Planting a garden is super easy, and can be done even if you have no yard, and just a small space with some sun. I can’t even keep houseplants alive, and last year grew enough vegetables to keep me stocked for about four months straight in a single 12×5’ vegetable plot!
My vegetable garden this year consists of:
- Pole beans
- Squash (spaghetti, butternut and acorn)
Most of these are easy to grow, hearty, and survive well without much interference, and are cool with my benign neglect. They also grow in most climate zones and soil types. I’m also working on Companion Planting, with the corn, beans and squash (more on that in another article), but have a look at your local gardening store, and start with a handful of veggies that work for your climate. We’ll talk about laying out a garden in the next post.
If you’re thinking, “WHOA! This is way too hard for me, I don’t think I can manage this.” It’s okay, I’ll be gentle…
Climate and dirt
I live in the Pacific Northwest, and am in a Zone 8 growing zone. Check your area to find out your zone. This will affect your planting dates, watering, harvesting, and what you can or can’t grow. Also, your location will determine the type of soil you have. If you’re planting in the ground, you will need to know if you have sandy soil, clay soil, or silt soil. (If you’re just going to buy potting soil for containers, ignore this part.)
- Sandy soil: Large particles, doesn’t hold moisture or nutrients well
- Clay soil: Small particles, soil clumps together, doesn’t drain well
- Silt soil: Similar to clay, but doesn’t allow aeration.
You also want to find out the Ph of your soil. A Ph of 6.0-7.0 is best for most plants.
“THIS SOUNDS SO COMPLICATED!”
Yeah, it is, but here’s the easy part: just take a sample of your dirt, and take it to your local gardening store. They will test the Ph of the soil, and tell you what type you have, usually for free. Super easy.
They will also recommend what to add to your soil to condition it best for growing. Things like:
- Organic material: manure, worm castings, compost, sea soil, etc, to help add nutrients to the soil. It’s really hard to add too much!
- Peat: Lightweight material to break up clay. Don’t use peat moss — it is taken from peat bogs and is screwing up a fragile ecosystem. Coconut fibre is awesome, sustainable and cheap, and a great thing to add to soil with bad drainage.
- Lime: To neutralize acidic soil
- Sulfur/calcium sulfate: To neutralize alkaline soil
Also, the soil needs to be tilled very well. The deeper, the better. Mix up all those nutrients, and add air into the soil (if you find it turns back to clay or sand after watering, you need more organic matter, and to mix it better).
All the things in my garden are pretty easy to start from seed. But you can buy seedlings instead if you have a short growing season, or are terrified of growing from seed. I typically do herbs from seedlings, but most vegetables from seed. But starting seedlings is easy and cheap, and since I’m pretty cheap, I harvest my own seeds, and regrow every year.
A note on fruits: Fruits are hard to grow, with the exception of berries, and take 3-5 years of steady tending before they produce ANY fruit. They attract more pests, and need a lot more maintenance than veggies. They also are way more picky on soil, fertilization, and climate. Essentially, growing fruit is black belt-level agriculture, so I’m not going to tackle it here.
Get seedling trays. These can be purchased for a couple bucks, or repurposed from small containers, like individual yogurt containers. Just make sure there are holes in the bottom for drainage, and they’re completely clean. Getting a base tray to hold the moisture is also advisable, otherwise you may have water leaking all over your house.
Put seeds in. Each seed needs to be planted at a specific depth, which is marked clearly on the package. If in doubt, consult the internets for charts, plant, and cover with dirt.
Water lightly, just to moisten the soil.
Put in a sunny place. For me, this is an indoor windowsill because Canada be cold, yo. If you’re somewhere warm, where there is NO danger of frost, this can be done outside. If you have no direct sun at all, you can pick up a grow lightbulb for $5-10 and put a light on them (12 hours on, 12 hours off is fine)
Water regularly, but only to moisten the soil. The seeds should germinate in 1-2 weeks, and then you’ll be ready for transplanting.