Quick Guide: Edible Gardening
Vegetable gardening is a hobby that adds beauty to your yard. It brings physical activity to your routine. It puts nutrient-rich food on the table for less money. Cool, right? To get started, think small. You’ll be savoring sun-warmed greens in no time.
Herbs: Plant them in pots on your windowsill or in raised garden beds. Herbs add versatile flavor to any meal, and they’re great for start-up gardeners. Easy-to-grow herbs include basil, chives, rosemary, dill, lavender, and mint.
Containers: Turn your doorstep, patio, or balcony into a mini snack buffet. Containers can hold a wide variety of produce. Get creative with crates, urns, or galvanized tubs. Keep in mind, containers need drainage holes. Try not to let them dry out between watering or get too saturated.
Choosing Your Produce
Seed catalogs and your local garden center or hardware store are the best resources.
Location, Location, Location.
Once you know what produce you want to plant, carefully read the seed packets for what sort of conditions they need to grow.
Sun: Most vegetables typically need 6–8 hours of direct sun. Not enough sunshine in your yard? Plant leafy greens like lettuce and spinach.
Water: Most veggies aren’t drought-resistant. Keep them near a constant water source like the backyard hose. Live in a hot climate? Plant chilies, peppers, and tomatoes. Make it a salsa garden!
Soil: Keep soil moist, well-drained, and use compost. Read more about it below in “Making the Bed.”
Making the Bed
If your yard soil is sandy or hard clay, build container boxes or raised beds. Raised beds are generally 1–4 feet across and as long as you want. Line the bottom of the frames with several layers of newspaper, then fill them with soil.
Loosen the soil before you plant. Quality gardening tools make aerating and incorporating compost into the soil easier.
When you’re done, smooth the surface with a rake and water the bed. Allow it to rest several days before you start planting.
This is the fun part. Harvest in stages. Many veggies like beans, peppers, and cucumbers actually stop producing if they’re not harvested regularly. If it looks good enough to eat, it probably is. The more you pick, the more the plant will produce.
Protect your bounty from these predators. Here are some guidelines.
Cute & Fluffy (deer and rabbits)
Use fences. The bottom of the fence should be about 6 inches under the soil to keep out the rabbits. Extend it 8 feet above the ground to keep deer from jumping over it.
Creepy & Crawly (insects)
Lightweight sheets of translucent plastic called row covers protect young spring crops against many common insects. During the summer, pick larger insects and caterpillars off by hand. (Ew!) Use insecticidal soap sprays to control harmful bugs. READ LABELS CAREFULLY!
Gross & Yucky (fungus)
Water the soil, not the plant leaves. Too much moisture on the leaves, especially overnight, encourages mold growth. If you have a sprinkler, water early in the day to give leaves time to dry. If a plant becomes sick, remove it and throw it way. Don’t compost it.
Try a few new gardening techniques each growing season, or experiment with one or two new vegetable varieties each spring. Your garden skills will keep growing…and so will the produce aisle in your own backyard!