Urban Man says - if you are not growing anything in your backyard, on your balcony or even on a windowsill then you are not taking advantage of learning new skills sets nor getting the value of growing (and eating) your own healthy food. And least I mention saving money. In a depressed economy or monetary hyper inflation, the value of growing your own food cannot be over stressed.
You cannot open an internet browser without seeing former Senator Ron Paul warning of a dire economic collapse coming soon. This is echoed by Stansberry Research, The International Investor, Zero Hedge and many others.
Even growing a couple tomato plants, maybe a potato patch, or even just a squash mound or two can provide lessons learned on growing foods, give you some confidence and a sense of accomplishment, save you money and you may very well need that small garden to survive.
This is a main stream internet article on growing your own small garden and I re-post it as we cannot read, research or save enough articles on growing foods as I fear we are going to need these skills and soon.
There are plenty of good reasons to grow your own vegetables: you’ll spend less at the grocery store, you’ll know exactly what went into growing them, and you’ll have a sense of pride every time you enjoy that just-plucked-from-the-stem tomato.
“You’ll have a great variety of fruits and vegetables, and they taste so much better than anything from the store that’s been sitting on the shelves for days after it was picked,” says Suzy Hancock, general manager at Portland Nursery in Oregon. It’s true — you’ve never tasted a carrot so sweet or a cucumber so crisp as the ones you eat right from your own garden. Here’s her advice for starting your own successful veggie plot at home.
1. Build raised beds. Pick a part of your yard that gets full sun (that’s four to six hours a day), and construct — or buy pre-made — raised beds. They’re easier to weed and warm up faster than the ground, so you can start planting earlier and get better results. It’s also easy to attach hoops to a raised bed that you can cover in case of cold nights or pests like moths or birds.
2. Fill with good soil. Buy potting soil and mix in native soil from the yard as well as compost, mixing so the ratio is half compost, half soil. Mix in a dry organic fertilizer, which is good for long-term feeding, like E.B. Stone Organics Sure-Start, though you’ll still need to add compost every year to replenish your soil. Since vegetables like a close-to-neutral pH soil, buy a pH testing kit at the nursery and see if your soil is neutral. It’s often too acidic; if so, add lime.
3. Wait for warm nights. In spring, it’s generally safe to plant greens (lettuces, spinach, kale, Swiss chard), cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and peas. Plant other veggies too soon and you could kill your starters, so hold off until nighttime temperatures stay above 55 before planting peppers, tomatoes, and squash. The most cold-sensitive plants are melons and cucumbers, so plant those last, only when you’re fairly sure temps won’t dip again.
4. Plant the right fruits and veggies. Corn isn’t good for a small space, since it takes a lot of room and doesn’t produce much. Though plant starters are often sold in six-packs, don’t be afraid to scrap some or give to a neighbor; one zucchini plant is likely all you need because it’ll produce so many. Raspberries and mint are both invasive, taking over a whole garden if they’re planted, so use containers to keep them separate from the rest of your plot. Fennel doesn’t do well when planted next to veggies and tends to die. Generally, look for dwarf or bush varieties of plants, which don’t take up a lot of space even when they’re fully grown. A genius hack: buy grafted plants (often done with tomatoes), which are two varieties of the fruit or veggie growing from one plant, so you get double the variety without taking up twice the space.
5. Sequester your alliums. Alliums including onions, chives, shallots, leeks, and garlic are so much more fragrant and delicious from your own garden, but they tend not to play well with others; they can have negative effects on artichokes, asparagus, many kinds of beans, lettuces, and peas. Plant your alliums in separate containers or at least two to three rows away from its foes and it won’t be a problem.
6. Stagger your returns. Plant a mix of vegetables that mature over different time frames. That way you’ll have a steady stream of produce over the whole season, rather than so much ripening at once that you’re scrambling to use it all before it goes bad. The little plastic sign that comes with the plant will tell you the average number of days before it matures; at the nursery, look for a mix of traditional and early-maturing plants to spread your haul throughout the season.
7. Consider companion planting. This is a technique of pairing plants together that can benefit from being near each other. For example, basil generally thrives when planted next to tomatoes or peppers, but not as well when its neighbors are beans or cucumbers; find the whole list of happy plant pairings here. Generally, root vegetables like radishes, beets, and carrots do well when planted between leafy greens, since the root veggies take up a lot of space under the soil, while lettuces don’t have very deep roots.
8. Follow spacing guidelines. The plastic signs that come with your plants will give a guideline of how much “personal space” each needs from the plants around it. Rather than thinking you’ll get more veggies if you just pack more of them into your raised bed, crowding them in can reduce air circulation, leading to pests like aphids. If the plant’s instructions say three inches, give it at least three inches, and consider it room to grow.
9. Plant flowers, too. No, you’re not going to eat them, but flowers like marigolds are more than a pretty touch. Though it’s a myth that they keep bugs away, marigolds actually do help your veggies thrive by attracting beneficial insects to your garden.
10. Close up shop. After you’ve harvested your crops and you’re putting your garden to bed for the season, get rid of dead foliage to avoid pests, then cover with a thick layer of compost. Or, plant beneficial cover crops like vetch (in the legume family) or beautiful red-topped crimson clover; when you turn it under in the spring, it will add nitrogen and other nutrients to your soil — making for an even better garden next year.