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Introduction to how to grow vegetables at home
Gardening can be interesting, fun and in the end really rewarding to do. Whether you plant in a pot or you plant on a plot, the basics are always the same. So read along to find out what these basics are and learn how to grow vegetables at home.
First of all, why should you garden?
Gardening can be a fun way of doing physical activity while resting the mind. It can be a way to contemplate or to work together with kids and family and enjoy the social connection. It’s a way to learn where your food comes from and it certainly is a way to enjoy a good, healthy meal after all the hard work you’ve done in the garden when you have started harvesting.
Where to start.
Before starting to plant, you’ll have to make a decision where your garden will be and there are different choices you can do separately or combined.
With the materials that are now on the market, it’s as easy to start a garden indoors as it is to start a garden outdoors.
But to make it easy, let’s say you’ll start your garden outdoors. Now you have the choice to start a garden on a plot or to start your garden in pots on a patio, on a table or even on the ground.
I’d say, to start off. Try something small, like growing radishes in a pot or lettuce in a pot. This doesn’t mean you can only use one pot. you can start multiple pots at the same time and spread your growing season by using more pots the next week. Now, whatever your choice is going to be, there are some things we have to check off our todo list before proceeding.
amount of light
First of all, we have to check for the amount of light. Now let’s go look for a good spot to place your pots or to make your plot. Most plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight. The amount of sunlight should determine where you can put the plants and make them happy. When checking for a good spot where to put your veggies, bear in mind that the sun stands higher in the summer than in the winter time, in most countries. So buildings or trees that don’t give shade in the summer can potentially block the light in spring or in autumn.
check the soil
Second of all, you have to check the soil. If you’re working in pots, that means that you have to go and buy some good potting soil or make some yourself. If you go to the shop, let the shopkeeper be the advisor and ask for fertilized soil but try to keep it organic if possible, unless you don’t mind chemical fertilizers.
When you grow vegetables in a plot, you’ll have to check the fertility or amend with some good compost that you can buy or make yourself by composting your clippings, kitchen scraps and all the other compostable materials you have around. If you want to know more on how to make good compost, you can read this article.
What should you grow?
So we talked about light and we talked about soil, what’s next? What should you plant? Although it’s very much possible to grow whatever you want, I would advise starting with a short growing vegetable like radish or lettuce as I previously said. When growing short-lived vegetables you won’t be overwhelmed with the possibilities, diseases, and pests of the plants and you’ll have a harvest after about 45 to 60 days or less.
Let’s say, you want to start with lettuce, which takes between 40 and 60 days to grow to maturity. Growing lettuce in a pot is reasonably easy. Take a container of at least six inches wide and deep. Fill the container with potting soil and fill it almost to the top. Pour water to moisten the soil and make sure the soil is moist deep enough. You can poke your finger in the soil to see if the soil is wet on a deeper level. If it’s not, pour some more.
Let’s sow something
To sow the seeds, make a small hole of about half an inch deep and put in two seeds, this might be quite difficult in the beginning because lettuce seed is really tiny.
You have to put in two seeds because it’s possible that one seed doesn’t germinate. Once germinated, you can then remove the second seedling with scissors if both sprouted. It’ll take the seeds about seven days to germinate.
While you watch the seedlings grow, you’ll first see the baby leaves or cotyledons, these are small oval-shaped leaves and there are only two of those, the next leaves will be the real leaves.
I should say that even if you plan on growing vegetables in a plot, it’s better to germinate the seeds in a small pot in a greenhouse or indoors where you have more control over the seedling and the environment because slugs will devour your seedling or seedlings as soon as they pop up. The container to grow the seedlings in doesn’t have to be big, about 2 inches or 3 inches wide and as deep should suffice.
Watch it grow
For the people that keep the vegetables in a pot, the starting phase is now over. You just have to make sure the lettuce or whatever plant you started, is watered in time.
Lettuce can be watered every day. Don’t overdo it as you will drown the plant in trying to make it live. Maybe it would be better to water the plant well and then wait until the top of the soil dries out. Once the top of the soil has dried out, you can water again.
If you start with lettuce as your first vegetable, the plant will show when it’s thirsty. The leaves will become limp and that means it’s really time to water the plant.
So for people who grow in pots, you’ll now have to check the plant for the full duration of the growth period to make sure it survives until harvest.
One more thing for people who grow their vegetables indoor, watch out for the window sill. This can become really hot when the sun is shining and you could scorch your plant.
In the plot
Now back to the people who want to grow their vegetables in a plot. You can start your seedlings indoors or in a greenhouse in pots but eventually, you’ll have to put the plants outside.
So, let’s look at the plot. Is it weedy, is it ready? Do you have to put the compost on top? These are some questions to ask before you can plant your vegetables outside.
get rid of weeds
First thing, I think, most of you will have to do, is get rid of the weed or the lawn covering the soil you want to use.
The first time you start a garden, you can use a spade and turn the soil or you can mulch the soil with cardboard and wait for the weeds to die off. The second option is explained in this article. The second option does take a while so if you didn’t plan the garden beforehand, you’ll have to use the first option.
Once you’ve turned the soil once, you can maintain the vegetable bed without turning the soil if you keep it mulched so the weeds don’t come back and the soil becomes fertile and fluffy.
To start, I would advise to only do a square of about ten feet on ten feet. It’s always better to be proud of a small garden than to lose hope over a big pile of weeds.
If you don’t have a rotary tiller, you’ll have to turn the soil by hand, or by the spade to be more precise.
grow in rows or square foot gardening
Before going on there’s something I have to explain that I personally find really important. About 60 years ago, people kept their vegetables in nice tidy rows. Those were beautiful to watch but really intensive to keep weed free.
Now, there’s a method called square foot gardening and I advise everyone to read the new edition of the book by the inventor of this system, Mel Bartholomew. This will most certainly teach you how to grow vegetables in small spaces.
This system uses a square foot for a certain amount of plants. For instance, you can plant one lettuce in a square foot. But you can also plant sixteen radishes in a square foot.
When you want to use the square foot gardening method, which is easier to maintain and takes less space, you should start by dividing your plot. Divide your plot into small plots of 3 square feet into 3 square feet. So each small plot has 9 square feet to plant out. Between the plots, you keep a 1-foot distance so you can walk between the plots. You can divide each plot into some kind of grid where you have squares of 1 foot each.
I hope this explanation is clear enough because it can be difficult to understand as a beginner gardener. So, let’s go back to the job of soil turning.
amend with compost
To make sure you get rid of most of the weeds, it’s best to remove the top 3 inches of soil before tilling. This upper layer will contain most of the weed roots and/or grassroots.
Once you’ve tilled the soil deep enough, let’s say about one and a half spade deep, you can amend the soil with compost. Work the compost in the top layer of the soil. Let this sit for a couple of days. In the meanwhile, the seedlings will grow big enough to plant out.
When to plant out?
When you see a set of two of the real leaves showing, it’s time to transplant in the final spot. Trust me, you’ll see the difference with the baby leaves.
If you plant with the square foot method, you can plant one lettuce plant in one square foot.
If you want to plant the plants in rows, you keep a distance of one foot between the plants in the row and 2 feet of distance from row to row. That way you can easily manage and walk between the rows.
Planting out your first vegetable.
The planting itself is quite easy. Check the size of the container you use for the seedlings and make a hole in the right spot, where the pot can fit in while the soil level stays the same for the plant. Don’t plant the plant any higher or any deeper than soil level.
Now remove the plant out of the pot by gently turning the pot upside down. Holding the soil around the plant so it doesn’t fall out. Make sure you don’t crush the plant with your hands. The plant should come out easily, if not, just gently massage the pot until the root clump comes out.
Once the plant is out of the container, you can put it in the hole you made. Press lightly around the plant to make sure the potting soil has good contact with the surrounding soil. This makes sure the roots are not seeing any light as this can be devastating for the plant. All that’s left to do now, is watch the plant grow and water it daily to keep it happy.
I think this covers the basics of gardening. It lets you know how to grow vegetables at home. If you think I’m missing something, feel free to comment and I will adapt my post if need be.
That’s it for this post, I hope you enjoyed it. If so, please, feel free to share on social media and with friends so more people can enjoy the content.
Thanks for reading,