How to Start a Garden from Scratch
There’s nothing better than eating fresh produce that you have grown yourself. Knowing that it’s been grown without the use of pesticides or other dubious additives and has only been handled by yourself adds to the pleasure of eating fruit and vegetables that haven’t been transported many kilometers or stored for months.
My husband and I usually grow our crops between Autumn and Spring because the Summers in Queensland are far too hot. Temperatures are mild here, rarely dropping to frosty levels, and there are fewer bugs around to eat everything before we do. Be sure to check locally to find out when the best time to grow is. If you’re lucky, you may live in an area where you can grow crops all year around.
Start with the Basics
Start With The Basics – the requirements for a healthy garden:
- Soil that is well drained, full of nutrients and has loose texture
- Few weeds and bugs
- At least a few hours of sunlight
If you live in an area without ideal conditions like us, you need to create it. That is why we use raised garden beds. Our soil is very sandy and of poor quality so we fill the raised garden bed with the following:
- Organic garden soil
- Cow manure
- Our own compost. You can read all about composting and worm farms here.
These ingredients are added to the garden bed and stirred and turned over with a garden fork.
My husband does all the heavy work because I suffer from arthritis in my back, but once the plants have started to produce, I can look after them.
We generally plant seedlings to save time. You can also raise seeds yourself and then plant them out when they’re mature. Instructions are on the seed package or seedling tags as to what favourable conditions to grow them in. Our beans grow from last year’s crop – we save some of the last beans to dry out then just plant the seeds straight in the ground.
We have also grown cherry tomatoes using seeds taken from the previous crop. Our pumpkins grew wild from the compost. It’s interesting to see what crops up each year from our compost!
Daily Garden Tasks
Daily watering is a must except if you have really rainy days. A daily routine would include picking out weeds and squashing bugs before they get out of hand. Remove plants that have died or gone to seed because they attract bugs and disease.
Regularly fertilise your garden. We use our own liquid fertiliser that we make from our worm farm. Read about it in this post. Alternatively choose a commercial product that uses organic ingredients only.
Pick plants as soon as they are ready to eat. Living them to die in the garden only attracts bugs and weeds to take over. You will find that fresh vegetables will keep much longer than store bought ones because they haven’t been stored and transported for weeks or months.
What if you don’t own a garden?
Two garden beds is enough for our needs. If you don’t have a backyard, you can grow most vegetables and fruit in containers. My brother lives on a houseboat and has an impressive array of vegetables and herbs in containers. Another alternative is to grow sprouts in jars. I have easy directions here.
What to Grow
Your choice of what to grow should be based on what crops grow best in your area. Your local landscape supplier or garden supplier should stock a good range of seedlings. Have a conversation with the staff – they are usually very willing to give you local know-how on what the best plants to grow are. Other than that it’s trial and error. In general, don’t grow anything that you don’t enjoy eating!
This year we are growing beans, snow peas, bok choy, baby spinach, parsley, onions, Kent pumpkin, beetroot and cos lettuce. My husband made trellises for the beans and snowpeas and you may need stakes for some of the taller plants. We also have a chilli plant and cherry tomatoes and a range of herbs.
Times vary from when you start the garden to harvest, but generally we’re eating our produce within a few weeks. One of my favourite pass-times is picking the ripe vegetables and making them into beautiful fresh meals.