Have you ever thought of starting a home veggie or herb garden?
With the food prices rising and more people trying to save money due to the economy, home gardening has taken off in a big way in recent years. Many vegetable seed companies report sales increase by 30-50% which is a clear indicator that more people are putting on their gardening gloves and getting to work.
Home gardening is a hobby that can bring great joy to your life, enable you to get some free exercise and bring the entire family together. Although it may not sound exciting on the surface, it something you should consider if you enjoy the outdoors and are interested in reaping the rewards of hard work.
Some people think they need a huge yard to have their own garden, but nothing could be further from the north to the truth. No matter how much space you have you can always find room for a few plants. So, don’t think that because you don’t have a ton of space you can’t grow a garden. Home gardening can be really versatile and easy to get into!
I find gardening to be a very soothing hobby. Digging in the dirt and watering my veggies grow a bit every day is incredibly rewarding. Buying naturally organic food is expensive, but often desired due to all the chemicals and genetic altering done by farmers now a day. Growing your own fruits and vegetables most organic you can get! You will be helping the environment and saving money at the same time.
STEP 1 - Consider Your Options
Do you want to plant a vegetable garden? An herb garden? A flower garden? An ornamental garden? If you chose vegetables and/or herbs for their contribution to your dinner table, identify which ones your family will eat or is willing to try. I you want flower for their flair, colour and fragrance, decide whether you want annuals or perennials. You can also opt for ornamental plants which may include Air plants, succulents, indoor plants, bathroom plants, etc. All are valid choices but have different maintenance requirement.
STEP 2 - Improve the Soil
The more fertile and friable the soil, the better your vegetables will grow. The same holds true for the other plants. Invariably, the residential soil heads a boost, especially in new construction where the top soil may have been stiped away. Your soil may be excessively wet, poor or infertile or too acidic or alkaline. The solution is often simple: Add organic matter. Add a 2-3 inch layer of compost, decayed leaves, dry grass, clippings or old manure to the soil when you dig or fill a new bed. If you decide not to dig or are working with an established bed, leave the organic matter on the surface where it will eventually rot into humus. Earthworms will do most of the work of mixing humus with the sub soil.
You can also save money and help your garden to be more organic by creating your own compost at home. Composting at home which means I compost my food scraps with worms. It may sound gross, but worms are amazing at breaking down and turning it into thick and rich compost.
To learn more about your soil, have a soil test done through your cooperative extension office. They will lead you through the procedure: How much soil to send from which part of garden and the best time to obtain the sample. Expect a two week wait for the findings, which will tell you what your soil lacks and how to amend it.
STEP 3 - Look at Your Sun Availability
First, look at your yard. Where do you get the most sun? How much sun does each area get?
One of my biggest mistakes when I started gardening was assuming that my garden needed 8 hours of sun every day. Thanks to my partly shady yard, this kept me from gardening for many years. But the truth is that many vegetables grow very well in part shade; that is, if they get at least 3 hours of sun, or consistent dappled sun, throughout the day.
STEP 4 - Time, Effort, and Planning are Required
You’ll need to dedicate some time from your busy urban life to look after the plants you’ve chosen to grow. Since you’re not growing a real garden– 15 minutes a day would be enough for the most basic tasks like watering, pinching, pruning, and deadheading the fading flowers.
Minimal effort and the maximum result– for this you’ll need to be consistent! The right amount of watering, avoiding both the overwatering and under watering, fertilizing plants on time, pruning, transplanting must be done as per scheduled.
Planning is the most crucial part here. You have limited space and that’s the real challenge– How to utilize every inch of space and improve the productivity of crops. Also, choosing the right kind of plants and varieties according to your climate is required.
STEP 5 - Selection of Plants
For herb gardens -
If you’re new to edible gardening, start with herbs! They are the easiest plants to grow and you can grow them anywhere (unless they are not receiving a few hours of sunlight). See balcony herb garden ideas for inspiration. Choose your favourite herbs according to the growing conditions and climate. Sow the seeds or bought a few plants from your nearby nursery. Chive, mint, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, cilantro, whichever you like.
For fruit gardens -
Not only the herbs and vegetables, growing fruit trees in containers is possible, even in a limited space like a balcony! Lemon tree, strawberries, apple, pomegranate or watermelon if you like. The list of the fruiting plants and trees is big.
For vegetable gardens -
You can grow almost any vegetable plant on your balcony kitchen garden (if growing conditions are appropriate). For bigger plants like zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers or other fruit vegetables like peppers, okras, and beans– choose pots that are large and at least 30-40 cm deep. Herbs, leafy vegetables, salad greens, radishes, and carrots can be planted in wide shallow pots that are 15 to 20 cm deep. Cherry tomatoes, green onions, spinach, beans, and lettuces can be very productive there as they don’t need a lot of space.
Vegetable and herbs according to sunlight requirements
Low sun (minimum 4-6 hours)
- Salad greens
- Green onions, onions
- Asian greens
- Radishes and Carrots
Sunny (More than 6 hours)
- Peppers and Chilies
- Melon and Gourds
What vegetables grow well in part shade?
Here’s a list of 10 types of vegetables to get you started:
- Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, arugula, endive, and cress.
- Brussels Sprouts
- Swiss Chard
- Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale
These 6 vegetables, on the other hand, grow best in full sun:
Some fruits that deserve special mention
Lemon trees have adapted themselves for container gardening. It is a tropical fruit, but gardeners in cold climates are also successfully growing this tangy and sour fruit in containers. Almost all the varieties are suitable, but there are some that grows best in specific conditions.
Strawberries are without a doubt one of the best fruits to grow in pots. The best about growing strawberries in containers is they are easy to grow, don’t require large pots or space and you can grow on your small urban balcony. You can also try to grow strawberries in tropics in winters.
Pomegranate is one of the juiciest and healthiest fruits and perhaps the easiest to grow in pots because it has a shallow root system when compared to other large fruit trees. If you’ve grown citrus in a pot, growing pomegranates in containers cannot be difficult for you too. Moreover, pomegranate is more cold hardy and easy to grow.
Guava tree will delight you with its sweetly scented flowers, delicious fruits, and beautiful tropical appearance. Guava loves the sunny and warm exposure. It is a tropical plant but very much adaptable to temperate climates with moderate winter.
Pineapple plants are small and compact and never grow more than 3-6 feet tall. Also, the plant has shallow roots when compared to other fruit-bearing plants or trees that’s why it is possible to grow them in pots. However, pineapples require consistently warm and humid climate to thrive, but you can also grow them as a houseplant in temperate zones, providing several hours of direct sunlight daily.
All the oranges and citruses can be grown in pots as they are rather large shrubs or small trees. If you live in a climate where winters are mild, these fruits are really easy to grow. However, you can still grow an orange tree in a cold climate with care in winter.
Okay, so you've got your kitchen garden up and running. Next, you need to maintain it. Follow these steps so you're plants are happy -
After planting your plants, add mulch around them to keep the soil cool, the weeds down, retain water and will also compost and add to the quality of your soil.
Be sure to put two inches of mulch into your garden each year after planting. It will help your garden start on the right foot.
Much About Mulch
Mulching — laying down organic materials — serves several purposes:
- Improves soil retention of moisture
- Regulates soil temperature
- Prevents soil from eroding
- Reduces diseases
- Reduces weed growth (must be 3 to 4-inches thick and reapplied to keep weeds down)
Almost any organic matter can be used as mulch materials including hay, straw, leaves, sawdust, paper, bark or grass clippings.
Everything on this earth requires water to live. Your plants are no different. Keep this in mind when considering vegetable garden care because if you expect the garden to produce, you’ll have to water regularly. Each garden will have different water requirements based on what you plant in the garden.
Consistent watering will produce the best results. You may also want to consider drip irrigation or a soaker hose, especially if you have a large garden. This can save up to 60% of the water used by sprinkler systems and will ensure that your plants are watered without getting their leaves wet which will help prevent disease problems.
Too little water has a different set of symptoms: wilting of plants, brown or dead leaves, stunted growth. If you’re watering newly planted seeds, be careful to gently sprinkle water on them. Don’t use a torrent from a hose or a bucket that has enough force to mistakenly wash away seeds or cause them to clump together.
Weeds can be detrimental to your garden. They will compete with your plants for nutrients and usually win the war. With this in mind, be sure to make it a point to pull weeds from your garden at least once a week. As soon as you see new weeds poking through the mulch, remove them
Fertilizing is important for any garden. Make sure you use organic fertilisers becuase its going to go in your plate soon.
When your plants begin to bloom, it will be natural to find dead blooms on a plant. Be sure to remove these, a process called deadheading. Not only will it add to the look of your garden, but it will also make room for new blooms to increase the plant’s production.
6. GIVE A PLANT CHECK UP
If you want to stay ahead of pests and diseases, you are going to have to put in the effort to spot them before they do any real damage. How do you go about doing this? You need to make it a priority to check your garden weekly for signs of pests or illness in your plants. If you see either, begin treating right away.
7. CROP ROTATION FOR GOOD VEGETABLE GARDEN CARE
Crop rotation is one of the most important things you can do for vegetable garden care. The reason is if you plant a crop in the same location year after year, pests are going to figure it out and treat your yard like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Plus, if you don’t give the soil a break in particular areas of your garden by planting other items, you could also give diseases a solid breeding ground. Make rotating your crops a priority.
8. CLEAN YOUR GARDEN TOOLS
A lot of people don’t pay attention to the cleanliness of their garden tools. You might wonder why you should bother cleaning something if it is going to be covered in dirt with your next use.
Garden tools are in your soil, and there could be disease there also. To stop the spreading of virus and disease, it is important to clean your gardening tools regularly.
9. PRACTICE GOOD SANITATION
It is funny when you think how important sanitation can be in a garden since dirt surrounds it. Yet, sanitation is an important component of caring for your garden.
Be sure to clear any dead plants, leaves, or any other debris in your garden. Keeping the dirt clear, gives pests fewer places to live and thrive. In turn, this keeps your garden healthy.
When your garden begins to produce, be sure to harvest it promptly. If you leave the yield in the garden for too long, it will rot.
From there it will hit the ground and begin drawing pests to your garden you don’t want or need. Making sure to keep your garden picked is a great way to provide care for it.
Pruning is as important as harvesting. Your plants will need to be pruned during their dormant season if you have perennials in your garden such as fruit trees.
When pruning, be sure to leave room for new growth without bringing harm to the plant and will keep your plants healthy and vibrant.
12. CHOOSE DISEASE AND PEST RESISTANT PLANTS
If you want to keep a healthy garden, the best place to start is by not inviting disease into it. One of the best ways to do this is to invest in plant varieties which are resistant to diseases in your area.