on Mar 09, 17

A Guide to Starting a Backyard Vegetable Garden

Ever thought about starting your very own backyard vegetable garden? The benefits are obvious: fresh food, a sense of safety and control over what you eat, and satisfaction in a job well done are just a few. But what is it like start a garden, and how much work is it? What can you expect? For beginning gardeners, a little information can go a long way toward creating a successful backyard garden. Here are a few basic tips to get you started!

1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Start small, and start slow! Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your garden. If you have little or no experience growing vegetables, it's important to remember that it's a process, and it won't get finished overnight. Start with vegetables that are easy to grow, like carrots, lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes, before you move on to the harder ones. For a more complete list of easy-to-grow and healthy starter veggies, click here.

 2. Use Raised Beds

 

Using raised beds in your garden is incredibly important! The advantages are many, and you will benefit as much as your vegetables do!

Raised beds provide better yields, meaning you get more bang for your buck and your time. They also help prevent weeds and soil compaction, provide good drainage, and ensure that your water and fertilizer only go to the plants you want them to (and not the surrounding landscape). The extra barrier helps keep pests away, too!

Wood is always a good option in building your beds- it's natural, effective, and gives your garden a rustic feel. A few great woods to consider for your beds are Redwood, Cedar, and Black Locust. All three are durable and naturally rot-resistant, meaning they will serve you well for upwards of 15-20 years!

For help building raised beds for your garden, check out this step-by-step guide.

3. Know Your Climate

Do you live in the sub-tropical Gulf region, or the dry and arid West? Knowing the climate will help you decide what vegetables will thrive and what will take extra work. For example, arugula and bell-peppers will love the warm and humid New England summers, while green beans, basil, and squash will do well in the arid Southwest growing season.

4. Enrich Your Soil

Good soil is obviously a must-have if you want to get the most out of your gardening. In many cases, even if you have good natural soil, it's a good idea to utilize bulk compost or aged mushroom soil. Shoot for a 50-50 split of one of these and your native soil- unless your native soil is full of clay or otherwise no good!

For some tips on how to test the quality of your soil, click here.

5. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch!

Mulch provides excellent protection for your garden. It conserves moisture for your plants, improves the fertility and health of the soil, reduces weed growth, and can even enhance the aesthetics of your garden! Mulch can be anything from shredded fall leaves to bark chips. Click here for some more info on what kind of mulch is right for your garden- there are plenty to choose from!

6. Consider Buying Started Plants

Maintaining a garden, while not a full-time job, will eventually provide you with more than enough work, regardless of its size. For your first go-round, consider buying already-started plants rather than seeding everything yourself. Trust me- you'll have plenty of other things to do!

Use the started plants as a sort of practice run. Over time, you'll grow comfortable with the vegetables you cultivate, and also prove to yourself that your thumb is green enough not to kill them. By the time you're ready for the new planting season, you'll be ready to seed the plants yourself!

You can find already-started plants at stores like Home Depot or Lowe's, and can even get them shipped to you by mail. Isn't the 21st century great?

7. Have Fun!

Try getting your family involved! While many people enjoy gardening by themselves, others may want some company- or some help!- and what better way than getting your loved ones involved? Gardening is an active, outdoors activity that brings people together. What could be better than enjoying a meal that includes fresh, delicious veggies that the whole family has had a hand in growing?

If you have pets, bring them along too. They'll love spending time outdoors while they bond with their humans! But remember, make sure your dog doesn't get into the beds and trample all your hard work. Keep a close eye on him!

And most importantly, enjoy yourself! Growing a vegetable garden is a constant learning experience and will present new challenges all the time. Remember to take obstacles as they come, do your research, and learn from your mistakes. Because you almost certainly will make them! 

Don't be discouraged by them, either. Remember, anyone who has ever grown a vegetable was once a beginner, just like you. Keep at it, and you'll be a pro before you know it!

Happy gardening!

The HydroPet

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