Initial insights into getting started with olericulture
Farm to table is all the rage, but how about yard to table? Depending on where you live, it is possible to produce a small selection or a full assortment of your favored vegetables on your property that supports the yard to table philosophy. Yes, we’ve had our fair share of unseasonable warmth, but let’s face it, colder days are still are still inevitable at this point in the year. Although you may be eager to start the garden that you have been dreaming of, it’s best to use this time to start planning, rather than getting outside and planting.
For most crops, you can start seeds indoors around 6–8 weeks before the last spring frost date. This should give the plants ample time to grow and become healthy enough to withstand the transplant into your outdoor garden. If you have sun-kissed space inside or a good spot in your sunroom, you can soon initiate indoors and transport outside once we see warmer weather.
Location, Location, Location
Before thinking about what to grow, a dedicated space in your yard must be selected. First, you need to find available real estate, then you need to understand where the sun will penetrate the plants to foster successful growth. Most vegetables need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sun per day to thrive. Keep an eye on the sun’s movement for a few days in order to determine the perfect sunny spot.
Besides sun, a crucial element to successful gardening is water. Do you have in-ground sprinklers? If so, you need to identify the heads to confirm that they will not be blocked by the garden. While vegetation has irrigation needs, it is not advised to plant in the direct path of sprinklers, as you want to avoid over hydration. Hosing or using a watering can allows for controlled saturation, so the proximity to a hose or spout is key.
If you have a deck with plenty of space, think about adding a raised bed and use for smaller gardens. On another note, if you decide to start small with container varieties or herbs only, a deck may be the perfect spot for one or multiple small planters.
Pick Your Plants
Initial planning should cover what you may want for health benefits, what is easiest for a gardening newcomer, and what can be supported by your climate. Beginner veggies tend to be carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. A trip to your local nursery or subscription to seed catalogues is recommended to make selections. When the warmer weather comes around, ready-to-go options are also sold and require nothing more than the removal from their temporary containers and placement into their official gardens. If going with seeds or pre-germinated items, just remember to keep track of where each is planted.
There are many online resources to assist with planning and understanding when and which varieties should be planted in your area. These guides can also answer questions that arise during the journey including how often to water, identifying when everything is ripe for picking, and what can be used to plant in.
Prepare Your Patch
Once you have selected the ideal location(s) and created a basic plan of what you would like to grow, it is time to move forward with selection of habitation. As a novice, your best bet is to start small. This will be essential for instilling garden basics without this becoming an overwhelming hobby.
There are an infinite number of options to construct a garden. Of course, sectioning off and planting directly in the ground is doable, but sunlight or soil restrictions may dictate if you need to build or buy. An enclosure can be assembled using wood or other materials that are safe for housing edibles or pre-fabricated bases are available for purchase. Either way, find out if any type of liner is needed before soil is added and seeds/plants are embedded into that soil. Liner or no liner, ensure that there is adequate drainage.
Soft soil is ideal, so this could factor into how you ultimately choose to plant. If you move forward with a planter of some sort, it will be necessary to purchase soil. Soil specific for growing vegetables is comes in organic or regular varieties. Be sure to purchase enough to account for spacing between plants and the depth at which the seeds should be sown into the soil.
Choosing to segregate vegetables such as tomatoes or lettuce in decorative pots, is also a good way to extend your gardening space and liven up outdoor living areas on decks, pergolas, or other structures.
Plant support requirements and protection from critters may dictate what you will need to add for successful growth. Certain vegetables like beans rely on trellises implanted into the soil. You may also add a barrier such as chicken wire around the garden perimeter to prevent destruction by pets or other yard inhabitants.
Remember that animals are not the only enemy. Keep an eye out for any weeds and remove at the first sign of growth. Bugs can also contribute to the devastation of your crops. Consider natural insect control to avoid application of pesticide to your produce.
Enjoy Your Harvest
Consuming your output will provide a sense of accomplishment given that your efforts have wonderful, healthy rewards. Once you can consider yourself an accomplished gardener, it may be time to start planning for additional vegetables and move on to fruit. If your outdoor green thumb motivates you to become a year-round gardener, it is feasible to grow herbs and some fruits and vegetables indoors!