Start your own backyard vegetable garden

9 October, 2014

Incorporating a vegetable garden into your backyard is not only a great way to make your home more beautiful, but it's also an eco-friendly method for saving money on produce and eating more seasonally. The produce you grow yourself will taste better than almost anything you can buy in stores and when planned well, can look just as gorgeous as your landscaping and outdoor furniture

Planning
A backyard garden will grow fruit and vegetables eight months out of the year in most locations, though the cultivation period can be longer in warmer climates. Begin by determining how much time you'll be able to dedicate to maintenance and how much your family with eat throughout the season. It's easy to be a bit overzealous at first, especially when faced with so many overwhelming and exciting options, but it's better to start small and expand your garden with time. 

Diagram: A good first step is making a paper diagram of the area. You don't necessarily need a large space to grow an adequate amount of produce, as even small 10-by-10 foot plots will yield plenty of produce to munch on throughout each season. If your backyard space is limited, you can even grow plants in containers on your deck or patio. It's much better to take great care of a little garden than poor care of a large one. 

Consider lighting: Most vegetables need direct sunlight, so choose a spot in your backyard that isn't shaded. The closer to a water source your garden is, the better, so you should also consider planting in an area close to a hose. Make sure your plots are clear of any root systems, as plants can lose water to nearby trees

Find level ground: While you can choose in-ground or raised plant beds, the ground must be level, so plan your garden to be on a flat span of your backyard or terrace. In-ground planting is cheaper and easier than setting up raised platforms, but is much more prone to weed growth and soil compaction. For this reason, raised beds are suggested for those just beginning their gardening careers. 

Arrange your seeds: Produce can be arranged in rows or can be planted in compact bands. While row cropping is favored in more agricultural settings, it is difficult to maintain and takes up way more space, so we'd recommend the latter. Just make sure to plan a space where you'll be able to reach weeds all the way in the middle, as this option has no walkways!

Consider edible landscaping: Vegetables mix with ornamental plants well and can take a garden from competent to compelling. You can intersperse edible flowers and chives with traditional crops to add to the visual appeal of your backyard. Whatever arrangement you decide on, be sure to leave some areas unplanted so you can stagger your crops and create a continuous harvest all season long.

Planting
A successful garden begins with healthy, nutrient-rich soil. Regardless of the dilemma your soil is facing, you can fix it simply by adding more organic matter. While many people incorporate fertilizer into their gardening routines, you can instead add plenty of manure, shredded leaves or compost before you even begin planting. 

All crops should face south, and taller plants should be situated on the northernmost side of your garden to ensure they get adequate sunlight. Some plants, such as corn, will yield a crop only once per season, while others (like tomatoes) will produce continuously as you pick them. Depending on you and your family's needs, you may want to primarily focus on crops that grow continuously.

Documenting what you plant and how your vegetables responds will help you improve your garden with each new season, so don't worry too much if it doesn't turn out perfect the first time. It will be an asset to your backyard in no time!