Eat Your Vegetables and Grow Them Too

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by Karen Richards

Does the mere mention of spring have you thinking longingly about vine ripe tomatoes, fresh salad greens and aromatic herbs? Perhaps the answer is yes, but you’re new to gardening and you don’t know where to start. Take heart - this could be your year to develop that green thumb.

Step 1 – Start Small

If this is your first attempt at growing your own edibles, you’ll want to start with nothing larger than a 12’ x 10’ space. If you have difficulty bending or kneeling, a raised garden might be worth a try. You might also consider container gardening, focusing on a few chosen vegetables or herbs. If you have no room for a garden (perhaps you live in a small apartment) consider getting a space in a community garden.

Step 2 – Find a location

Once you’ve decided on the type of garden you’d like to have, it’s all about location, location, location. You will want to find a sunny spot where the plants can receive at least six hours of sun a day. Make sure your garden isn’t too close to a tree; a tree can shade the garden too much, stunting the growth of your plants or causing fungus problems. Unless you’re container gardening, the tree’s roots can also deplete the soil of its nutrients.

Step 3- Prepare the soil

Soil preparation will be next on your to-do list. Raised beds and small containers allow you to skip this step since you can use already prepared soil for them. For traditional vegetable gardens, a rototiller helps to break up the soil. Sharing a rototiller with a neighbor or someone else (particularly in a community garden) can ease both the cost and the labor. Share the machine and share the work.

Depending on where you live, you may need to add additional ingredients to the soil to make it a good growing medium. A worthwhile resource for this information is the Colorado State University Extension Service. Also consider the Extension’s Master Gardening Program. www.cmg.colostate.edu. Throughout the growing season there are Master Gardeners on hand to answer your gardening questions.

Step 4 – Gather your tools

Every gardener should have a few basic tools. These include a standard shovel or spade, a ground rake, a standard hoe, a, a trowel, a wheelbarrow or two-wheeled yard cart, a watering can, a garden hose and adjustable nozzle. There are also various hoes made for specific purposes such as tight spaces.

Step 5 – Choose what you’d like to grow

It is important to make some decisions about what you want in your garden before heading off to the greenhouse. One of the biggest mistakes beginning gardeners make is not considering the space that is needed for each plant in order to expand and grow properly. For example, you may love zucchini but not realize that a few plants can overrun a small space very quickly and crowd out the other vegetables. Resist the urge to try to squeeze in just one more of your favorites. Your local greenhouse will able to assist you in making decisions based on the square footage available.

Step 6 – Learn when to plant

So then when do you plant? In Colorado, after Mother’s Day is usually a safe bet. Occasionally you may have to cover some plants to protect them from a late frost. If you have the time and space and just can’t wait, you can get your plants started earlier indoors.

Step 7 – Manage garden pests safely

Of course, there are the inevitable garden pests, but there are some very easy solutions that don’t harm the environment. One effective remedy is a simple soap solution using two tablespoons of soap flakes to two quarts of warm water. Spray the solution directly on the infected areas of the plant for 5-7 days to get rid of aphids, spider mites and whiteflies. (This recipe was adapted from A Year on the Garden Path by Carolyn Herriot, which contains more information for natural organic gardening.)

Herbs can also be planted in your garden alongside your vegetables to help deter insects. The leaves of many of these plants contain oils that repel or kill a variety of different insects. Chives, for example, are effective against aphids and mites; mint repels ants and cabbage moths. For more specific information visit www.cedarbrook.jigsy.com/herbs-to-repel-unwanted-insects.

A vegetable garden is not only a wonderful way to enjoy fresh produce, but can be fulfilling and fun. As spring blossoms in the Rockies, it’s time to exercise those green thumbs and look forward to enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of your labors.

Karen enjoys gardening and finds it highly therapeutic! She is also a lifelong psychic/medium who provides insights and spiritual coaching to her clients. In addition, she performs house clearings and blessings, conducts Reiki healing sessions, teaches intuition classes and leads a local paranormal investigation group. Contact Karen through her website:: www.TheMediumNextDoor.com