DIY: Backyard Garden Tips10:30 AM
This is a little tricky as I really have no clue to what I am doing for the most part, and I also should have done this earlier in the year but readers have asked for advice in the past, so here goes. Tips for your own backyard garden:
Shop around:Kyle and I usually go to Eastern Market in Detroit to get flats of plants every year. It is a good way to start a garden with some of the plants already growing for you, then you just have to plant them and take care of them. Make sure to keep the tags that say what is what as most plants look very similar at this stage (little green leafy things). I also bought a pack of seeds from Home Depot and grew my own seedlings indoors, so there is always that option.
*Remember that plants need space to grow and need to be planted 1-2 ft apart from each other. Don't do what we do and get excited and buy 30 plants and then wonder where to put them all when you get home.
Start small: If you have never tried growing your own veggies before, or have failed at it in the past (like I have), don't worry about it. The first year I planted veggies, everything died but the basil and tomatoes. So the very next spring, that is all I planted.
I have found that most herbs are pretty easy to maintain, we have basil, mint, curry, oregano, cilantro, and dill. Mint is really easy to grow, but be careful as it will take over your yard. We sectioned ours off, but you can always just pot it if you are that worried about it. I have basil all over the yard, even in pots on the porch where there is little sun and it still grows.
As for veggies, kale is hearty and will flourish. Unless you completely neglect it, it will grow. I have also found chili peppers and tomatoes pretty easy to grow, as well as summer squash if you have the room for it.
Pick a spot: Most plants will need lots of sun and space to grow. You don't need a large backyard for this, Kyle and I grew veggies and herbs in a small patch of lawn in front of our old apartment. Again, you really want 1-2 ft of space between plants. See the above pic? Right now the plants are so big that you can barely see the mulch walkway. Don't do that. You can also pot them, but you are going to need to get large pots or the plants won't grow. Most herbs do pretty well in pots, and I have found that peppers do also.
If you are without a yard, you can still grow plants inside. I am actually going to pick up some more basil and oregano to pot and put on a shelf by the window of our living room for the colder months. If you do this, just remember that the window works like magnifying glass and will make your plants hotter, so you will have to water them a bit more.
General care: After you get home with your plants, you really don't want to wait longer than a week to get them in the ground. Make sure to water them everyday if you leave them in the flats as well.
As far as adding things when planting, my brother is pretty big on making sure that we sprinkle peat moss in with the soil before placing the plant in. However, I have planted veggies and herbs in the past without it, so that is really up to you. Kyle and I have a compost pile behind the garage that we started last year and it broke down nicely so that we added it to the soil before planting. It seems to have really helped this year. If you don't have room for a compost pile you can save your coffee grounds and mix that in. I have even seen Starbucks give out used coffee grounds in March/April so you could always stop at a coffee place and ask.
It is also important to make sure that the plant has a small mound of dirt surrounding it when it goes in. You don't want to just place them flat in the ground because when it rains/you water them, they will most likely drown (you don't have to worry about that if they are in pots). You should water them every single day, either in the morning or the evening as it is too hot in the afternoon. Just don't accidentally leave a sprinkler on for an hour like we do, water bills are lame.
There you have it, some tips from a half-ass city gardener who seems to do okay despite not really knowing what she is doing. It is beyond gratifying making tomato soup with our own tomatoes, or adding a few leaves of basil to our pasta sauce. I honestly wish that we could own another plot of land and grow more and I could quit my job and just be an urban farmer, but that might be too much for me to handle with the book I am going to write and the coffee shop/bar/bakery/resale shop I am going to open and all.