A backyard has endless potential – it’s all up to you what you make of it. While neat landscaping with a colorful array of decorative plants is certainly an attractive backdrop for your Sunday barbecues, few things can beat having your own backyard vegetable garden where you can grow whatever you want.
The benefits of taking up gardening are more than one can count. You’ll get to spend time outdoors, in the fresh air, getting your daily dose of vitamin D. You’ll get a healthy amount of physical exercise while tending to your patch. You’ll get to reconnect with nature and experience it with your own two hands while watching your plants grow. But perhaps the biggest advantage for many people is the fact that you’ll get to grow your own food. Produce from your backyard will not only be fresh and delicious, but you’ll also be able to rest assured that it’s healthy and organic, which is something that is getting more and more difficult to say about much of the mass-grown produce in the world.
It’s not complicated to get started at all. However, if you want to ensure success right from the beginning, arming yourself with a few tips and tricks won’t hurt. Here are a few pieces of advice for backyard garden beginners.
Pick the right spot for your garden
The first step would be designating a spot for your future vegetable garden in your backyard. Even if you don’t have much space, don’t worry – you will be able to make it work. If you have several options, though, be sure to pick a sunny spot. Most vegetables need at least 5 hours of direct sun to grow optimally. First, determine the orientation of your garden. Northern gardens will need more sun, while southern ones can tolerate shade in the late afternoon. Observe whether something casts a shadow over your chosen area during the different times of the day. Another thing to factor into choosing the spot for your garden is how protected it is from wind, snow, and possibly animals.
Get your soil tested for a clearer picture
This is not an essential step, but if you’re still figuring things out, then some solid information about what you’re working with won’t hurt. You can get your soil tested with a kit or in a lab to find out the quality of it and how acidic or alkaline it is. Knowing this will help you compensate with fertilizer to reach a good balance. These tests can also reveal whether there is some kind of contamination in your soil that would hinder your efforts. Poor quality soil will also be needed to be boosted with some organic matter.
Consider raised beds
Another tip for beginners who would like to have a bit better control of their environment, for the time being, is to start out your garden with raised beds. Raised beds give you better control over the quality of the soil, and they are also more protected from pests so your hard work won’t be ruined as easily. They also look quite neat and make grouping plants a breeze. While it is an extra step, some beginners can certainly benefit from it. One thing to note is that warmer areas may see raised beds dry out faster, so you’ll need to watch out for watering more carefully.
Pick the right plants
The next tip that beginner gardeners might want to consider is picking easy-to-grow plants to start with. Vegetables that take a long time to grow and ripen are that much more exposed to pests and diseases. If you pick plants that do not like your particular climate, you are also asking for trouble. On the other hand, hardy vegetables that naturally yield a lot will make your labor more fruitful. Some very easy-to-grow plants include zucchini, carrots and radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, as well as leafy greens like lettuce and kale. Still, keep your climate in mind: lettuce, for example, doesn’t tolerate high temperatures. As for tomatoes, go for cherry tomatoes as those with large fruit are susceptible to pests for the abovementioned reason. The other important thing to consider when picking your plants is what you actually like. There’s no point in planting a garden full of zucchinis if your entire family hates it. Go for something that everyone will be excited to harvest.
Pay attention to planting times
The next piece of advice is a no-brainer but it can easily escape the best of us. Pay attention to when each plant you chose for your garden needs to be planted! It’s easy to miss the timeframe by remembering wrong, and planting them at the incorrect time won’t allow them to reach their full potential. By keeping track of the planting and harvesting times of each of your plants, you will be able to come up with the most logical arrangement for your garden. It’s also a good idea to think about what you will do when the time for harvest comes. You won’t be able to eat all your lettuce at once, so staggering plantings can expand the period where you will be able to enjoy your produce fresh.
Get the essential tools for garden work
There are a few basic garden tools that you’ll need for getting started with your garden. You might already have some of these at home. Start with a trusty pair of gloves to protect your hands. Get a high-quality set of hand tools that include a hand trowel, a hand cultivator, a hand rake, a hoe, a weeder, and whatever else you see fit. You should also add a couple of long-handled tools for bigger jobs, including a shovel, a hoe, and a garden rake. A pair of scissors or shears will also come in handy.
Make watering a breeze
Besides tools for working the soil, you will also need to think about how you will water your plants. At the very minimum, you’ll need a watering can. However, even a small garden is a lot of work to water with just a can. In fact, watering can become very time-consuming if you live in a dry area and don’t have the appropriate gear. You’ll need a garden hose you will be able to comfortably pull as far as you need it. Another thing you should note about watering is when you should water. Firstly, if it rained recently, you probably won’t need to rush. As for the time of day when it’s most optimal to water, it’s either the evening or the morning.
Label your plants
Another useful piece of advice that might make your life a bit easier later on is labeling your plants. You might think that you will remember which tomato seedlings are of which variety, but let me tell you – you won’t. Label everything clearly so that when things start growing you aren’t getting lost among similar-looking plants and can care for each of them appropriately. You can use plastic labels that won’t get worn out and you can reuse them over and over again. However, you can also look for a more attractive solution and use wooden or aluminum labels that work just as well.
Nip pests in the bud
Pests are a natural part of the outdoor world, however, you probably don’t want them ruining your lovely new garden. Instead of turning to harsh pesticides when you notice the first signs of infestation, it’s a good idea to take a preventative approach and keep them away from your plants, to begin with. You can do this in several ways, and one of them is companion planting. Herbs can serve as a valuable addition to your garden for this reason. But herbs are not the only option. Onions, for instance, have always been held in high regard as companion plants for their effectiveness at deterring pests. Still, not every plant tolerates onions as companions. Companion planting is a complex topic that you should read up on in more detail if you are to implement it. Besides pest control, however, companion planting also has other benefits such as attracting beneficial insects, so it’s more than worth giving it a try.
Starting a backyard garden is one of the best possible projects one can pick. Few things are as rewarding as being able to put your own vegetables on the table, so the hard work pays off not only in a material way. Remember these tips and you will have no problem creating your own vegetable patch in your backyard.