What is gardening? Why should you have a garden? Is it not easier to buy your fruits and veggies from the store? For some people, it’s a
way of life, for others like myself it’s a way to get back to your roots and see what it’s like to live off the land. Wikipedia states that “gardening is the practice of growing and cultivating plants as part of horticulture” and if you’re like me, what is horticulture? Again Wikipedia states “horticulture is the science and art of growing (plants) -fruits, vegetables, flowers, and any other cultivar” During the great depression gardens were called relief gardens or mercy gardens, the value of knowing how to grow their own food saved their lives in some cases. Gardening is a skill that everyone should be familiar with. I personally don’t live 100% off the land, however, practicing the skill and art of gardening shows me that I am able to grow what I like to eat in case of another great depression. That is very important, grow what you like. Don’t grow thirty different things and you know you will only eat ten of them. That is a waste, however, when you start to grow your own food you will find that you will try new things because you grew them from a seed or small plant and took care of them till harvest. Say I like tomatoes but not onions, I’d grow four or five different type of tomato plants and maybe this growing season one type of onion. When it’s time to harvest I might end up liking the variety of onion I grew because of the amount of work I put into it, on the flip side I might despise that type and just put it into the compost pile or give them away.
Growing your own food sounds like a lot of work, however, there are a lot of benefits that come with your labor. One is you save money. How much money? That is up to you, the more you grow and can preserve the more you save. When I was a kid my parents would grow a garden in the backyard and the one crop that I remember that did very well in our soil were the green beans. We would have so much that we would give away grocery bags full of green beans to the neighbors. Same with the tomatoes and jalapenos and other peppers. Now that I’m older I focus on growing just what I would eat in the season as to not waste food or money on the seeds and try to learn how to preserve what I can. One popular way to preserve what we grow in our family is putting what you processed into freezer bags, put the date on them and freeze them for later use. One good way to go about doing this is to pre-make meals with your vegetables for the crockpot, it’s a healthy MRE (meal ready to eat). Another benefit is you know where your food came from. Nowadays you have to trust the stores that your food was grown without harsh chemicals and that none of the all good vitamins were removed while being processed. You go out in your own yard and grow your own food and water your garden you know when eating the fruits and vegetables of your labor exactly what went into that corn or tomato or eggplant. Homegrown is also healthier, most of the fresh veggies that are in the store are grown in greenhouses. Growing vegetables in a greenhouse are not bad, however, the veggies will lack flavor and some of the vitamins that you need to survive. Greenhouses do have their place, but during the peak growing season of whatever you’re wanting, you want them to be fresh and grown in the sunlight.
To avoid growing in a greenhouse find out what plants to grow during the different seasons. Summer is the most popular time to grow a garden many have forgotten that you can grow when it’s cold. Most of the greens like Arugula (rocket) Beets Broccoli Brussels sprouts Cabbage Collards Carrots Cauliflower Celery (mild winter climates) Chard Fennel Kale Kohlrabi Lettuce Mizuna Mustard greens Onions (bulbing) Onions (bunching–standard onions harvested before they form bulbs). Pak choi (Bok choy) Peas Potatoes Radishes Spinach Coriander (cilantro) grow very well when it’s cooler weather. To make the most out of each season, find what plants you’d like to grow, learn how long they take to grow till harvest and see how many times you can replant that same crop before its growing season ends. Being that I am from the south we can grow up to two and if you want to push it three gardens in the summer growing season to maximize our land in the summer. Now another way to go about this is to stagger your planting time. Say your growing corn, you want five rows but planting five rows of corn and having it come in all at once might not be the best thing, so what you do is plant one row one week wait one week then plant the next and repeat that till you have your five rows. That way you will have a harvest season of corn a lot longer and it won’t come in all at once.
One of the most important things to do when growing a garden is feeding your plants. You need the plants to eat so you can live, but your plants need food so they can live also. One of the ways is by building a compost pile and mixing the compost into the soil when tilling it up, that way you enrich the soil with the much-needed minerals that the plants need to start growing. A compost can be made with several different things, one of the most basic is taking your grass clipping and leaves, putting them in a pile to slowly decompose. You can add old vegetable scraps, eggshells, and coffee grin to make it richer with other minerals. It does take time to make a good compost so pick a place in your yard and start piling. Another way is to take that same mixture and put it into a bucket and add worms, the worms eat it and make a compost. Another would be to put a small hole in the bucket add something under it to collect the liquid that comes from the worms also called compost tea. I wouldn’t drink it but your plants will love it.
One of the worst enemies of gardening are weeds. Weeds take over your garden and suck all the good stuff from the soil that your plants need. There are several ways to get rid of weeds, first pulling them up by hand. This is an effective method but takes a lot of time. Another way are chemicals from the store, however, not all chemicals are going to be effective or may even harm your plants, but even then do you really want to eat chemically sprayed food? The way I prefer to keep weeds out of my garden is mulching. After you make your rows, add a heavy layer of mulch in between them and around the plants themselves being careful not to chock them. A good benefit of using mulch is you don’t need to water as often because mulch holds in moisture really well. The last thing I want to mention is to remember to water your garden regularly. Get a schedule together and stick with it, whether it be every day or every other day or every three days, just keep watering your food so it can grow. The more you go outside and plant the better you will get and the more money you will save on fruits and vegetables.