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Vegetable Gardening, combined with canning and freezing, can be one of your most important steps toward developing a higher level of self sufficiency. Growing your own vegetables can have a big impact on your food budget's bottom line. All it costs is the price of some seeds and your time & energy.
Learning the basic skills of vegetable gardening will provide you and your family with a source for highly nutritious (and delicious) food, not to mention the health benefits from the exercise you'll get caring for your garden. It's also a huge source of pride and accomplishment from "doing it yourself".
Nothing compares to the taste of garden fresh tomatoes or sweet corn straight off of the stalk. Once you've grown your own, you'll never again be satisfied with corn from a tin can or store bought tomatoes (I refer to them as tomato flavored styrofoam).
If you have a small plot of ground available to you, you too can grow your own vegetable garden. You'll be amazed how much you can grow in a relatively small space. Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow many varieties of vegetables in containers.
There are a wide range of subjects that have to do with growing a vegetable garden. Follow the links below for in-depth discussions of each subject.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to plant more than one garden in the same plot in the same year. Here in Southern Indiana, I plant a small spring garden, my main summer garden, and a fall garden where the spring plants were. In the deep south, people often grow winter gardens with similar plants as my spring garden. Link's below discuss when and what to plant for each season.
The Spring Garden
A spring garden is probably the most anticipated part of gardening because of what I call "the winter wait". Some people just can't wait to get into their garden in the spring (guilty as charged!). The aroma of fresh turned garden soil can be intoxicating - especially in the spring after being cooped up all winter.
Summer Gardens are the workhorse of your gardening efforts. The bulk of the vegetables that you can preserve (can or freeze) are grown in the summer. If you have never tasted a fresh from the garden, vine ripened tomato or a just picked ear of sweet corn, then you're missing out. The flavors of freshly picked vegetables are almost always better than anything you can buy at any supermarket.
Here are some of the most common summer vegetables, and some basic information on each.
To know more about when you can start planting your garden, refer to this USDA zone map which tells you the average coldest temperature for your area. Seed packets usually tell when to plant your seeds. Knowing your average first & last frost dates is important to knowing when it should be safe to plant. To be sure of success, stick to the recommendations on the packets.
A good companion to a vegetable garden is a small herb garden. Using fresh herbs in cooking can add flavor and depth to any meal. Once established, most herbs are low maintenance and hardy. Herb gardening is not only a pleasure to the nose and palate, but surprisingly pleasing to the eye as well. Herbs have so many unusual shapes, sizes, textures and appearances, it's nearly impossible to not enjoy growing them.
Herbs are also super for landscaping purposes around your house. Imagine being able to eat right from your landscaping! For more info on that topic, check out this site: Edible Landscape Design
addition to the "every day" annual vegetable plants that are grown in
most gardens, I get a lot of enjoyment out of growing perennial
vegetables as well. Here are some of my favorites along with some
information on growing them:
The first step to having a successful vegetable garden is selecting the site. It has to be drained well enough that you can work the soil in the spring, but not so dry that it will turn into a desert in late summer. Pick a spot that is a balance between too wet and too dry.
The quality of your garden soil is important. Good garden soil is well drained, rich in nutrients, and has a good mix of sand, clay and organics.
BUT - don't let poor soil quality stop you from planting a garden. You can still plant one - it's just that it might not be as productive the first year. The act of turning or tilling soil is the first step to improving it. You can always make amendments (additions) to improve the soil and your garden's productivity over time.
You can get vegetable seeds and starter seedlings from many sources, including mail order catalogs, local nurseries, hardware stores, and "big box" stores. Where you get them depends on what kinds and varieties of vegetables you are planning to grow. Also - some vegetables are more suited to planting seeds, while others do better when you use started seedlings. I'll discuss seeds vs. starts as well as provide you with links to websites for some of my favorite seed sources and mail order nurseries.
There is an enormous and confusing variety of gardening tools available today, from the lowly garden rake to the latest and greatest garden tiller. Not every tool is for every gardener. I'll discuss a wide range of tools and make some recommendations based on my experience. Good tools will last a lifetime. The right tool will be comfortable to use, and will allow you to complete the job it was designed for. The wrong tool can wear out quickly, break easily and be pure misery to use.
One of my greatest pleasures is working in our vegetable garden with my daughter. She has "helped" me in our garden since she was big enough to walk. Planting seeds, pulling weeds, and picking the harvest are times when we are closest.
At the same time, she's learning some important life lessons (it just looks like gardening), as well as spending some quality time with dear 'ol dad. If you have kids, and are planning to grow a garden, be sure to include them in the activities. Gardening with your kids lets you spend quality time together,as well as giving you lots "learning moments". You won't regret it.
So - what do you do with all of those weeds, vegetable scraps, peelings, stems, and all the other organic waste that comes from a garden? Well some people just work them straight back into their garden - as is. I like to compost all of my organic garden waste, as well as grass clippings, fall leaves, and all the weeds and cuttings that comes out of our flower beds around our house. Adding compost back to your vegetable garden is one of the easiest ways to improve the quality of your soil and get even with the weeds.
There are several methods for making compost from the very low tech "big pile of stuff", to big drums that you put organic matter and live cultures into and rotate twice a day. Each method has it's good and bad points.
A few garden plants have the potential to be so productive, that they require some fertilizer to really produce properly. If they aren't fertilized, the crop will suffer, and the plants can possibly strip the soil of available nutrients. Different plants require different types of fertilizer.
Growing your own vegetable garden can lead you one step closer to self sufficiency. Combine this with canning and freezing and you will be able to enjoy the products from your garden all year 'round. Most gardeners (myself included) wind up growing enough vegetables to share with friends and neighbors.
How to Grow..
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