Craving homegrown organic harvest this summer?
Get inspired and get growing
Though the term “victory garden” may have a new meaning these days, it’s no wonder that home gardening is once again gaining popularity as many are spending more time at home. Growing your very own organic vegetables and fresh herbs can certainly help you eat and feel like a champion. Not only can you cultivate a delicious backyard bounty by hand, but you can also support your well-being with this healthy hobby. From keeping stress at bay to boosting brain power and reducing the risk of heart disease, gardening can be beneficial to your physical and mental well-being in many ways. It can also be quite economical and eco-friendly if done consciously.
Have we planted a seed?
It’s not too late to take advantage of the growing season. Whether you’ve never gardened before or just want to jog your memory, we’ve gathered some guidelines to help you get growing.
Tips for first-timers
Many beginners make the mistake of setting their sights too high too soon. Before we dive in, here are a few encouraging words for newcomers:
- Start small and keep it simple. Select just a few favorite crops for your first garden. Avoid overwhelming yourself and have fun with it. (i.e. allow yourself to be surprised rather than stressed.)
- If you have family and friends who garden, rent or borrow tools from them before you stock up. Make sure you enjoy home gardening before you invest in the equipment to keep up with it.
- Get a grip on gardening basics and then if you’re motivated to grow with the flow, nurture your new hobby further.
Ready to dig in?
All vegetables are unique and deserve a bit of individual attention. While we recommend you get to know each of your chosen crops, the following are some of our favorite ground rules to grow by.
Check the calendar
While spring is the ideal season to plant your garden, timing is ultimately tied to location. In fact, depending on where you live, early summer might actually be the best time to get started. Check to see when the last spring frost date is in your area. Once the date has passed, the soil has warmed up and there is enough daylight, it’s time to begin.
Get in the zone then pick your plants
The types of plants you grow are also relative to your region. Check your location’s hardiness zone (aka growing zone) and pick out organic, non-GMO plants that are best suited to thrive in your climate. Seed packs and starter plant labels should note zone compatibility. While climates vary across the US, the most common crops grown in American backyards include tomatoes, peppers (sweet and spicy varieties), cucumbers, squash, zucchini, onions, lettuce, carrots and corn. Consider companion planting for a happy, healthy and efficient garden. Certain plants make perfect pairs and help each other grow.
Keep the essentials in mind when you plan your plot — sun, water and soil
Most summer vegetables like at least 6–8 hours of full sunlight per day. Others, such as leafy greens and select herbs, prefer partial shade. Be mindful when you map out your garden.
During the first few weeks after seeds are planted or seedlings are transplanted, your garden goodies will favor more frequent sips or sprinklings. Once they’re more established, they’ll appreciate a longer drink every few days. Make sure you have a convenient water source close by and be considerate of any rain showers that roll through. If you’re unsure, use your finger to feel the soil 3–4 inches below the surface. If it’s dry, your plants are probably thirsty. Hint: It’s best to water the base of the plant rather than the leaves.
Depending on your outdoor area, you can plant directly into the earth or opt for raised garden beds. If your yard lacks square footage or fertile soil and you’ll be utilizing a sunny patio or balcony instead, you can plant your veggies in containers. When growing straight from the ground, you’ll want to till and turn tough soil to loosen it up, clear weeds or grasses and their roots and evenly distribute the dirt. Always use nutrient-rich soil and add some organic fertilizer, compost and/or worm castings a few days before planting to enrich the growing environment.
Tend to your garden
Consider covering the dirt with mulch or straw to help prevent weeds and retain moisture. Keep a close watch on your crops and pay attention to potential pests. If critters are creeping into your garden, you may need to fence off your fare. Large insects like hungry caterpillars can wreak havoc, yet can easily be removed. Beneficial bugs like ladybugs and friendly flowers like marigolds can help limit or eliminate insect invaders.
If you spot signs of trouble such as infestations, fungus or disease, turn to resources on organic gardening and sustainable gardening for help. Or, look up your state’s Cooperative Extension Service which exists to provide localized resources for farming and agriculture.
Enjoy your home harvest!
When your vegetables are ripe, reap the rewards of your home garden. There’s nothing quite like garden-fresh veggies full of flavor and natural goodness. Enjoy eating delicious and nutritious feel-good food that you grew with your own energy, effort and love. If you’ve been blessed with abundance, share your success with others.
We love to make the most of our home harvests with the help of homemade vinaigrettes, sauces, and dips featuring our favorite O olive oils and vinegars. Check out our recipe collection for countless ideas.
If you’re hooked and want to branch out, there are endless resources on edible gardening to guide you on your journey to a plentiful home harvest. Gardening is a gratifying pastime to explore and enjoy!
Want to get your hands in the dirt but don’t have ample outdoor space at home for an edible garden? Check out CommunityGarden.org or simply type “community garden near me” into your favorite search engine to find a local garden to get involved in. If you’re not called to cultivate but you still want homegrown or locally harvested goodies, check out LocalHarvest.org to locate farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and farms near you. Bonus! Buying fresh organic fare directly from local farmers allows you to support your local economy and sustainable food sourcing all at once.
Old Farmer’s Almanac
Better Homes & Gardens