Are you wondering how to build a garden? What to plant in a backyard garden? Keep reading, everything you need to know it right here!
WHY GROW VEGETABLES?
- organic vegetables are expensive
- kids are more likely to eat vegetables they grew
- you know what went into your food
- 0 food miles, more nutrients preserved
- relieves stress
- creates community
- saves money
- improves overall health
- connection to your food
- it will taste better!
Winter is the perfect time to plan how to build a garden for spring! With some planning now, you will be sure to be eating delicious, organic produce all summer long. Use these simple 10 steps to grow your own food this spring.
1. Pick a Location. The sunniest spot, south-facing if possible, and closest to the water supply. It’s beneficial if it’s close to the kitchen, and somewhere you will see everyday. The more you see the garden, the more likely you will be to show it some love.
2. Plan/Build Your Beds. Create raised beds no more than 4 feet wide, because most of us can reach to the middle, without stepping on the soil. (Which compacts it, making it difficult for roots to thrive below.) Four 4×4 beds is a great starting point. I use the Square Foot Gardening method, created by Mel Bartholomew. This allows for more production and less weeding.
*expert tip* lay cardboard underneath, preventing weeds from growing up. Also, line the bottom with chicken wire, or hardware cloth, preventing rodents from burrowing into the beds, eating roots of plants, and wiping out crops. Trust me, this will save you so much time and frustration.
You can use anything to build the beds with, fallen trees, purchased wood, whatever is going to get you growing! Here are some pictures of the beds I created. The corners are reinforced and the chicken wire is stapled on with a gun.
A note on walkways, 2.5 feet is good for a wheelbarrow to fit, 1.5 feet if no wheelbarrow is needed.
3. Fill ’em up: Buy the best quality compost you can afford. You are looking for a deep uniform colour and texture, not big pieces of wood. It shouldn’t smell bad, and should retain its shape when squeezed in your hand. That being said, get what you can afford. I always add rock dust, I use Gia Green Glacier Rock Dust. This product contains trace minerals that have been lost from soils today. Which means increased production, disease resistance, improved beneficial bacteria in your soil, and it makes everything taste sweeter! While rock dust can be hard to find, worm castings are readily available and are a great source of nutrients. Mix everything together evenly. Read the directions on each soil amendment for quantities to add.
4. Crop Rotation. If you leave crops in the same place, pests will get familiar and diseases can spread. Here’s my Four Year, Four Beds crop rotation: Squeeze in salad greens wherever you want, they aren’t picky. They are perfect near larger plants that grow to shade them out, giving protection in the heat.
Bed 1: Allium and Umbellifers (Roots and Onions): garlic, leeks, onion, shallots, carrots, beets, spinach, swiss chard, celery, fennel, parsley, parsnips, potatoes
Bed 2: Legumes: beans, peas
Bed 3: Brassica (cabbage family): broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, turnip
Bed 4: miscellaneous: peppers, tomatoes (will take over – put them in pots), zucchini, cucumber, pumpkins, squash, sweet corn
Bed 1: Legumes
Bed 2: Brassicas
Bed 3: Miscellaneous
Bed 4: Allium and Umbellifers
Bed 1: Brassicas
Bed 2: Miscellaneous
Bed 3: Allium and Umbellifers
Bed 4: Legumes
Bed 1: Miscellaneous
Bed 2: Allium and Umbellifers
Bed 3: Legumes
Bed 4: Brassicas
5. Water: No water = no garden. Use an automated timer, so you’re not a slave to your garden. Installing irrigation is actually quite simple to install yourself and very water efficient, but it will cost money and take some time. Another cheaper, easier method, though less water efficient, is to put a sprinkler on a timer. Which ever you use, make sure everything gets water, dry spots will hinder growth. If using city water, buy a filter. Your plants do not like the chlorine and other goodies in the city water system. Inline water filters are inexpensive.
6. Trellis: Growing vertically saves space and creates more veggies for you to enjoy. Here I have wrapped hog paneling around pieces of wood, and screwed them to the side of the bed. Be creative, just make sure it’s strong. Things I trellis are peas, beans, squash, cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins.
7. Planting out: It is much easier to buy plant starts from a nursery, only purchase plants that look healthy and strong. I recommend buy the biggest plants you can afford. However, some plants are easiest grown from seed: carrots, radish, beets, peas, beans, turnips, and corn. Start by sectioning off each square foot, with string or wire. Check your area for the last day of frost. This is when it is safe to plant out almost all veggies. Make a grid of your future garden and map it out. Here is a guide for spacing http://www.mysquarefootgarden.net/plant-spacing/
8. Test Run: Water level is key, slightly damp is perfect. If you insert your finger into the dirt 2-3 inches and it’s dry, time to water. Adjust through out the seasons as the rains come and go.
9. Leave it Alone: Let your new plants get established before harvesting. How long depends on how quickly everything is growing, around a couple of weeks.
10. Sustainably Harvest: Harvest a couple leaves from multiple plants, instead of the whole plant, creating a continuous supply. Use this method for anything you eat the leaves of, including celery! Here is a great video from growingyourgreens.com about sustainable harvesting:
I hope this inspires you to try it out this year! You have lots of time to get organized, and create a beautiful backyard grocery store. This is your year to do something healthy and positive for you and your family. Share this with your friends, let’s take back our food supply!