A Simple Approach to Growing your own Garden
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Planting a garden with your family is a wonderful experience! I’m fairly new to gardening…we started three years ago when we moved into our home. I’m no expert on how to grow the best produce, but I DO want to say it’s easier and more possible than I ever thought! If you’ve ever wondered if you should try it, you should totally give it a shot!
There are many great sites out there to help beginners learn how to go about starting a garden, but I’m going to focus on WHY I believe gardening is so great.
Here’s a list of the Top Reasons why I’ve loved having a garden:
- Teaching your kids! – It is a wonderful teaching tool to help your kids get outside, have certain chores to help out with (watering, weeding), and to teach them how food grows.
- Basics of living – I love the idea that I know how to do things myself, and my family is learning, too. You never know if you’ll need these basic skills someday, so it’s important that we learn how to do them ourselves without being fully reliant on other people/stores.
- Watching God’s beauty – There are so many little miracles around us that we are too busy to appreciate. Planting a garden and patiently watching it grow seems to slow life down and appreciate these gifts God gives us.
- Food – You would think this would be at the top of the list, but for me it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, we do enjoy our veggies and fruits as we get them, but it’s not the primary reason I enjoy growing a garden (although my husband would say this is #1). As you learn and grow different things each year, you’ll enjoy the fresh produce more and more, and you’ll come to enjoy food out of the garden way more than what you can buy in a store.
- Health – What better way to encourage your family to eat a healthier diet than growing your own food? If you have picky eaters, they may come around to trying new food as they spend time caring for it. My husband and I try our best to eat healthy each day and there are so many health benefits to eating fresh, local produce!
I was unsure if anything would grow the first year we started. I thought if we did one thing wrong that nothing would grow (sometimes the directions on the seed packets seem overwhelming). To my surprise, there were plenty of vegetables that grew and grew, and we’ve always had more than enough (of most) to share!
There are many types of gardens for each home/yard size. Here’s some basic info about my garden:
- About 12’x14’
- Rabbit fence around the perimeter with wooden stakes
- Small walking path in the middle for kids to step on
- Plenty of sunshine
- Not near a water source but we drag our hose across the yard (we wanted the best spot for full sun, but if you have the option to be near a hose that would be very helpful)
If you feel limited on time, space, or energy, there are lots of options for different sized gardens to suit your needs. Here are some key factors I’ve learned that are important to keep in mind.
We choose vegetables & fruit that we love to eat first, then we choose vegetables & fruit that keep well in the freezer (so we can use them throughout winter- zucchini and tomatoes freeze well and grow like crazy for us). After we get those picked out, we choose a couple new varieties that we haven’t done before. It’s fun and interesting for my kids and I to watch how new (to us) plants grow and figure out if it’s worth growing them every year.
There are many programs that help you map out your garden ahead of time to put certain plants together. I’ve read about these in previous years, but don’t worry too much about it anymore. For me, if they grow well, great! If they don’t do so well, we adjust the next year. You can put as much time into researching this as you’d like. We do draw ourselves a map of what is where in our garden after we are done planting. This helps us remember while the plants are still small, it gives my oldest a job she enjoys (drawing out the garden and labeling), and we can keep the plan for future reference.
If you’re limited on space, you could try gardening in pots or containers. These can fit on a balcony or outside your back door. Just make sure you pay attention to how much sunlight your plants need in order to grow properly. If you have plenty of yard space like I do, you can choose whether you’d like to do raised garden beds (build on top of the ground, less concern about weeds) or till up your soil and plant right into the ground (which is what we do). We considered building raised beds, but decided that the cost of filling in all the new bags of garden soil was too much for a good-sized garden.
The initial set up and planting takes us a couple evenings. Our garden is about 12’x14’ and we have 10 different types of vegetables this year. It took my family and I one evening to prepare our garden space. This included clearing out anything left over from last year, picking up rocks, raking, and tilling the soil. We also set up the rabbit fence which probably takes the most time for us.
The next night, we planted our little vegetable and fruit plants (already grown into small plants). I found every kind I was looking for at Wal-Mart but there are many stores where you can buy them. Then we planted the seeds. It felt like it went quickly and I’ve learned to not worry too much about what’s next to what. You’ll learn as you go where you like things. For instance, our cucumbers grow like crazy so I like to put them on the edge of the garden and use wire cages for them to grow on.
Once your garden is planted, all it takes is watering most days (if it hasn’t rained and when the soil seems dry). Small gardens take just minutes each day to take care of and larger gardens may take 10-15 per day. It has been so rainy in Illinois this spring that I have only had to water once in a few weeks since planting. The only other things we do from time to time is weed and add plant food to help provide the soil with nutrients.
My favorite/best producing plants:
- Green beans
New plants we’re trying this year:
Not my favorite:
- Brussels sprouts- these took a long time to grow, didn’t produce much, and were a lot of work to prepare
- Carrots- might just be our soil, but they stopped growing down and were very small
Websites I’ve found helpful:
If you’ve ever thought about growing your own vegetables and fruit, I recommend starting a garden this year! It’s an incredibly rewarding experience for you and your family to learn and have a fun project to work on together. You may run into some challenges along the way but that’s ok because it’s all about the experience and learning as you go. I’m fairly new to growing my own, but we’ve loved it more each year! Don’t forget to involve your kids and let them take pride in growing their own food!
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