The world is currently in a state of increasing fuel prices, food prices and job insecurity. So perhaps it is time to plant a garden?
A properly planted garden can yield a bounty of food for you, your family and the community. If you are considering venturing into home gardening or starting a small market garden, now is the time.
Here are some keys to growing success.
A Few Good Crops
Don’t start by growing everything. Pick some crops that you know you will enjoy eating every week. Plan to grow succession plantings of these throughout the summer.
If a selection of popular crops compliment themselves well for you, these are also crops that work well for sale. Barter extras locally or sell some commercially from the farm or home gate.
Grow 10 bed feet of salad every week. You can compliment this with a small patch of rainbow cherry tomatoes, a sensible start-up garden business for someone with three to six 50-foot garden beds. If you have three 10-foot gardens beds, then plant 1 bed foot of salad each week in one bed. Grow your tomatoes and some peppers in the others.
By focusing on what you grow, you will succeed. Aim to grow complimentary crops to needs of a sustaining meal.
Read more: What kind of gardening cart do you need?
Good First Beds & Crops
If you are building a new garden from scratch this year in order to improve your food security, then you want to stick with bed-building techniques and crops that can grow well in new ground.
Consider rolling out craft-type paper (4-foot rolls from a building supply) or layering cardboard, then applying 6 to 12 inches of soil mix over top. Use a local clay or loam soil, and mix this with potting soil and compost (1/3 of each).
This will give you a fairly (though not completely!) weed-free garden. You shouldn’t have any perennial grasses or thistles if you purchase clean soil and mixes. But you may have annual weeds.
Try Zipper Beds
To be sure you are weed-free in year one—and especially if you are forming new ground and not using a sheet mulching technique—you may consider using zipper beds. Here, two pieces of weed barrier meet at the center of the bed. You can plant along this line.
Crops like squash or melons will thrive in the extra heat of the weed barrier underneath. This will maximize bed space without needing all that exposed “new and potentially weedy” soil.
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other larger crops work well with zippers. You can also plant early maturing crops like lettuces and green onions between these to harvest first while the others grow to maturity.
Read more: Grow cover crops for in-situ garden mulch!
Invest in Irrigation
Beside making a good garden bed, a simple irrigation system is probably the best investment a beginning grower can make.
A 1” poly line along the front of your garden beds can serve as a “header.” Connect a small shut-off to drip tape along the zipper bed rows of crops, tying their ends in a knot.
Providing adequate water will help nutrients from moderate fertility additions (fish fertilizers, blood and bone meals, compost teas, etc) absorb better, making a world of difference to your fledgling crop yields.
A raised bed will prevent too much water by allowing free drainage from over-irrigation. And if it happens to be a drought year, an irrigation system will prevent huge losses of crops or time hand watering.
So it is time to increase food security by building practical first-year beds. You can use sheet mulching and/or the zipper bed method, and you’ll select a few good crops that complement each other in the ground and on the plate. And you plan to pick up some few labor- and crop-improving tech, namely irrigation, to get started right!