Plate-Wise •  4/29/2020

Why and How to Start a Home Garden

Written By Wendy Srnic
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Tomatoes on a vine surrounded by illustrated gardening tools

Many of us are spending much of our time now at home, preparing food and enjoying the early signs of spring in our yards and balconies amid the COVID-19 social distancing guidance. What a perfect time to consider growing a garden.

During World War I and II in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and Australia, our grandparents or great-grandparents planted victory gardens to ensure food availability. Women patriotically ripped out their lawns and flower beds, converted them into small home farms, growing produce for the entire season and preserving their harvest through canning.

I’m not suggesting that we tear up our precious lawns and flower beds in a collective effort of solidarity, but I do think there is a strong case to be made for thinking about a home garden right now.

5 Home Garden Tips: 

  1. Location Choice
    Generally, your location should get ample sunshine. Check your location for sun/shade for a couple of days to help you find a spot that gets sun for a good part of the day. Potted balcony and patio plants follow the same guidance. Be conscious of spacing requirements. Pumpkins take MUCH more space than peppers! Also, consider critters (rabbits, deer) — if you have them, plan to fence your garden.

  2. Plant (and Plan) for the Season
    Different plants flourish in different seasons. Read the seed packets or starter plants to see the ideal planting window in your geography. Consider weekly or biweekly plantings of vegetables like salad to always keep “fresh” produce coming.

  3. Variety Selection
    Choose those you love, but also those you can grow in your geography and available space. If you’re in the U.S., check out the USDA hardiness zone finder or talk with your local garden center for recommendations.

  4. Tend to Your Garden
    Make this a daily activity. Things change quickly! Water is the most important (and often most limiting) input. Check soil moisture. If it feels dry, water it daily. Pull weeds daily and trellis or support plants as they get taller.

  5. Harvest
    The best part! Harvest daily. Garden fresh produce is different than store produce. It ripens (and rots!) more quickly. Harvest it as it’s ready and, if you are getting overwhelmed, donate or gift what you cannot eat — or try your hand at canning!

Benefits of Home Gardens:

  1. We’re Homebound
    Gardens take daily tending, watering, weeding and harvesting. Go ahead — trade in the time you used for your commute to nurture a garden.

  2. It’s All About Fun With Food
    Fresh homegrown vegetables, fruits and herbs, available right in our backyard, greatly aids in creativity, flavor, nutrition and diversity. You can also try some fun or heirloom varieties that you’d never find at a grocery store.

  3. Provides Natural Stress Relief
    We are in unprecedented times, and it’s natural to feel stress about the current situation and the unknown future. Gardening has been shown to reduce stress levels. My family gets this. Even in normal times, after work and before dinner, my husband and I spend 20 to 30 minutes in our respective “gardens” — tending, pruning, weeding and letting go of the stressful workday.

  4. It’s Good for the Environment
    If you grow it in your backyard, it does not need to be transported or handled. You can also save money and resources by using your own homemade compost from garden scraps and leaves instead of synthetic fertilizer.

  5. Supplies Food for Yourself and Your Family
    Although there is currently an abundant food supply, anyone who has gone to a grocery store recently and has seen empty shelves can attest that the food supply chain has been disturbed through this crisis, and we may still be in the early days. Having a home garden reduces your dependence on the grocery store. 

Happy gardening and have a healthy season!