Have you ever dreamed of eating food grown in your own backyard? If so, you’re in good company.
There’s a growing movement away from the produce section at the grocery store and into the backyard for fresh fruit and vegetables. In fact, 35 percent of U.S households (42 million) grow food at home or in a community garden, according to a five-year report from the National Gardening Association. The popularity of the “grow your own” movement is understandable. A home garden has so many benefits: fresh food, added charm to your property and, if planned thoughtfully, it can even help protect your home from wildfires.
The bad news: not everyone has a lot to work with in terms of space, soil and location for a garden. The good news: with some smart planning, creativity and a green thumb, nearly anyone can grow fresh produce at home. Here are three tips to make a home garden a success.
1. Make a Plan
A smart gardener is one with a plan. There are a couple of things to consider before you dive into the building phase. Pick out all the plants you want to grow and make sure you have enough space for all of them. Some plants have longer roots and need more space than others. If the plants are too crowded, they will not grow properly. Here’s a thorough chart to help figure out how to properly space out different plants.
It’s helpful to sketch out a rough map of the garden to help define what you’re going to plant and where. You can also use this map to keep records of when you’ve planted different crops so that you can rotate them effectively.
2. Choose a Good Location
Before you put on gardening gloves and grab your tools, it’s important to pick a good spot for your future crops to give them the best chance to thrive. Don’t plant too close to your home; experts recommend that plants be at least 10 feet away from any walls to avoid shadows. Most plants need at least six hours of full sun a day, however, some plants need partial or total shade to grow. Knowing what you want to cultivate will help determine the best place to build your garden.
Soil quality is the next big thing to consider when picking a location. There are a variety of ways to test it, including squeezing it to assess its composition, digging a hole and filling it with water to test its drainage rate, checking for earthworms to see if the soil is healthy, and taking a Ph test to determine acidity. Another easy way to check soil quality is to look for weed and grass growth in the area. Thick weeds and grass usually mean that the soil is nutrient rich and drains well.
Don’t have a plot of your own? Don’t let that stop you! Two great ways to grow plants without a traditional garden are container planting and windowsill planting, both of which are space efficient and don’t require much preparation.
3. Be Strategic and Creative
There are several different strategies for maximizing your chosen space. One method is to plant in triangles instead of traditional squares and rows, which can increase the number of plants you can grow by as much as 10 to 14 percent. Companion planting involves deliberately planting certain kinds of plants next to one another. An example of this is the classic “Three Sisters Garden,” where corn, beans and squash are sown in the same mound. Each serves a purpose to help the others; the corn provides shade for the squash, the beans provide support for both, and the squash helps retain soil moisture and prevent weeds.
Planning doesn’t have to be limited to horizontal space. Using raised beds lowers the number of rows you’ll need in your garden, thus increasing growing space. They’re relatively simple to build and also have the added benefits of keeping out weeds and pests like slugs and snails. Trellising allows plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and peas to grow vertically, and can also be decorative, adding character to your garden.
If this project proves to be a lot more than you can handle, consider hiring outside gardening help. Remember to look into adding liability insurance for homeowners to make sure you’re covered in case of an accident.
Now that you have the tools for the job, tackle your own home garden. You’ll be enjoying the fruits – and vegetables – of your labor in no time!