Tips for Growing Your Own Food with Gardening
I have been gardening for eleven years. I grew up around family that grew almost all their own food, but yet they didn't pass on their knowledge to me. They did it, but they didn't teach me anything about it and didn't require me to do much in the garden. Oh, how I wish someone had taught me some of the things I know now. So I thought I would give some tips to the beginning gardener who wants to start growing their own food.
The first thing you want to do is pick a site that will get adequate sunlight. Watch various parts of your yard throughout the year and throughout the day. An area that gets full sun in the winter might be shaded in the summer. Typically a garden needs 6-8 hours of sunlight each day in order to grow vegetables. Some plants require more than that and some like it cool so will accept a little less. My garden barely gets the six hours each day, so I don't grow sun loving veggies like corn, melons, or okra. Lettuce and peas, however, thrive in the cool afternoons.
The second most important thing is the soil. Vegetables will not grow in bad soil. Our soil is clay and filled with tree roots, so we opted for a raised bed garden. This meant we had to buy all new soil when we filled our beds. If you do an in ground garden you need to amend the soil with lots of compost for nutrients and peat moss to help the soil retain moisture. You can get the soil ph tested to help you determine what you need to add in order to grow the veggies you choose.
Third, choosing where to plant the vegetables will make a difference. I messed up my garden this year by putting stuff in bad places. I had a whole bed of cucumbers, but not all the plants survived. I filled in with pepper plants, forgetting how big cucumber plants can get. The cucumbers have completely taken over my pepper plants, not only attaching themselves to the pepper plants, but also making the peppers more shaded than they should be. Make sure you think about how big plants will get by the end of the summer when considering where to plant. Also, some plants don't like other plants. There is a whole book that will help you figure out what should and shouldn't be next to each other or follow each other from year to year called Carrots Love Tomatoes. I highly recommend it.
Four, make sure you water regularly. I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday who said it was too hot here to go outside and water her garden and she hadn't watered it in a week. It has been in the 90's here all week. Needless to say her garden isn't looking too good. Water it consistently. If it doesn't rain it should get water every day. Stick your finger in the soil next to a plant. If the top couple of inches of soil are moist, then you are fine. If the dirt is dry and crumbly your garden definitely needs water.
Five, keep the weeds down. Weeds will sap the nutrients right out of the soil and also prevent the plants from getting the water it needs. The roots of the weeds are competing with the roots of your vegetable plants, so pull them as soon as you see them. The smaller they are the easier they are to pull.
Six, mulch your garden. Mulching your garden with grass clippings, wood shavings, or newspaper will not only provide added nutrients to the soil, but will also keep moisture in and prevent weeds from growing. This makes growing vegetables so much easier.
If only I had known all this when I started gardening, I would have been much more successful in the early years. I hope these tips help you have a great garden this year.