How to start your garden and improve your home and your FOOD!
There’s nothing more DIY than growing your own food! This global pandemic has brought to light our lack of food security and preparedness so with all this free time on our hands now is the perfect time to take control and get in the garden.
As any seasoned gardener will tell you, gardening is always a learning experience and like with everything, you learn from every mistake, but to start off on the right foot here are few key points to have in mind when starting your garden.
Location is super important, choose a site that gets a minimum of 7 hours of direct sun. It is also beneficial to pick a spot that has some wind protection as the strong westerly winds we experience mainly between November and March can severely damage the plants you’re growing for food.
Once you’ve chosen a spot decide what size garden bed works for your needs. If it’s your first time growing a veggie garden, then start small. However, if you wanna get serious about growing your own food, ideally start with a 5 feet by 20 feet bed that will give you a neat 100 ft2 and will allow for a more comprehensive garden plan.
I would suggest removing the weeds from the desired area only when you’re ready to transplant your seedlings as the weeds protect the soil from the sun and hold water and nutrients in the upper few inches of soil.
Plants love loose soil, so digging is required! However, you don’t need a tiller or fancy farming equipment. There are a few ways to do this, but I highly recommend double digging up to 24 inches with a simple digging spade and fork as you will be giving the best foundation for your plants to thrive. If you’re not able to get that deep then loosen your soil as much as possible, at least 12 inches. If you find that soil is tough, try watering the area heavily the day before you plan to dig. Or save water and plan your digging after Mother Nature’s done the watering for you!
Now it’s time to ‘feed the soil’ and make sure there’s enough goodness in the soil for your seedlings and the microbes that work hard 24/7 to bring nutrients to your plants. To do this we need to apply an organic granular fertilizer and then a good amount of compost on top. For a 100ft2 bed try using four to six five gallon buckets. Now turn this magical mix into the top four inches of soil with a digging fork making sure not to concentrate the fertilizer and compost in one area and you are ready to plant and to introduce our seedlings into their new home.
But here timing is everything so it’s super important to make sure that they are mature enough to be transplanted. Tomatoes, for instance, should be six inches tall and planted deep to grow strong healthy plants. Double check the spacing for each different plant so they have enough room to grow and consider planting companions in between to protect the soil and make better use of the space. For tomatoes, basil is a great choice as well as bush beans.
Don’t forget to check the garden for water everyday. Even if it’s rained that doesn’t mean the soil is moist enough. An easy way to check is to simply push your finger down into the soil, if it feels dry give the bed a good drink or if it feels moist you’re good to go until tomorrow. Water when you have time in your busy schedule but avoid late in the afternoon as this will encourage soil borne diseases, like powdery mildew.