A Beginner's Guide To Growing an Edible Garden
A Beginner's Guide To Growing an Edible Garden: Tips and Tricks
Imagine plucking fresh veggies and fruits right from your backyard or balcony—skipping the grocery lines and getting direct access to locally grown, organic goodness. This convenience is possible when you grow an edible garden at home.
Having a garden at home gives you a steady supply of delicious food that costs just pennies on the dollar. There is also that innate satisfaction of growing it all yourself! While produce at the grocery store is often picked before ripeness to mature in transit, food from your garden can be picked right when it is meant to be consumed. This ensures the fullest flavors that blow common produce out of the water.
You also have the freedom to pick unique variations of fruits and vegetables when you shop for seeds. So, if you prefer colorful cherry tomatoes, then you can cultivate as many as your garden allows. It's also possible to grow produce that isn't commonly found in supermarkets like specialty peppers, bittermelon, and sesame plants.
Are you ready to start your adventure as a local gardener? Here is our beginner’s guide to growing an edible garden. These tips and tricks will help you grow high-quality produce that you can enjoy around the year.
Prepare The Spot
Before you can begin your gardening journey, you need to make a plan. Not all gardening spots are equally effective, so it’s important to pick a spot that will produce the best yields. Here are the main things to consider:
Sunlight: Most edible crops need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Set up your garden in a place that isn’t under the shadow of trees or other buildings. If your balcony is in a challenging spot that can’t get enough sun, purchase LED plant-growing lights to supplement the lack.
Size: When you’re new to gardening, it’s best to start small. Even if you have a lot of land, the task of gardening can be overwhelming if you dive deep at once. If you plan to grow seeds on your balcony, it will be easier to keep your operations small with a single-level planter until you upgrade to multi-tier growers. In a level yard, experts recommend sectioning off a manageable spot around 10x10 feet.
Soil: Your future garden’s soil should be tilled, weeded, and fertilized. It may be necessary to add store-bought fertile soil if your land is made of too much clay or sand. However, the best type of soil does have some sand, clay, and silt to promote drainage and workability. Balcony planters simply need to be filled with a high-quality potting mix and have adequate drainage on the bottom.
Pick Your Crops
Now that you have a spot for your garden, you should strategically select crops that won’t take up too much space. Since you’re working with a limited area, you should select fruits and veggies that give you a good amount of food without needing too much space. This means plenty of plants that can grow upwards with a trellis. Some high-yield foods that don’t need a lot of space are tomatoes, pole beans, leaf lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, herbs, and peas. Avoid planting crops that need a lot of space like melons or corn until you have more gardening space.
Extra tip: Many herbs are compact enough to grow indoors in a planter on your windowsill. They provide instant access to fresh cooking ingredients and make your home smell wonderful.
Stick to Recommended Planting Times
When you grow a garden outside, you must plant according to the recommended time frame to expose the seeds to the right temperatures and weather conditions. Each seed has its ideal time to be planted and germinate. Look at the care instructions for your plant in question to find out if you’re in the time window to plant. New gardeners often make the mistake of planting too early or too late for their region, which results in less fruitful harvests—or none at all.
Side Note: If you plan on working with a greenhouse, then you have more freedom on when you can plant because your growing environment will have a stable atmosphere of humidity and temperature. Cultivating plants in a greenhouse is an entirely different type of gardening that has its own rules. For more info, check out this handy greenhouse beginner’s guide.
Start Your Seeds
Plants are more vulnerable when they are young, so experienced gardeners prefer to start their seeds indoors in small containers. This is an excellent way to reuse yogurt cups or egg containers that often go straight to the landfill. Simply fill in each cup with potting soil and place the recommended amount of seeds inside. Then, water the seeds and wait for them to grow.
When the plants get past their delicate stage, move them into your outdoor garden by following the recommended spacings between plants. Be careful not to harm the roots and to dig enough space for them to flourish in their new bed of soil.
Nurture Your Crops
Now that your plants are maturing in an outdoor setting, you must stick to a good care routine that involves daily maintenance. This routine will become second-nature as you become a more experienced gardener. Each plant has its specific care needs, so keep a detailed record of when you fertilize, water, and mulch your garden according to these recommendations. Keeping a small binder with your daily care tasks can be helpful until you get the hang of the routine. This ensures that you don't over or under-water your plants.
Watering Frequency: When you buy your seeds, you should get detailed care instructions that tell you how often and how much you should water the plant. However, it’s important to use common sense and to water as-needed. For example, if the soil is particularly dry because of hot weather, you should water it more during this time. If it just rained, then delay the watering another day to not over-water the area.
Time to Water: Did you know that watering later in the day can cause fungus and disease in your plants? The best practice is to water your garden first thing in the morning so that the mulch and compost get to dry during the day.
Fertilize: Whether you decide to supplement your garden’s nutrition through compost or store-bought fertilizers, it’s vital to keep the nutrients coming. Organic fertilizers from the store are convenient and easy for beginners or people who don’t have a lot of time. If you have the means to make your compost, then this will save you money and give you a steady stream of fertilizer without having to go to the store frequently.
Mind the Mulch: Using mulch has many benefits for your garden which include weed prevention, stabilizing soil temperatures, moisture retention, and even soil nutrition supplementation. You can find many types of mulch like straw, bark, wood chips, and crushed shells at a gardening store.
Make Your Compost
While store-bought potting soil gives you easy access to nutritious, balanced soil, it can be expensive to maintain a fertilization routine when you depend on retail products alone. When you make your compost, you can not only reduce food waste but give your garden a steady supply of carbon-rich nutrients.
To make compost, just toss your plant-based food waste into a bin and cover it with carbon-based dry materials like leaves and cut grass. By coating your organic waste, you will mask the smell and allow everything to decompose evenly. This will be a convenient place to discard food scraps and keep your indoor trash can smelling fresher too!
Easy Vegetables for Beginners
In the world of gardening, some vegetables are harder to grow than others. By sticking to easy plants in the beginning, you can get valuable practice and gain the confidence to grow more challenging plants in the future. Here are some beginner-friendly crops that you can easily grow with some consistent effort.
Tomatoes & Tomatillos: These sun-loving plants are easy to grow and resilient, even as a sprout. For the best results, start these plants indoors in a small container and then plant them deeply in the soil to bask in full sun. In a few weeks, you’ll be enjoying delicious home-grown fruits.
Zucchini: Get your pasta spiralizer ready: this veggie is a prolific grower that is difficult to kill. You just need one or two plants to get a steady supply of this food during its peak growing season.
Peppers: For beginners, anything that grows “upward” is beneficial because you’re working with a small garden and less space between plants. Peppers of all varieties are simple to grow. Pick mature peppers regularly to simulate new fruit growth.
Onions: This root veggie grows excellently in a raised bed, so it’s just right for the balcony or rooftop gardener.
Peas: This climbing veggie is a big hit in countless dishes, and it’s a hardy plant to boot. Plant your peas near a place it can climb so you get the biggest harvest possible in a small area.
Potatoes: When you get more gardening space, potatoes are extremely tough plants that can grow from old potatoes in your pantry. These grow the best in raised beds, so they are ideal for balcony and patio gardens. Harvest them when they are small “new” potatoes or wait for them to get big at the end of the season.
Kale: Kale seems to last forever in the fridge, so it’s no surprise that this cool-weather loving plant is also easy to care for in a garden. It also gives you a jump-start on your garden since it can be planted a month before the last frost in your area. Though it’s a slow grower, it produces steady foliage when you trim it from the bottom.
Enjoy The Benefits of Gardening!
Many people enjoy the hobby of gardening for its relaxing nature. It’s a place where you can unwind no matter what the day brings. In a home garden, you can find constancy, peace, and purpose. Besides, our biophilic nature naturally relaxes us when we're surrounded by greenery and nature. By following these beginner's tips, you will be on your way to making a garden that enhances your lifestyle.
In the spring and summer, we offer a large selection of herbs and vegetables for your garden. We also offer garden design services to help plan the right type of garden for you. Ask us about how we can help you start an incredible garden today!