Last week, we shared five professional tips to design and plan your dream home’s garden. Today, one in three American households grow a portion of the food that they consume. A study by the National Gardening Association (NGA) shows that food gardening is more popular now than ever before. If you are going to include edibles in your garden this year, be sure to follow these three steps.
1. Determine location. First decide where to plant the edible garden within your overall landscape. It’s good to use raised beds or planter boxes because they can be moved, however if you are planting a stationary edible garden, choose an area that will receive enough sunlight. South-facing yards typically get the most sunshine while north-facing gardens are usually shaded. As a result, west- and east-facing gardens will receive ample light. The location of your edible garden also is impacted by the varieties you want to plant. For example, spinach and lettuce thrive in partial shade because they may scorch in partial sun.
2. Assess your needs. Decide what you will build, if anything, and what you need to buy. Starting a new garden usually involves building raised beds or obtaining containers. It’s critical to test the soil for contaminants so you know how much high-quality topsoil or potting mix you need. The Lead Safe America Foundation will test your soil samples for free which is highly recommended since most at-home kits aren’t reliable indicators of lead. If the existing soil has an unsafe level of lead, opt for raised beds or pots of new, safe soil.
3. Choose your edibles. Now that you have a sense of your edible garden space, it’s time to pick your plants or seeds. Every edible is different in terms of the space it needs. For example, salad greens require a little room while squash requires a lot more. If you’re using a box garden or raised bed, consider the square-foot gardening method in which the space is divided into sections using string and nails. Keep in mind that you’ll want to rotate the varieties each year to thwart soil-borne plant diseases and nutrient deficiencies.
When you create your list of edibles, start with fruits and vegetables you frequently by at the grocery store. Cool season vegetables like onions, peas and spinach grow best during the fall and summer months. Warm season vegetables like cucumbers, melons, squash, peppers and tomatoes are sensitive to frost in Southeast Michigan. Be sure to pick varieties that will grow best based on the season and amount of sunlight. If you are buying seeds, look for organic, open pollenated seeds because you can save them and use them over and over again. The best edible plants to start from seed are lettuce, radishes and beans—just label the date and variety.
Next week, we’ll dig into some surefire tips for planting a garden that will thrive in Southeast Michigan.
Article by: Jennifer Elkow
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