It doesn’t take that much effort to grow your own food. Although, a lot of people waste money buying overpriced food from the supermarket anyway. This may be due to convenience which is fair enough if you can afford to do that.
As a matter of fact, it may surprise you that you could be coughing up more money than you think you should.
What are the benefits of home-grown food?
When the food that you eat is something that you have grown then you know the exact process that it has gone through. You can be assured that it hasn’t been modified with anything artificial. The food that you will grow will likely be a lot healthier and nutritional than food bought from a store.
It’s a great feeling to know that you have looked after something and watch it grow because of your efforts. You can see first hand how rewarding it is and you get a huge sense of achievement from your work.
In addition, growing food means that you can help out the environment from a logistical standpoint because of the lack of miles your home-grown food has traveled. You will be safe in the knowledge that your home-grown produce will be cheaper and will be environmentally sound.
They should also taste so much better bearing in mind the lack of chemicals and the fact that you will be able to harvest them fresh. This is way better than having them sitting on a supermarket shelf for several days.
How much space do I need?
Having a lot of space isn’t really a huge issue. Fruit and vegetables are grown as easily out of a window box or plant pot as you could with a large plot of land. Of course, you are limited by the amount and variety of food you can grow if you only have modest space.
You would probably get the most out of this if you have a private garden. If possible, use a communal garden or allotment with permission if you are all out of options.
Do I need to have any experience?
You don’t need to have green fingers to get started with growing food. Gardening is pretty easy to learn and it’s something most people can do.
Hundreds of years ago before the age of supermarkets, most people used to grow their own food. This means that it’s a skill that anybody can pick up. It’s in the blood of our ancestors.
Which equipment do I need?
There is no need to buy that much special equipment either. The most important things such as the sun, earth and rain water are free of charge. It might be a good idea to buy plant food and hormone to improve your chances of success.
You should consider wearing boots to ensure you don’t ruin your other shoes and also gloves to protect your hands and prevent them from getting dirty.
Wheelbarrows are great for transporting a large quantity or weight of things around your plot at once. Try to obtain secateurs and sheers so that you can prune your plants.
Can I grow whatever I want?
Certain fruit and vegetables simply won’t grow in some parts of the world. What will grow in warmer climates won’t grow in colder climates and vice versa. You will need to check this thoroughly before you invest in any plants or seeds.
Some vegetables can be bought dirt cheap in stores so your focus may want to be on growing produce that is expensive or not readily available to everyday consumers. This is usually exotic fruit and the like.
How much sunlight will my crops need?
Your crops will need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight everyday so pick a spot on your plot that you know gets good sun exposure and place your neediest plants there. New plants and seedlings will be the neediest in terms of sunlight so place them in the brightest part of your garden.
Do I need to worry about weather?
The climate is changing which means that seasons don’t always act as they’re supposed to in some years. Dry Summers and harsh Winters can have a huge impact on the performance of your crops.
The more exotic crops clearly won’t grow in cold climates so you can use a heated propagator, greenhouse, poly-tunnel or a warm cupboard failing that.
You will need to plan out the types of crops that the area you live in will allow you to grow. Climate and rainfall frequency are all factors to think about.
How often do I need to water my plants?
If you experience months of zero rainfall then I suggest that you water your crops once a week at the very least. If the weather is particularly hot and humid then you will need to increase the frequency of watering even more. Drooping leaves is a good indicator for watering.
Lack of water can cause the skin of your produce to split which could spoil it. Over-watering can cause the roots of your plant to rot.
Watering cans are best for watering indoors or inside a greenhouse as spillage is less likely while a hose is better for the outdoors as you won’t have to waste time refilling.
What about potatoes?
One of the best things to grow in my opinion are potatoes. They grow in most environments, they are a very filling foodstuff and you can cook and prepare them in a variety of different ways.
How do I plant my seeds?
When you are ready to plant, you need to place the seeds/bulbs in the soil so that the rounded end needs to be pointing up into the sky and the pointy end needs to be facing downwards into the earth. It would surprise you how many people get this wrong.
You can use earth that you dig out of the ground, this will do fine and it’s free. Fill the planter halfway with soil, plant the seed, cover it with the remaining soil and then press the soil down firmly.
Next, water to lock in the soil together tightly so that the whole thing is sturdy in case of a sudden gust of wind. Make sure that there is enough soil at the bottom of your container for the roots to spread but at the same time don’t plant it to deep.
What will my plant need?
Your plants will require a fine balance of light, ventilation, earth, water and warmth. Remember to water your plants regularly but at the same time not to over-water them. However, you will know when they need water because the soil will look and feel very dry to the touch.
Problems could arise if your plants don’t get enough ventilation, particularly if you grow indoors. If this is the case or if you grow inside a greenhouse then ensure to leave at least one window slightly open.
How do I transplant something?
Switching containers can disrupt growth although there are ways to rectify this. Whenever you transplant anything in to a new container then it is best to water it right away. This benefits the nutrients and allows the soil to set meaning that the contents won’t spill out if knocked over by wildlife during the night.
Should I PROPAGATE new plants from the old ones?
Some crops are perennial and others will stop producing fruit after a certain number of years so it’s always good to get into the habit of starting brand new growers rather than putting all your chips on existing ones.
This is normally done in the Spring or Autumn/Fall. Try to find a fleshy green branch to cut off rather than a woody one. When you’ve done that dip the end into growing hormone and then stick it firmly into a pot of soil.
Can I grow indoors?
You can use propagators and greenhouses in order to make the growing season start earlier and end later thus lasting longer than it normally would. It’s a smart idea to grow herbs inside your kitchen next to a window. This way you can easily and conveniently pick fresh herbs and use them in your cooking.
How do I grow climbing plants?
If you want to grow a climbing plant like french beans then you will need some sort of solid structure for it to bind to. This can be a wall, trellis, cane or something similar. Try feeding and weaving the stems on to the structure until it can bind itself without your helping hands.
Where should I place my plants?
You will need to position your plants somewhere you believe that they will receive plenty of heat and sunlight. There’s the option of placing them outside somewhere but you will need to ensure that they are protected from wild animals.
A good compromise might be to put them indoors next to a large window providing that they get lots of air at the same time.
What kind of soil do I need?
You need to check the quality of the soil on your land before you think about fruit or vegetable gardening. The soil is the primary food source of a plant so it is clearly a vital element to consider.
The natural earth of your plot could consist of many different things such as sand, silt, clay, stone, loam etc. These materials are all good for different uses depending on what you grow.
The pH level is also a factor to consider. The acidity and alkaline tendencies of your soil will determine how you go about growing produce too.
Silt and loam soil types are fertile but on the other hand they are particularly rare in gardens. If you’re lucky enough to have it then your best bet is a clay texture because it is a good all-rounder for crops throughout the year. However, too much clay in your soil can deter root growth.
If you don’t give enough soil to each individual plant then you will find that they will dry it quicker than usual and the roots will be cramped so be sure to be generous when dishing out compost.
Should I plant in a container, raised bed or in the ground?
An advantage of individual plant pots is that the soil will warm up quicker. The flip-side is that it will dry out a lot faster so will need extra water if a particularly dry spell occurs. This is because it isn’t joined up with a large mass of land so therefore has a bigger surface area.
Containers are ideal for plots with poor drainage capabilities. If you don’t have that much soil on your plot then raised beds are a good alternative and are very simple to make. Raised beds can be made out of all sorts of materials such as wood, rocks and bricks.
The ground will obviously get a lot of natural moisture from the surrounding earth so you can afford to neglect on the watering a little bit. All three methods have their pros on cons so you will need to weigh up the options to see which one suits you the most.
Which plant pots should I use?
Containers are manufactured in all sorts of materials for different reasons.
You can use metal plant pots but you must be ware that they will conduct cold and heat more efficiently than you might like. This could really hurt the growth and well-being of the plants.
Plastic containers are lighter and tend to hold moisture better than terracotta or clay pots. You will need to tweak watering frequency in order to combat this. The fact that plastic is less cumbersome would clearly be a benefit if you are moving your containers around a lot.
Plastic containers are more cost-effective and store moisture and heat better. Porcelain containers are better at fighting frost but also dry up the soil easier that other materials.
Why do I need to plough my plot?
Before even thinking of planting, you will need to thoroughly till the soil until it has broken down into smaller, more manageable fragments.
A new crop has a better chance of success if the soil is fine so that it can root more easily. The tilling process also allows you to weed out any rocks are any other debris that will stunt growth.
How do I store my produce?
You can extend the life of your produce for a few day by placing it in the fridge.
The freezing process can have an adverse affect on the overall taste quality of your crops so you may want to eat the produce fresh, right away while in its prime. Freezing is by no means a terrible idea so if you do decide to freeze then you may want too blanch beforehand.
What about garden pests?
You have to be cautious and protect your produce from slugs, earthworms and other pests that may be found in the ground. You can use chemical products to tackle this but some people also like to use more natural methods.
Certain animals can be an asset to your plants but pests like birds can harm growth. Another danger of garden pests is that they spread viruses and diseases to your plants.
Pesticides and insecticides are options in fighting pests but you could still cope without using them. A plant has natural defense mechanisms to defend itself from pests so you may not need any chemical treatment.
This is true if they are healthy, well watered and fed. Whereas a neglected plant would struggle to survive against an attack.
Bacteria and fungi can harm your plants so you could always use chemical products to tackle those problems.
Be very careful when using chemical treatments as these can kill the helpful insects if you use them too frequently. Another downside of chemical usage is the harm it could potentially do to your crops and the surrounding environment.
How do I deal with weeds?
You can either apply weedkiller to weeds or you can dig them out manually. You should weed regularly as weeds can compete against your crops taking away resources like water and sunlight. This will have a negative effect on growth.
You will need to clear your plot of any weeds before going ahead and planting. This will help you spot the difference between weeds and your crops. Also, the weeds won’t be taking away anything like water/nutrients that your crops will need. 6-Piece Canning Beginners Kit for only $6.99 (originally $11.99) at FreshPreserving.com.
Should I make my own compost?
Yes, this is always a good idea. You can buy a compost bin, throw in any natural waste and let it do its magic. You should make a habit of mixing up your compost as this will aid the decomposition process.
Any other advice?
Yes, I have put together another article called 44 Gardening Tips That will dramatically increase your yield of succulent fruit and vegetables which I think will be really useful. Also, I have made a handy Planting & Harvesting Timetable that will show when to do certain things.
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