You can start a backyard garden with raised beds or pots. Home gardening is the number one hobby in the United States. Is there anything more satisfying than walking out your back door, picking a juicy red tomato and enjoying that sweet fresh flavor? It is a rare treat and for most of the country it is only something we get to experience in July, August and September, but it sure is worth it. When you go to the grocery store in the dead of winter and the tomato package says, “Vine Ripened and Tastes like Summer”, don’t you believe it!
There is nothing quite like producing your own fresh food and it is very easy to do. No matter what size your backyard may be, or even if you just have a patio or deck, you have room for a garden by building raised beds, pots, window boxes, or just about anything that will hold soil.
First, you must decide how much space and time you may want to devote to your new project. Like most new endeavors, starting small is a good idea, and as you learn from experience you can grow and grow from one season to the next. If all you have is a patio or deck, you should consider what we call “container gardening”. This is nothing more than something like a five gallon bucket or maybe a whiskey barrel or maybe a used wheelbarrow. Even an old bathtub would do the trick! Just fill them with clean composted soil and you are ready to plant.
If you have a little more space, raised beds are the way to go. These are constructed with organic pressure treated lumber and range in size from four feet wide, one foot deep and to as long as you would like (10 to 12 feet is most common). It is important to limit the width because you must be able to reach the center of the bed without stepping on the soil. If you are going to use raised beds, it is a good idea to put pencil to paper and figure out how large an area you are going to work with and how many beds you want to build.
Because your garden is new, this will be your best chance to fill it with clean weed free soil. If you are just doing container gardening, you can purchase bagged soil at any nursery or garden center. For raised beds, you will need to have soil or loam delivered by a local landscape service or mulch supplier. You will need approximately 3/4 of a cubic yard for each 4×12 foot bed. Make sure you specify composted loam for vegetable gardens. Upon delivery, mix in a small amount of peat moss to lighten up the soil, about 5%. Fill up your containers or beds and you are ready to plant.
Herbs are quite easy to grow and don’t require much space, which makes them ideal for container gardens. Select whatever varieties you commonly use such as dill, thyme, parsley, chives, sage, oregano, etc. Many herbs are perennials, meaning they will grow back year after year without replanting every season. Chives are wonderful because a small bed will come back to life early in the spring and require very little maintenance. Many herbs that you plant in containers can be overwintered inside and returned to the patio the following spring.
Regarding vegetables, tomatoes are an obvious choice along with cucumbers, lettuce and peppers. These four items alone will provide you with salads all season long. Green beans are very popular too and with staggered planting, you will be able to harvest them for several weeks in a row. Onions grow very well throughout the United States and should be planted as “sets”. These are just immature onions about 4 inches tall that have been commercially grown for transplanting to home gardens early in the spring.
Farmers Markets will have many varieties of plants to put in your new garden. Plant whatever you like, but let’s get going. Spring is here and it’s time to get dirty! You will find a great selection of herbs and some perennial vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb at Greenwood Nursery (www.greenwoodnursery.com). Place your order as early as late winter for shipping at the right time for your area.