I am so thrilled that we have a guest post by a very knowledgeable and experienced gardner! Nancy holds degrees in Plant Science and Agricultural Education. Here is what she has to say....
I’m excited to offer a guest post to Erin’s great blog. As I sit at the kitchen table with the deck door open, thermometer reading 77 degrees at 7:10 PM in my midwestern city, I couldn’t be more ecstatic for spring to have arrived! Tonight, for the first time in a long time, I got outside and did some yard work, which included expanding the square footage of our vegetable garden. It wasn’t a lot, but I’ve been craving it for days or maybe weeks.
I started gardening at a young age. My parent’s garden is 2500 square feet! When mom finally said “Enough!” with four children and little time to can all which that entire garden could provide, it became a project for my sibling’s and I – raising and selling chrysanthemums. Now that the kids are out of the house, my mom and dad have returned to their fair share of vegetable gardening as have I.
Gardening at home or through a community garden serves many purposes such as healthy, fresh food choices; lowering your summer grocery cost; and (if you’re like me) stress relief. I’d like to offer a few thoughts to start or maintain a vegetable garden.
Start with the fundamentals. Observe your soil type. Is it made up of a lot of clay or sand? You may have to find/purchase some top soil or organic matter to incorporate into the soil to make it more nutrient rich and increase drainage.
Find a sunny location. Most all vegetables need full sun. If you have a number of trees, observe your yard at varying times of day to see what area receives the most sun. This also means you should plant your vegetables so they do not shade each other. If planting sweet corn, plant it on the side of your garden that will best allow all plants to enjoy the sun when full height.
Identify types of vegetables you and your family enjoy most. We grow tomatoes, peppers and many types of herbs as staples. Lettuces and broccoli-type varieties tend to grow best in spring and fall. You may be able to grow these during spring and fall while planting other plants during the summer months. Melons, cucumbers and squash are horizontal vine plants which require more space. Beans and tomatoes require supports such as cages that can be purchased at your hardware store. Follow the recommended planting distances for each type of plant.
Plant in stages. If you wish to plant a number of the same type of vegetable, consider planting them one week apart so that they mature at different times – spreading out the length of time when vegetables are ready. This also assures that some do not go to waste since you could be overloaded at once. If planting herbs, harvest regularly by snipping segments off each major branch. This will prevent the plant from blooming and going to seed (after which its flavor tends to fade).
Watch for small creatures. If your yard is like mine, squirrels, rabbits and my own dog put my garden at risk. You may need to put chicken wire or liquid scent deterrents down to protect your plants and vegetables. Deer and birds can also be a problem depending on where you live.
Consider container gardening. If you have limited lawn space, you might be best served with container gardens for tomatoes, strawberries and many types of herbs. They will still need sunlight and will require frequent watering.
Enjoy! There is nothing better than eating your home-grown vegetables. My personal favorite is making Caprese with fresh tomato and basil some mozzarella, olive oil, salt and pepper.