The Vegetable Garden - A Practice In Self Sufficiency
Making The Most Of Your Land
Home vegetable gardening. Once a very popular practice, is currently enjoying a strong renaissance to those who have access to land. The soaring price of produce is causing many people to consider how and what kinds of food they buy at the grocery store. Once upon a time fresh produce was cheap and plentiful, then it became easier to buy than to grow your own. However, in recent years with the high cost of fuel being transferred to the consumer, people are looking for ways to save money. In these difficult times it is a very logical choice for many people to take up vegetable gardening. The main ingredients to a successful vegetable garden are seeds, soil, sunshine and water. Combine those ingredients with the wealth of knowledge on the internet, and you are sure to have the makings of a great garden with a bountiful harvest.
Garden Site Preparation
The first step in planning your garden would be to decide on an ideal site. You should watch your desired spot for a few days to see how much direct sunlight it gets throughout the day. You need a minimum of five hours of direct sunlight per day.
Do not set up your garden near a fence, bushes, the side of a building, or anything that will block the sunlight. Another reason to not plant near bushes or trees is that the aforementioned plants will absorb all the nutrients in the soil and cause your vegetables to grow poorly.
It is best to plan your new garden at the end of summer for the next season, you'll then have plenty of time to decide where you want your garden. You'll also be able to rough out your garden borders and till your soil for the first time. Depending on your soil the first till may be the most difficult. Ideal depth for a new garden in 12" to 18". You will most likely find many weeds, rocks, roots, and who knows what else when digging in your new garden site. All these items must be removed in order to have a good base for your garden.
If you happen to have a compost heap going you could go ahead and add it to the soil at this point. I've emptied 3/4 of the contents of my composter into my garden bed for next year. I will fill the composter with this years leaves. By next spring the composter will be reduced to half it's capacity.
What Would You Like To Grow?
Once your garden bed is set up, and your soil is tilled, you're good to go. What Would You Like To Grow? There are many plants to choose from, a popular choice to start with is tomatoes. Tomatoes are a popular plant as there are many varieties and the plants give a good steady harvest throughout the growing season. You can get 10 to 15 pounds of tomatoes for each tomato plant per year. For my small family of three, I have found that four plants is plenty. Another popular choice is peppers. I have three different types of peppers, just one plant of each type. I have yet to try lettuce, I hear it is very easy to grow yet very prone to pests.
I have my daughter's kindergarten class to thank for getting me started. One day she brought home a little sunflower sprout. I put it in the back yard and designed my garden around it. Ever since then I have at least one or two sunflowers in my garden every year.
Get Seeds From Tomatoes!
If you started your tomato plant from seed, good for you! You've saved money by putting time and effort into starting the seeds early on indoors, then hardening off the plants and finally transferring them to your garden.
Be proud of all those delicious tomatoes that you grew! You'd like to grow them again next year without buying more seeds? You can save seeds from one of the tomatoes from the current years harvest.
You duplicate the success of your best tomato plant by saving the seeds from one of it's best tomatoes. Choose the nicest, healthiest looking tomato and slice it down the middle, along it's equator.
Next, scoop out the seeds, goo and all, and place it in a shallow container. Add a tablespoon or two of water to the goo, cover it with plastic wrap and poke a hole in the wrap for ventilation. Place the container on top of the fridge or by a sunny window and let it sit for about five days.
The idea is to get the goo around the seeds to rot away, or ferment. The goo is there to prevent the seed from sprouting while it is in the tomato. After the five day waiting period, dump the seeds in a wire mesh strainer and rinse them thoroughly, lightly rub the seeds with your fingers to try to get off all of the goo.
Place the seeds on a coffee filter or a paper plate and let them dry out completely. Dry seeds will move quickly and will not stick to one another.
Finally, once the seeds are dry, you can store them in a brown paper or plastic bag for next years' use. Be sure to label the bag or envelope the seeds are in. I've had much confusion in the past trying to determine which seed was what... often times I was wrong and had a plum tomato plant among cherry tomato plants.
Enjoy Your Garden
Many a morning, right before work, I would pay a quick visit to my garden. I would walk around it and look at the progress of my lovely plants. I'd look for low lying leaves and remove any energy robbing sucker leaves. Just the smell of the plants would have such an uplifting and therapeutic effect on my morale that would carry throughout my whole day.