here’s what I recommend: 
-  Only plant the foods you regularly eat, otherwise you end up tossing or giving it away.  
 - Separate your herbs from your vegetables.  (Herbs are only cut as needed or trimmed when flowering, and tend to get dwarfed and forgotten next to the larger vegetable plants.) 
- Check your garden every day to catch the fruit at peak ripenessand avoid spoilage or overgrown vegetables, which are tougher and duller to eat.

Not sure where to start?  Here’s a list of herbs and vegetables we use often in Italian, Mexican and American dishes:

Basil (not as weather-resilient as other herbs), rosemary (survives snow), chives (invasive and needs to be contained), oregano, parsley and cilantro.
Tomatoes (need to be staked or caged), carrots, sugar snap peas (some varieties climb), lettuce, green beans, zucchini (large leaves) and red pepper.

This year, I found a few garden designs that I liked at Gardener’sSupply Company, complete with planting guidelines and tips for growing.   Early May is a good time in the NorthEast, after the threat of frost, to start your garden (seeds should be started indoors 6 weeks prior).

Go green and grow your own garden!  You're not only eating healthy, but also saving the environment from the price of packing and transportation.

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