Gardening is a great passion of mine, and it has opened a world of opportunities for me, including writing this article. As a young writer and gardener I want to open peoples’ eyes to the benefits and beauty of creating something of your own and more importantly, how to do it.
The information here is not from a book or a website but from my own experience. This whole experience allowed me to meet new people, see new places, bring people together for a free meal, and give donations to a charity for children with cancer with the sale of some of my produce.
Yet, not all this happened in a blink of an eye. My garden did not just begin big – it took time. This article and my previous one did not just suddenly appear – they took time. I did not start selling my produce immediately – it took time. Raising money for a charity – it took time. An award-winning project on farming at State level doesn’t just happen – it takes time. Pretty much everything that is important takes time, including creating a productive garden.
Even though it takes time and effort, I think every family needs a garden. It can make a huge impact on overall health and create family memories. These are my tips to help every family begin their first garden.
First, think of what your family eats. Most of the time veggies are not at the top of that list! Fruit is big in my family, so next year we plan to grow fruit and I am going to research planting and growing fruit for a future article. If you have patience and fruit is at the top of your list, then that could be your best option because really, what is the point of a garden if you grow things you won’t eat?
Now of course, as I said about things taking time, fruit trees take about two years to start producing so if you are impatient and not feeling that whole ‘two year ordeal’, then here is my next recommendation – how about trying something new?
I am such a picky eater, so I myself am trying to follow my own advice in my garden. Many veggies taste better straight from the vine or soil, so perhaps if you ask your kid to ‘just try something straight from the garden’, it may make a difference.
A lot of vegetables are quite simple to grow. My garden contains peanuts, sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, beans, lemons and limes.
I like to experiment with ‘exotic’ options too which can be more challenging. Remember, it may not work out the first year, but you just have to keep trying. I have, as many teenagers would say, ‘epic fails’ with gardening. Carrots and radishes have fallen into that category for me. The good thing is you learn from your mistakes, and you can try again. Instead of getting upset, I just laugh and say “Well, that was anticlimactic.”
Space is one of the biggest issues for many people today, but I believe that it should not stop people from creating a garden. You might not have space to let plants grow ‘up and out’ in your yard, so in this case I recommend growing ‘under and out’. What I mean by this is, grow plants that grow into the ground like peanuts, potatoes, carrots and radish. These are easy, neighborhood-yard friendly, and even apartment friendly because they can be put in a windowsill or patio box.
I do not recommend growing running plants in a small space. Watermelons are running plants. If you want to grow running plants, you might want to block off a specific area in which its vines can expand.
Another option for a small garden space is growing herbs that can be put in salads or added to many meals. These can be grown easily in pots.
The final plant type I would recommend for smaller gardens are thin but tall plants, like ocra and corn. Many people love corn with their meals.
Don’t let space be your excuse not to build a garden. Many people think that a plant can only grow in the ground, but that statement is completely wrong. Plants can grow in water bottles on the wall as long as they are small and have dirt, water, and sunlight.
Once you have found a space, the next issue to focus on is plant environment. This means the many things that affect a plant’s growth, for example: sunlight, water amount, soil, fertilizers, and bugs/animals. These things have a big impact on your plant’s ability to thrive. Let me start with sunlight. You cannot expect a plant to grow under a shady tree unless it is the plant’s natural environment. You want to find some place in which your plant has the right amount of sunlight it needs. Generally when you buy seeds or plants the amount of sunlight needed is indicated. Water is also important. Many people think you cannot overwater a plant, but actually you can. Make sure you read about how much water the plant needs.
Soil is often a big problem today and many people think the store bought soil is the best. A lot of “big brand” pre-packaged soil contains chemicals. Natural or organic packaged soil provides for better and healthier plants. Fertilizers can be good or bad. I do not like to use store-bought fertilizers because of the chemical impact, so instead I use compost. Composting is not difficult and I will cover this is a further article too. All you need is a compost bucket or even a plain bucket. Collect kitchen scraps and place them in the bucket. The kitchen scraps I recommend are egg shells, vegetables and fruit scraps, definitely no meat or dairy. Then every once in awhile, place the scraps in a hole and in the sun. Over a year or so, with adding to the heap and turning it from time to time, you will have a natural fertilizer to add to your soil. Fish, like shad, can also be used as a fertilizer and I have used it to make my plants grow super tall!
Another problem you might experience with your garden are bugs and animals. Depending on where you live, certain bugs are attracted to certain plants. I do not recommend buying any store bought repellent. Instead, find a remedy online that is homemade and natural to repel that particular bug. At the same time, make sure the repellent will not harm your plant. Animals are a big problem where we live, so the best option is to put a fence around your garden. Scarecrows work too, but most people do not want a scarecrow in their yard (even though I love them). Wind chimes, and shiny and noisy objects like CDs will scare crows away. These are just a few ways of dealing with these problems in the garden.
Yes, a garden takes time and effort.
“So why should I garden? Why should I not just go to the grocery store?” This is a frequent question.
My answer is this: your health counts on it. Many of the supposedly healthy foods, ‘stay fit’ type smoothie powders and energy bars are filled with chemicals that will not make you healthy at all. Gardening requires time and effort, but overall it will benefit you in amazing ways. I think it is important for people to at least try to start a garden, and to share the experience and produce with your entire family. I could have not started my garden without the help from my Dad, Mom, Brother, and my Gran. Include your family, and I am sure you will create for yourself a magical garden of fun and memories. Today’s lives are stressful, but gardening keeps you grounded. Instead of buying a $10 t-shirt, use the money to buy a mini garden. The money is not just buying seeds, it is buying a healthier lifestyle. Who knows, what can start as a hobby could well grow into a healthy way of life.
Carrie Grace York is a middle school farmer with a mission to educate her generation on the necessity to create sustainable farming practices and encourage people to support farmers’ markets and community supported agricultural options.