Baked on the Bright Side

Growing Food in Your Garden

April 10, 2012

Spring is in the air and your green thumb is itching! Even if you’ve never done it before, gardening can be a great way to get some exercise with the whole family outdoors. A garden can increase your curb appeal and make your house feel more like a home. Meals with homegrown ingredients are more flavorful and more nutritious. Grow your own pumpkins this year for Halloween!

I remember working in the yard every summer with my family. We would grow zucchini and eggplants but I loved our tomatoes. My favorite summer snack is a slice of toast with mayo, a leaf of basil and a couple slices of an heirloom tomato fresh off the vine. Sprinkle some salt or go caprese and add a slice of mozzarella. Yum!

When planning a kitchen garden first think about how much space you have. Is this space close to your kitchen? If you don’t have any room containers on a patio or deck are a good option – some small plants and herbs can be grown on a sunny windowsill. If you have the room ground plots or raised beds are best. Raised beds keep your plants in extra soil, water and warmth, but they also discourage pests and encourage the roots to grow straight down instead of outwards.  If you have the time, build a raised bed with your family! Instructables has this great guide.  When making ground plots or raised beds, make them no more than 3 feet or so wide, the average adult reach, so you can tend to your plants without stepping into the soil.

Raised plots provide additional soil, keep out pests, encourage deep root growth and are a great way to organize our garden!

How much sun do you have? Generally plants that produce edible fruit need maximum light while vegetables with edible leaves do better with less light. A plot near a wall that reflects sunlight or heat may help, but don’t forget to pay attention to shadows from buildings and trees.

Healthy soil should drain well and be well aerated to foster deep root growth. Nutrients in the soil will help make your harvest more bountiful. Homemade compost, if you have it, is ideal but commercial composts, manures, and fertilizers also work well. If eating organic or chemical-free is important to you don’t use chemical fertilizers.

If your plot is in range of your sprinkler system make sure it won’t hit any fragile plants. Some plants like tomatoes are sensitive to having their leaves watered. Installing a faucet or drip-irrigation in the garden may save time, just make sure your plants get enough water.

Finally, decide what plants you want and map them out in your garden. Consider when you need to plant and harvest them. Visit your local nurseries and seed banks to see what’s available. Some plants can easily be started from seed, others are easier to buy already sprouted. If you want to develop your own heirloom tomato, for example, start growing from the previous year’s seeds. It will take some work, but eventually this tomato will adapt to the soil and climate in your garden and you’ll have a unique, delicious tomato that grows great in your yard!