So, how does your garden grow? Well, hopefully "green" in every way: Both organically and financially! Summer is here and every year I vow to create a home project with my kids that is both productive and memorable. Yet it seems like we end up at soccer camp or the movies.
Not this year! This summer, my daughter and I are going to plant our very own vegetable garden. It's healthy, involves nature and fun to do (not to mention the learning benefits)! Hopefully we will create something special that we can both nurture as well as enjoy the results together. I have the best memories of doing this with my grandmother (before it was trendy or because of a rocky economy.) I loved that she introduced me to this. Furthermore, this s a great lesson for kids in patience. Everything is so accessible and immediate for them that it can be overwhelming.
Although, considering our economy, there has never been a more important time to take on a project like this. The rewards can be well worth the work and effort. I can almost see that round, plump, reddish-orange tomato now.
Furthermore, if you are going to go take the time and energy to do this, then it should be done correctly. Therefore taking the proper steps when it comes to your new vegetable garden can produce amazing fruits and vegetables. The Three P's
Overall, Planning, Preparation and Planting are the key ingredients to growing a successful vegetable garden.
1. Planning: To have that lush garden full of delicious fruits and vegetables, you have to make sure your seeds have the best possible growing environment. Usually, April is the ideal month because then you will have your garden ready for summer. This past spring was untypically cool, therefore the soil was most likely too cold. If the soil is too cold, germination (early growth of the seeds) is slowed; this makes the seeds vulnerable to fungus and other diseases.
2. Preparation is the "meat", the core of your garden. It's time to get in touch with your inner garden: You also need to decide whether you want a classic vegetable garden or a raised vegetable garden.
Usually, it is more beneficial to plant a raised vegetable garden, which is about 4 to 6 inches high from the ground. You will spend more money but the produce will be worth it. The advantages to growing a raised vegetable garden versus your classic garden include the following:
- Raised vegetable gardens receive more oxygen and therefore, the soil contains more moisture.
- Usually you will water 2-3 times per week.
- You can also grow a lot more while using less space. While using raised beds, you make growing vegetables less arduous and therefore you can produce a larger harvest.
- Less work preparing the soil. This is a key component. Your raised garden tends to have better quality soil versus your classic garden. In a standard garden, you mix the compost in with the tilled soil. Therefore, you need need a tiller to loosen the soil. Loosening soil can actually be hard work. With a raised bed, you can simply use your compost as your soil and then you are able to choose to till the soil underneath your raised bed or you can simply leave it alone.
- Lastly, most gardeners find raised soil easier to care for and maintain because of fewer weeds and the plants are closer together. Therefore, gardening becomes a pleasure versus a chore, which is the point.
- Lastly, many believe that the fruits and veggies from a raised garden taste better because they are from better soil.
Overall, don't beat yourself up about raised versus a classic garden. You are doing your body and mind good by planting a garden period!
Fun Fact: My neighbor has a gorgeous raised vegetable garden that is fertilized with ground coffee and egg shells!! Her garden contains mint, oregano, basil, rosemary, tomatoes, squash and lemon balm. Her vegetables are delicious by the way!
3. Planting -- the fun part! Different plants require different depths in the soil but generally, plant seeds at a depth that is twice their diameter. In following this rule, you will find that the smallest seeds will be planted just below the surface.
Now that you are ready to plant, get creative as you want. You can plant, watermelon, corn, blueberries pole beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. Personally my daughter and I cannot wait to plant blueberries to put on top on our vanilla ice cream for hot summer nights or mix in our yogurt the following morning. And why do kids seem to be more motivated to eat vegetables that they have planted and grown themselves? It is because gardening benefits kids' health and well-being as well as their attitudes towards learning and the environment. It also captures their interest and introduces them to healthy foods.
Every time, kids pick vegetables from their garden, they tend to eat them. They are eating what they planted and learned about. It becomes rewarding for them. At El Marino Language Immersion School in Culver City, they have a beautiful garden and the kids were literally eating the carrots like they were french fries. The Growing Great volunteers devoted an entire day to making a salad from the garden. This garden was started by PTA President Alisha Martin. She did a fabulous job with the garden and above the garden is the motto: "We started as seeds and now we are trees." Not to mention, my son was literally was begging me for that salad that evening.
Am I really saving money?? Yes you are and dig this:
Let's say you love jalapenos. I just bought two jalapeno plants at my local nursery for roughly $5. The plants that I bought will produce around 60 peppers and other than tap water every few days, I will only invest the original $5.00. If I were to purchase those 60 peppers at my local market it would cost me $30 or more. This is just peppers. Think of all the other veggies you and your family could eat and the money that will be saved by growing them yourself.
Also, according to www.wsj.com, the sales of seeds and plants are soaring. The nonprofit National Gardening Association found that the average family with a vegetable garden spends just $70 a year on it and grows an estimated $600 worth of vegetables!
SO get your veggie garden going and growing. Somehow it is always the simple solutions that make life (and your garden) bountiful and healthy.
Next time I will cover which fruits and vegetables thrive during the summer and how much sun and/or shade they require. This is important because a Southern California summer basically lasts through September. Imagine tossing a salad where every veggie was grown in your garden -- Sounds delicious!
If you have additional questions on "Growing your own Vegetable Garden," raised versus classic gardens, soil and/or compost, please contact Tom Stout at www.stoutdesignbuild.com.
Elisabeth Paige Hebert