10 Things: 10 tips for starting a simple garden

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Today’s 10 Things list was put together by Briana Feola of Brainstorm Print & Design. She silkscreens posters and does freelance design and illustration. In addition, she is also a 100% nature enthusiast. Check out her website for her work or her flickr for more gardening and other stuff!

If you have any ideas for future lists or want to put one together yourself, send me an email.

10 tips for starting a simple garden  –  by Briana Feola of Brainstorm Print & Design

Anyone can make a garden grow. I promise you. You may feel like gardening is an impossible feat, one to be left to the “green thumbs” and the hippies. This is just absolutely not the case. Gardening is a rewarding way to interact with nature and save on your groceries. All it takes is a little time, commitment, and desire to do something wonderful for yourself and the environment.
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Victory Gardens popped up during World War I and II to reduce the pressure on the worlds food supply. It helped many of those not fighting in the front lines to feel like they were making a difference and supporting the war effort. The government rewarded these people for contributing their vegetables and their time. How is today’s situation much different? We are in a recession. We are at war. Food prices are outstanding because farming costs are through the roof. Why not grow your own?

As a young generation surrounded by constant growth, consumerism, and reliance on others, it makes sense that we have lost the experiences that were learned during the first world wars. They were taught self-reliance, community, and sustainability. It is time to bring back these basic virtues and be able to pass them on to our future generations.

Here are my 10 tips for starting a simple garden this summer!

START SMALL
Don’t overwhelm yourself with a garden you won’t be able to take care of. Clear a 4’x 4′ space or smaller and start from there. Pick a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day and has easy access to watering. Pick a spot that you can see every day, so you won’t forget about the garden, otherwise by mid summer the weeds will have taken your veggies hostage!

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START PLANTS INSIDE
This year I started my plants indoors with a kit. So far they have grown beautifully and have transplanted easily outdoors.

Starting your plants indoors gives the seeds a chance to grow before the weather is warm enough. It gives you time to plan your garden and prepare the soil and collect lots of kitchen scraps for compost. Which leads me to my next tip….

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COMPOST!
I am a big believer in composting. Not only does it make soil completely awesome and nutritious for plants, but also helps you recycle many of the things you would just throw away in your kitchen. Composting is the natural breakdown (decomposition) of organic materials. More of the benefits include loosening the soil for better drainage, suppressing weeds, and making incredible nutrients available for your new plants.

I’m going to get scientific for a minute. There is a recipe for great compost. Successful recipes contribute both carbon and nitrogen. There should be a balance of 75% “brown” organic materials and 25% “green” organic materials. Some brown carbon-rich compostable materials include: dead leaves, woody materials, dried grass and straw. Green nitrogen-rich materials include fresh grass clippings, fruit and veggie remains, and livestock manure.

You can also compost egg shells, coffee grinds/filters, newspapers, tea bags, and paper towels. For optimal conditions, do not compost meat or fish, dairy products, bones, cooking oil, household pet waste, or anything that does not biodegrade.

Simple method to keep things neat. Get a garbage pail. Poke holes in it. Put it in your backyard. Stir the goodness inside every so often so oxygen can work its magic on the organisms that are breaking down.  Many composters collect food remnants in a covered container in the kitchen (like a coffee can) and then move it to a pile outside to cut down on stink.  This makes it very easy to reduce the amount of garbage you produce in your kitchen and the amount of garbage that ends up in a landfill.

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OBTAIN APPROPRIATE SUPPLIES
This will save you much backbreaking agony and you will be less likely to have to buy new tools in years to come. Spend the money now to get the basics. A round point shovel, a rake, garden trowel, and some bitchin’ garden gloves. You’ll need something to water your garden like a hose or a watering can.

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PICK SEEDS AND PLANTS NATIVE TO YOUR AREA
This gives you and your plants an advantage. These plants end up taking less work and effort to keep them alive. They tend to not need as much care, attention, and watering as something that grows in another climate. In the summertime almost anywhere though, things will grow no problem.

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GET PROPER FENCING TO KEEP CRITTERS OUT
You’ll need fencing and posts if you live in an area with lots of critters. I like to use chicken wire, because it is relatively inexpensive. The posts I have this year are found cedar from fallen trees in NJ, but you can use almost anything.  Just make sure the posts are sturdy and can withstand animal and weather force. To put the whole thing together, dig holes for the posts, lay out the chicken wire, and wrap the wire around the posts and your space you dug out. I like to bury the wire at least 5 inches into the ground to keep animals from squeezing through. A staple gun works wonders for attaching the wire to the posts. Make sure you leave a little space for you to climb over easily, depending on how large your garden is. You can also build a gate, but I’ve never built one and have no idea about them!

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GET THE SOIL READY
Feed your soil the good stuff and it will feed your plants. Mix in some dead leaves and compost I mentioned earlier and let it rest a bit before you plant your seedlings. It needs a lot of organic matter to be fit to support life. Only use organic, organic, organic. NEVER USE PESTICIDES, HERBICIDES, OR FERTILIZERS. I cannot stress this enough. A simple mixture of chili pepper and water in a spray bottle will keep most bug pests at bay. Vinegar will kill the unwanted weeds. Here’s a great link to organic pest control.

DON’T PLANT TOO SOON
In early spring, there is still a danger for frost, so don’t transplant your seedlings outdoors until you are sure there is no chance of it. For where I live, mid-May is optimal. Estimate your best time to plant here.

DON’T FORGET TO WATER AND WEED!
Water every day or every other day. Never let your plants dry out too much or they will come into your house and steal all your money. Pick out anything that you didn’t plant in your garden. The weeds steal away good water supply from the plants you really want to grow.  If you have this option, use your gutter system on the house to collect rainwater in a bucket to use for watering your plants. This is a very environmentally friendly way to save water and grow veggies at the same time!

NO BACKYARD? NO PROBLEM!
I will never let geography or a living situation keep me from growing my own flowers/vegetables. With inventions like the oh-so-famous Aerogarden, indoor gardening is becoming much more popular. If you have a terrace, buy a big flowerpot or build a raised bed and grow herbs. If you can have window boxes, grow flowers or peppers and lettuce. Where there’s a will there’s a way, you just need to be creative. If gardening still isn’t for you…even after these 10 tips, just get some houseplants and call it a day!

4 thoughts on “10 Things: 10 tips for starting a simple garden

  • June 11, 2009 at 8:12 pm
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    My boyfriend has been attempting our first garden this year. We have a lime tree that has taken off, and some lettuce and a few of our tomatoes are doing well, but some of them, not so much. It’s a learning experience though! And my boy built a really cool compost tumbler a couple of weeks ago!

  • June 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm
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    the seeds of today ,grow the flowers of tomorrow. be the seed , grow a garden!!!

  • June 11, 2009 at 10:19 am
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    Great Tips! Could not have said it better myself. Raised beds, succession cropping, container garden and vertical gardening are also means by which those who have limited space can grow a garden.

    Regards,
    Mike the Gardener

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