Although it can be labor intensive, getting a home garden set up to grow vegetables could cut down how much you spend on food. Who knows, you may develop a green thumb along the way. An organic garden provides a source of fresh vegetables and can often reduce your food budget. According to a study by Rodale, organic produce may be more labor intensive, but it has less costs due to lack of chemical fertilizer and fuel. Proper planning can help you to create an attractive and productive garden that will not only bring you healthy produce, but also provide a sense of accomplishment as a hobby. Your garden doesn't have to stick out like a sore thumb; you can incorporate it into the design of your landscape and make it a part of your lifestyle.
A Little Patch to Call Home
A starter garden for an average family of four does not require a lot of space. In fact, you may want to limit your garden size for your first experience so that you don't become overwhelmed or discouraged. Every garden has some basic requirements to keep in mind when selecting a location. First, this area needs to be close to your home to encourage you to maintain it and to allow you to take advantage of the vegetables when they are ready for harvest. This is not a good time for "out of sight, out of mind." Since sunlight is the lifeblood of plants, you need to select a spot away from shade. Ideally, this will be an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. This is true for all vegetables, even those such as broccoli and green, leafy vegetables that tolerate a little more shade. Soil in the area does not have to be perfect, but it has to be fertile, free of rocks, aerated and well-drained. Soil that is compacted, sandy and soggy must be avoided; however, you can improve sandy or heavy clay soil by incorporating organic materials such as lawn clippings and compost. Keep a source of water in mind as gardens require at least 1 inch of water every week.
The Master Plan
Decide what vegetables you will actually consume. You may decide to grow the ones that provide the most return on your investment. For instance, red bell peppers can cost $1.25 each or more at the store. Few vegetable plants will not be suitable for your area, but it is best to check with your local extension agent to receive information about which plants grow best in your climate and which plants to avoid. They also offer the best dates to plant. Make a sketch of your garden space and decide where each type of vegetable will be planted. Be sure to account for some space between the rows; you don't want to step on the planting beds, because this will compact them. Dates are important information to keep track of because you need to know when to complete certain tasks, such as planting, weeding and (organic) fertilizing. It is also recommended to keep track of the optimal harvest time. If you decide to grow plants indoors from seeds, it is especially important to keep track of this time because you need to know exactly when plants should be transplanted from their pots into an outdoor garden.
Keeping Uninvited Guests from Eating Your Hard Work
There's nothing quite as disheartening as when you've worked hard on a garden, and are ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor, only to discover that something has beaten you to it. Organic pest management starts with good soil to promote healthier plants that can deal with some damage. Crop rotation will prevent the population growth of some pests that tend to feed on specific species. You can use physical barriers such as fencing and netting to deter birds and mammals. Every so often, you may need to inspect your plants and remove any bugs that you see. Other effective biological weapons in your arsenal include urine sprays and pepper solutions that make plants unattractive to mammals and insects.
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