So why start a garden?
I love gardening. My mom has gardened ever since I can remember. It's part of my childhood and brings a lot of sweet memories. Not only is gardening a part of my past but gardening has been around for ages, it's part of our heritage. It's definitely a rewarding, worthwhile endeavor. Not only can it mean a food security, but it's also a great way to keep heirloom seeds in existence and it's a healthy yummy alternative to "store food".
Almost anyone can grow a garden. All it takes is a little planning, some seeds, and a little plot of dirt. (Or even a little box of dirt!).
How to start a Garden
Before gardening season begins I make a list of what I'd like to grow. (I love lists!). This year I am doing veggies I KNOW grow well here in our cold zone 4. Knowing what your zone is really helps. I am going to grow potatoes, turnips, lettuce, peas, green beans, and beets. As well as herbs that I know grow well here...
Then I write down sowing and planting requirements next to each crop I intend to grow. (I look back at this later when I have purchased all of my seeds. That way I'm not overwhelmed.)
Then comes the graph. I map out our garden on graph paper. This helps me visualize what will actually fit into my garden area. (Or what size you will need to make your garden if you are just starting.).
During the gardening season it's nice to keep a journal and take notes. This really helps me remember and improve for next year.
How big to make your Garden
Bigger is not always better. :) In making a map or graph you will need to decide how much of a particular plant you want to grow.
Things to consider:
a. How many people are you feeding? How big is your family and are you planning on sharing?
b. How big is your growing area? Do you have acreage, a small yard, a raised bed, or are you planting in pots? I have seen the cutest window gardens! And when my mom lived in a small apartment she grew tomatoes and strawberries in pots going up the steps. The amount of space you have may determine what crops you grow but it can't stop you from growing something!
c.How much time and energy do you have to devote to gardening? (That's why bigger isn't always better!)
d. Where to put your garden. Is it shaded or in full sun?
e. When planning our your garden area, include space for paths on your graph. If you are planning a larger garden, design paths wide enough to bring a wheelbarrow through. (You'll be glad you have the space for bringing in compost, maneuvering hoses and bringing in your harvest.)
I like to keep all my gardening notes, lists and graphs in one place for easy access. There is a lot of information in seed catalogs on how to grow plants from seed. Look for companies which sell organic and heirloom seeds. You can find many online and ask for a free catalog.
The Library also is a great resource for finding gardening books. We only spend money on books we really want to have on the shelf.
Ask your neighbor! Neighbor gardeners/farmers are a great source of information since they already have the experience about what grows well in your climate and they might even share some seeds with you. We have a neighbor who exchanges seeds and sprouts with us every gardening season.
Identify average last spring and first fall dates. This is the "growing season". For my family in northern Idaho our last frost date is May 29th. This is the date we will put out our transplants and begin direct sowing.
What to do with all those seed packs!
Refer back to the list. Review how long the seedlings need to grow indoors and when to transplant outside or whether they are to be directly sown outside after the last spring frost.
Group packets according to this time table. For example: Seeds that need to be sown indoors eight weeks before transplanting into the garden on your last frost date -- stack together. Get your calender out and count back from the last frost date. Say it is May 29th. Then mark your calendar on April 3rd, eight weeks earlier. This is when you will start this stack of seeds indoors. Do the same for you seeds that you will directly sow in the garden. Stack them together and put aside until May 29th or June 1st. Whenever you plan to plant them.
A garden's benefits
Harvesting is really the best part of gardening. You can share with neighbors, church family or even the food bank. It's a great way to make a little extra money at flea markets. You could even start or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
Herbology -- learn to use the herbs you grow medicianlly to help your family
Seed saving -- save your own seeds and save money. This leads to sustainable gardening and a self- sustaining lifestyle.
Organic gardening -- learn to garden without chemicles and improve enviroment. You can learn how to companion plant.
Root cellaring -- learn how to keep your family in fresh food all winter and extend your harvest.
Canning -- another great way to extend your harvest. Canned fruit and veggies make great gifts too!
Dehydrating -- make healthy snacks for your family!
Gardening is such a great outlet for being creative, making memories and sharing with others. I hope this inspired you to start gardening. Are you itching? :)