There is no denying the fact that people are more open to growing their own food these days. There is a movement to move back to simpler living and a need for more organic farming. But, many of us just don’t know how to plant a garden, don’t think we can, or just haven’t had the time to give it much thought. Whether you live in an apartment, a neighborhood with a small yard or a home with a few acres, growing your own food can be really easy with some preparation.
Put simply, a garden requires Space, Soil, Water and Plants. No green thumb required. There are also several plants that are so easy to grow, they won’t require intense care. Although, I think it is important to choose veggies that you will eat, so ask your family what they like the most and start a list.
In my family, the easy to grow vegetables aren’t my kids favorites, but I have a few “must-haves” that anyone can grow and reap the rewards all season long. It is important to read the seed packet instructions, though, because we all live in different growing zones and that will determine when you need to plant your seeds or seedlings. You can find out your growing zone here.
Here is a list of easy to grow plants for your backyard farm:
All of these can be grown in small spaces, large spaces and even in containers with some clever planning. Radishes and Lettuce like to be sown in cold weather, so make sure you read those seed packets and know your zone. Whether you grow from seed or from plants from a local farm stand, make sure you plan ahead, make your “shopping list” and get all your supplies ready before you start. It is important to know how long each plant will take to grow and how much space it will take up BEFORE you put it in the soil.
If you are growing in a small area, you can maximize space by growing vertically. Pole beans, peas, melons, squash and pumpkins can grow up a teepee of poles, an arbor or up a trellis on the back of a garden bed. Larger fruit may need to be supported with little ‘hammocks’ when they get large. Cucumbers are perfect for an angled 45 degree trellis – and you can use the shady area underneath the cukes to grow more batches of lettuce throughout the season. Plants like lettuce and root veggies like beets, radishes and carrots grow pretty quickly, so put them towards the front of your garden while bigger bushier plants like peppers or tomatoes can go in the back and be staked with cages or a trellis. Plant lettuce around the root veggies to maximize the space better.
Squash plants take up quite a bit of space and have long trailing vines. Pumpkins, Zucchini, Summer Squash, Spaghetti Squash and Winter Squash can all take up quite a bit of your lawn if you aren’t prepared. Because of this, I suggest planting these plants towards one end of your garden space and when the vines begin to trail out of your garden, help them find the “right” path by training them where you want them to go. Otherwise, they will go all over the yard in many directions. Or, train them up! Vertical growing can be done successfully with trellises, cages, poles, training and other structures. Get creative – your garden should be a sanctuary as well as a source of food!
Planting in containers can be extremely rewarding as well. When choosing pots, make sure you pick something lightweight if you will be moving the pot. Find the right space to put your pots and be sure to have adequate drainage holes on the bottom…. 4-5 holes is good! Put a layer of rocks on the bottom of your pot and then fill with a healthy potting soil with extra goodness like earthworm casings, bone meal and blood meal. Each pot should be at least 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. If you choose an enormous pot and don’t want it to be super heavy, you can fill the bottom of the pot with a lightweight filler like packing peanuts before adding your soil. When planting in containers, utilize your space creatively by growing something up and something low and possibly something that trails out of the pot….like Oregano. Container gardening can be really beautiful and very imaginative. Have fun with it!
Whether you are creating a backyard farm, a small raised bed or a container garden, companion planting is always beneficial to your plants. Companion planting is when you put different plants near each other in an effort to help with pest control, pollination or crop productivity. Here is a couple quick little graphic of some beneficial plantings:
Planting in small spaces or containers can get very innovative and there are tons of ideas and plans out there to use as a guide. Ultimately, you should grow what you love to eat. Use the companion planting guide to help get a great yield and use herbs and flowers (marigolds, geraniums and nasturtiums are all great in the garden!) to help as well. Check out this website for more incredible info about companion flowers and herbs!
Do not be intimidated by vegetables. Nature has a way of working out when you show some basic care. And what is better than picking your own tomatoes, basil, peppers and oregano from the back yard to make a fresh summer sauce. Maybe it’s time to fix up that patio too, because you may be doing more entertaining!