One of the most important factors for your health is the quality and types of food you eat. Nutrition is an incredibly complicated subject, so it’s hard to categorize foods as strictly good or strictly bad—especially if you’re eating the “bad” foods in moderation. However, you’re usually well-off eating minimally processed produce, like fruits and vegetables. This is especially true if you know where these foods come from, guaranteeing they weren’t grown with any dangerous pesticides or unethical growing practices.
Accordingly, it’s both convenient and reassuring to start a garden for your own fruits and vegetables. It might seem intimidating to someone who’s never grown their own food, but it’s really a straightforward process.
Find a Good Plot of Land
If you live in an apartment or in the middle of a dense city, your options for growing a garden may be limited. Accordingly, you may wish to move to an area with plenty of available land for gardening. Ideally, you’ll have a plot of open land where you can dig, and a spot that gets plenty of sunlight. If you aren’t able to dig, or if your space is limited, you can create your own raised garden beds. If you live in an urban area, you may be able to start a community garden with your neighbors, or you may be able to grow plants on the roof of the building.
You might have a vision of an enormous garden, overflowing with fruits and vegetables, but if you’re new to gardening, it’s important to start small. If you’re inexperienced, managing too many crops at once can split your attention inefficiently, making it hard to find success. You may also experience failure, and at a larger scale, when you’re spending more money, you’ll be more discouraged. On top of that, you may underestimate the amount of work a garden takes, and find yourself unable to keep up with its demands.
In any case, it’s much better to start with one raised bed and a handful of crops than to go wild on your first attempt.
Understand Your Area
Different areas of the country are going to be conducive to different types of crops. Understand the climate in your area, including the hardiness zone in which you fall. Take note of the average temperatures in your area across seasons, especially when you might expect the last frost of the season. Also pay attention to how much precipitation you receive, and average humidity levels.
Some crops are especially hardy, capable of being grown pretty much anywhere. For example, zucchini plants are almost impossible to kill. Other variations are more finicky, requiring specific conditions to grow well. When you’re more experienced, you’ll be able to experiment with some of these more challenging crops, but to start, stick with good fits for your climate.
Enrich Your Soil
The soil that naturally exists on your land may or may not be suitable for growing crops, but chances are, it could be improved by enriching it with compost no matter what. If your soil is mostly clay, you might want to clear it out and start from scratch. Otherwise, you can mix your soil with compost in a 50/50 blend to better support your coming crops. It may also be a good idea to add fertilizer later in the season.
Protect Against Weeds
Weeds aren’t just unsightly; if they grow in your garden, they’ll compete with your crops for resources, including water, sunlight, and nutrients, meaning your crops will be less likely to thrive. Accordingly, you’ll need a plan to protect against them. To start, you can pull all the weeds you find (by the root), and lay down a barrier like cardboard so they don’t grow up into your garden. After planting your crops, lay down some mulch to prevent them from growing, or to mitigate their growth, then pay close attention so you can pull weeds as they arise.
Finally, you’ll need to provide ongoing care for your garden, watering your plants often (but not too often), keeping them trimmed where appropriate, giving vines somewhere to climb, and ultimately, harvesting the bounty of your crops. Take note of any instances of discoloration or weakness, and perform an online search to diagnose any potential problems.
Growing your first garden might feel intimidating, but once you get your hands into the soil, you’ll likely feel a connection to your work. Eventually, you’ll be able to cultivate a full garden of fruits and vegetables that provide sustenance to you and your family. And as you gain more experience, you’ll be able to grow an even more diverse array of crops—and with a much bigger quantity.