Growing your own food sounds like a great way to save money — until you spend a ton of money on soil and plants (not to mention a ton of time), only to end up with one measly tomato. Is growing your own food unrealistic, or can you really start a garden without spending a fortune or breaking your back doing it? While you might not be able to replace trips to the grocery store with a backyard garden, these tips will help you start a productive garden the easy way.
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Get Acquainted with Your Gardening Zone
Gardening in Vermont looks a lot different than gardening in New Mexico. Before starting your garden, use these resources to learn all about growing in your local climate.
- First, find your first and last freeze dates to identify your growing season.
- Then, check a planting schedule to learn the best times to plant various garden crops.
- Keep in mind you may need to start some seeds indoors. This calendar from Johnny’s Selected Seeds tells you when to sow your seedlings.
Prepare Your Soil
Whether you’re turning your lawn into a garden, building raised beds, or growing a container garden, you need good soil if you’re going to grow food. Here’s how to assess what you’re working with and turn it into fertile ground.
- If growing in existing soil, start with a soil test. A proper soil test can be done for less than $50. Alternatively, use DIY methods to assess your soil.
- You also need a way to suppress grass and weeds. Try sheet mulching for a low-effort way to get your garden started.
- Bulk soil and compost from local garden supply companies offer the best deal.
Automate Your Irrigation
Forget standing in the garden with a hose. Automated irrigation lets gardeners “set it and forget it” so you don’t spend time watering or mourning plants lost to the summer heat.
- Drip irrigation is the best choice if you’re interested in fuss-free watering. Drip kits make designing your own irrigation easy.
- Most home gardeners prefer drip tubing or soaker hoses over drip tape.
- For container gardens, turn to a misting system to keep plants hydrated and cool.
- No matter what type of irrigation you use, you’ll want timers to automate watering.
Decide what you’ll grow
Now that your garden is built, it’s time to fill it with the plants that will feed you in the months to come. But what are the best things for a first-time gardener to grow? Here’s where to turn to find answers to all of your gardening questions.
- Greens, radishes, squash, and basil are among the easiest crops to grow.
- If you want to grow other crops, buy transplants rather than trying to grow from seed. Advanced gardeners can grow their own transplants.
- Limited on space? Check out these crops that even apartment-dwellers can grow — you’ll be surprised at the diversity!
- Finally, use succession planting to ensure a harvest of short- and mid-season crops.
There’s no such thing as a brown thumb. If you think gardening is too much work or too expensive, you just haven’t found the right gardening strategy yet! Instead of giving up, use these resources to plant a garden that produces a lot of food without taking a lot out of you.
This post was written by Carrie Spencer of TheSpencerAdventures.