How to Start a Vegetable Garden
In the midst of prolific cell phones and high speed internet access with your Happy Meal, people all over the urban world are experiencing a new garden renaissance. Regardless of whether you live in an apartment with a free windowsill or live in a home with a luxurious backyard, there are plenty of garden options available to you. Once your eyes are open to the gardening world around you, suddenly the question of how to start a vegetable garden transforms from an obstacle of insurmountable frustration to a colorful bouquet of choices.
The Backyard Garden
This is the most common gardening option that people tend to think of when someone mentions starting a vegetable garden. Thankfully, this option only scratches the surface of possibilities and leaves many other viable options for those who do not have a backyard or cannot devote the space. Even so, there is no one right or wrong way to plant a garden in the great 'backdoors'. Whether you choose to plot out an elegant gardening space in a sunny corner of your yard or install dig-less raised beds, a backyard garden provides ease of access and produce at your doorstep. It can be as complex or as simple as you choose. You can plant your vegetables in pots or even place a bag of potting soil horizontally on your grass, cut off the top plastic, and sow your seeds.
Know someone who would love to garden but doesn't have the space for it? Why not invite them over to help you plant and tend your garden? Having a partner in crime to share the excitement with can be even more fun than planting your vegetables and watching them grow on your own. When the vegetables are ready to be picked, you can both share the mouth-watering harvest.
The Balcony or Windowsill Garden
Urban gardens defy the idea that people living in apartments and condos cannot enjoy the experience of eating fresh vegetables grown by their own hand. These gardens are not the end-all, be-all for the real estate challenged, but they are a great start! Countless apartment dwellers experiment with small herb gardens, but there is no reason not to expand into the gardening realm of heavy produce procurement.
Many people are familiar with tomato cages and the benefits of supporting the heavy-laden limbs of tomato bushes, but did you know that these same supports can be used to train squash and melons to grow vertically as well? While living in Alaska, my wife and I grew corn and peas on our small balcony right next to our hibachi grill. We have since discovered a plethora of options that we never imagined during our time in the land of the midnight sun. With a little careful attention taken to support the limbs of your vegetable plants, the sky is truly the limit. Don't have a balcony? A small table snuggled under a south-facing window is the perfect place to put those vivacious veggies.
My wife and I experimented with a small balcony garden when we lived in a condo in Anchorage, Alaska. The growing season was short, but the sun was up nearly all day during the summer. Some things grew really well, while we still struggled with a few of our attempts. That's part of the process! You'll need to figure out what you can grow well and where your limitations are. Some things can be overcome, but you'll never know until you try!
Farmin' in the Hood!
Many cities and townships have community garden plots available to those looking to expand their gardening options and offer a connection to gardeners of all experience levels. Access to these plots usually costs a small fee, but it's typically nothing compared to the cost of the vegetables you can grow if you were to purchase them directly from the supermarket (where you would sacrifice freshness for price - don't get me started on the phenomenal difference between store-bought and vine ripened!) or a local farmer's market (where you would pay a premium for fresh goods).
Also, don't forget about the possibility of meeting some great people who share the same interest as you. The advice you can pick up from interacting with your neighbors in the community garden can be priceless, saving you years of trial and error as you learn more about your gardening hobby.
Call up your local city offices and inquire if there is a possible opportunity for you to join a local community garden!
Types of Community Gardens.
I have often researched sustainable living and new gardening ideas and theories I can incorporate into my own gardening style. Guerrilla Gardening is an option which has found its way into my readings more and more frequently these past few years. Charming to the core, this activity involves starting gardens in urban places where land is currently not in use. This can be by means of spending a quiet evening working the soil under a cloak of darkness or by slyly tossing a seed ball into an abandoned lot and letting nature take its course. (A seed ball can be made by encapsulating a few seeds, not necessarily all the same type, in clay and organic fertilizer and then allowing the ball to dry into an inconspicuous dirt clod.)
I mean, come on! Who doesn't want to be a garden ninja?! (Obviously, don't be a nuisance with it and only use seeds to encourage growth where it won't be upsetting to neighbors.)
Hi-Tech Guerrilla Gardening!
Just have fun with it!
No matter how you shake it, gardening can be a lot of fun and the fruits of your labor are rewarding and delicious. Regardless of where you live, there are always gardening options to be explored, so start small and take the time to get your feet wet and soon enough your gardening roots will spread and you too will become a master gardener!