Key Pointers for Growing Your Own Produce at Home
16 Jun 2021
The pandemic made many of us realize how important it was to have a secure food source other than grocery stores. Thankfully, producing your own food isn’t hard, although it does take time and effort.
Growing your own produce at home is key to reducing grocery spending and staying safe in these risky times. Many people actually started doing this during the pandemic. But if you’re only just beginning, don’t be surprised to find vegetable gardening a little challenging. At first, you might get more frustrations than wins, but this article will help you minimize your mistakes.
Pointer No. 1: Create Raised Beds
Raised beds or raised gardens are groups of plants — or in this case, vegetables — planted on an elevated area. They’re a common sight in landscapes, usually encased in bricks, steel, or other materials. Raised beds are ideal for vegetable patches because they provide a deeper layer of fertile soil. Space-wise, they also work better because they yield up to four times more than the amount of space planted in rows.
Raised beds also let you harvest more for a shorter time. One researcher was able to spend just 27 hours in a 30 x 30 raised garden, yet he harvested a whopping 1,900 pounds of fresh vegetables. That’s plenty enough to last a whole year, and the researcher only took three days overall to harvest that much.
Pointer No. 2: Consider Square-foot Gardening
In many vegetable gardens, square-foot gardening is the common raised bed design. To make it, divide the growing area into small square sections, making each square at least 1 x 1 in scale. Square-foot gardening aims to produce an intensively planted vegetable garden or a rich kitchen garden.
Though simple and far from visually pleasing, square-foot gardening lets you yield the best harvest. It’s less prone to weeding, especially if you use weed-free soil mix. Plus, it’s hassle-free for new gardeners, because they don’t have to pay a landscaper to make the design. It’s also easier to maintain, allowing you to focus solely on your vegetables and not on the aesthetic.
Pointer No. 3: Don’t Plant too Early
It can be really exciting to get started right away but don’t proceed without a plan. Planting too early is the biggest mistake people make in their vegetable gardens. Before planting, let the seedlings harden off or protect them first if there has been a predicted late frost in your area. Putting them in the ground right away may stunt their growth, leading to wasted money and time.
Pointer No. 4: Cultivate the Soil
Another reason to resist planting too early is bad soil condition. If you didn’t know yet, not all soils are created equal. And even if you have fertile soil in your yard, it’s not automatically ready for plants.
To cultivate your soil, fertilize it with green manure, or apply a thick layer of shredded leaves or leaf mold on it. The latter will attract beneficial organisms and earthworms that boost the soil’s health. Perform cultivation every closing of a season to keep your soil fertile.
Pointer No. 5: Plant in Triangles Instead of Rows
Raised beds don’t necessarily call for square patterns or rows. To get the most out of each bed, planting in triangles is key. It can result in 10% to 14% more vegetables in each bed.
Avoid spacing your plants too tightly, though. An overcrowded bed may not yield full-sized vegetables. Leave an 8- to 10-inch gap between each plant, and you can enjoy a doubled harvest weight.
Pointer No. 6: Use Vertical Space
If square-foot gardening limits your space, try a raised bed design that stacks beds on top of one another. You should end up with a multi-tiered, pyramid-shaped bed. This design works great on flower beds, but it can be efficient on vegetable gardens too. If they’d be too small, try planting herbs instead.
Pointer No. 7: Stagger Your Harvest Time
Many fruits and vegetables only yield harvest during certain seasons or times of the year. So just because you planted a hundred tomato seedlings doesn’t mean you can enjoy BLT sandwiches all year round. To avoid unexpected production shortages, stagger your harvest times, and ensure that the rest of your plants mature at different times of the year so that there’s always something to harvest.
Pointer No. 8: Get Tips from Vegetable Gardening Experts
Getting the hang of vegetable gardening takes time and experience. Don’t be impatient if you make a lot of mistakes. Don’t complain either if your plants aren’t growing fast. Harvest season can take months to arrive, so manage your expectations. And don’t hesitate to consult experts when you’re unsure of what you’re doing. A helping hand will allow you to gain more useful tips and tricks in growing your own produce.