Today we entered our lovely garden vegetables for showing at the local county fair. This is a first for us! We are not participating to win prizes. $3 for first place is nice, but not a huge motivator. However, knowing I grew these turnips, carrots, zucchini and acorn squash on my own plot of land gives me great satisfaction! (Yes, all of the vegetables in these photographs originated from our very own garden.)
This is only our second garden and I do not consider myself an expert, but I have learned a few things. If you are not already gardening, I encourage you to give it a try. You only need a small piece of land. We have less than a quarter acre! (Half of our back yard is vegetable garden, as you see in the photo above.) You can plant directly into the soil like we do, or build raised beds. The benefits of gardening are numerous, including…
- it’s great exercise
- it’s fun to observe vegetables growing
- children learn that produce does not really come from the grocery store
- you are in control of how your food grows
- it’s BETTER than organic, when you allow vegetables to mature naturally without pesticides
I can hear you saying, “It’s too late to start a garden this year.” You might be surprised, some crops like winter squash can be grown into the fall and other crops like kale can be grown throughout the winter. Check out these seasonal vegetable charts from Portland Nursery and Washington State Department of Agriculture. Whenever you decide to start your garden, consider these important factors:
- Find a sunny spot. Vegetables need sun. I’ve tried planting veggies in shady areas. Trust me, they just don’t grow. Also consider uprooting your grass. Turn your lackluster lawn into a gorgeous garden!
- Enrich your soil with compost. If your soil is like ours, it needs amending. Use a 50/50 mix of green and brown items. Green includes grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, eggshells, and coffee grounds. Brown contains leaves, straw, wood chips, and old potting soil. For a more complete summary, look up Metro’s Guide to Effective Composting. Since we have backyard chickens now, this fall we’ll be tilling chicken manure into our soil too!
- Learn which veggies grow well together. Some vegetables do not mix well and can cause more pests when planted next to each other. This companion planting chart is a helpful resource when planning your garden layout.
- Draw a map. Create a map for your garden every year and refer to it the next year. It’s important to rotate your garden vegetables to prevent overpopulation of pesky bugs.
- Buy organic seeds or starts. Organic will ensure that your vegetables are of the best quality and not genetically modified. Here are two good lists of local seed companies and nation-wide seed companies.
- Do not over-water. I’ve made this mistake. I thought it was necessary to water everyday on hot summer days. Not so. Over-watering can cause mold and mildew to grow and vegetables to shrivel. It’s better to water only every two to three days.
- Plant garlic to prevent pests. Our garden has fewer bugs this year I think partly because we planted garlic every few feet. Garlic keeps away bugs that eat your plants, including my least favorite insect – aphids!
- Eat the fruits of your labor! Once your garden is growing, watch it flourish and enjoy its bounty. Also learn from your mistakes. Don’t sweat it; each year will get better.
Have fun in your gardening adventures. I think it’s amazing how God created tiny seeds to grow into huge plants that can feed your family. It’s a wonderful sight to see and taste!