Now, when I say pro, I mean take this with a grain of salt, but I do think I know more than the average joe. This summer is the third summer I am growing my own vegetables. I started growing my own plants one summer when I was working on an entomology team studying organic pest control methods. I learned so so much about agriculture that summer that it sparked something in me that I had never known I was so passionate about and my garden obsession was born!
Since then I’ve learned so much about our food supply chain, GMO’s, farming culture, but today we’re just going to stick to talking about your home garden. Even though home gardens are small, they can be just as tricky as big scale farming. These are my tips and tricks for growing the best home garden you’ve ever had!
1. Grow what you need
The first step to growing an amazing garden is planning what you want to grow. I do this by first writing down everything I would normally eat that I could grow (don’t be intimidated if this list is long). Once the list is complete, look up how hard it is to grow some of the things you love to eat. For example, tomatoes are pretty simple, but can be high maintenance. Potatoes and leafy greens are SUPER EASY! Herbs can get complicated. Vine vegtables are super easy, berries are never a good place to start….
Now pick what you know you and your family can eat. If you’re a family of 1-2, I would pick maybe 5-6 things, unless you REALLY eat a lot of vegetables and fruits.3-4 you can pick maybe 7-10 things.
2. Pots or Planter
Now you have to decide how you want to plant your garden. I live in a rental property with a small outdoor space so my entire garden is in pots of some kind. If you don’t want to plant directly in the ground that’s fine, but I recommend a raised planter box if you have deer/pests.
3. Soil, not dirt
I would say soil conditions are 3/4 of the battle with growing anything. Soil can be so weird and especially on the east coast, your soil is usually clay or sand based, which both suck. Even if you want to plant your garden in your backyard, I would get some good organic vegetable soil to put down first. If you have compost, mix about 1 part of compost with 3 parts soil for anywhere your planting. If you don’t have it, I would either buy garden specific soil or get potting mix and buy a vegetable/garden fertalizer to add to the potting mix. This will not only help your plants grow bigger and stronger, but also a little faster.
4. Know what you’re capable of
When I say this, I basically mean seeds or plants? Do you want to be patient and start your plants from seed or just buy the starter plants? It’s up to you! If this is your first go at gardening, I would go with the starter plants. If you like a little bit of a challenge and are willing to wait till a little later in the season to get the fruits of your labor, then try the seeds! I will warn you, I hate starting herbs from seeds so just buy those as starter plants!
With seeds, you will also have to start them in smaller planters inside. I grow my transplants in old yogurt cups that I poked holes in and I get my seeds from Seed Savers (a great small business).
5. Plant based off water and sun needs
Plants need full sun, partial sun, wet soil, damp soil, well drained soil, etc. To make your life easier, plant like with like. If you have herbs that all need full sun and your tomatoes need full sun, then plant them all in the same area/pot. If you are planting mint let him be by himself (he will murder all your other plants/herbs). Don’t be afraid to section off your garden with flowers to bring pollinators into the area as well!
If you’re doing your garden in pots, plant based off spacing so you’re not overcrowding your pots. In my experience, 2 types of plants per pot is plenty!
6. Quality over quantity
I personally believe organic is the way to go, but you can grow however your heart desires! Just remember the more you take care of your plants, the more they’ll produce for you. Remember to water them, fertilize them if necessary, and keep pests off them as needed (linking my natural pesticide spray)
Remember to give yourself grace when first starting out. I have killed tons of plants and I have grown lots of beautiful ones. You’ll have bumps in the road, but hopefully this will help you avoid some!
All my favorite gardening products linked here!