B.Y.O.V. - Bring Your Own Vegetables
B.Y.O.V...That’s right! Bring your own veggies. Where, exactly? Bring your own veggies to the table. I’m talking about creating your very own labour of love and bringing the “fruits” of your labour to the table - your very own home-grown veggies.
The snow is finally (and I mean FINALLY!) melting and the weather seems like it’s going to cooperate. It’s time to start thinking about getting those vegetable seeds in the ground. I have a passion for vegetable gardening. If I could have my way I would do it year round. This year it feels like I’m so far behind because in previous years my garden was already tilled and early seeds already planted. If growing your own vegetables seems like a daunting task, I’m here to encourage you to give it a try with a few tips on how to get started.
For your first year growing your own vegetables it’s best to start small. You may have grand ideas, but if you start small you can always add on each year. If you start your garden too big, it can become overwhelming very quickly. Vegetable gardens take a lot of work! Once you’ve seeded and planted, you need to water and weed when necessary. You also have to keep an eye out for garden pests and come harvest time, there’s the actual harvesting and then prepping the produce for either freezing or canning (or eating). If you start your garden small, you’ll be able to tell if vegetable gardening is something you enjoy and the responsibility involved will be easy to manage. My first garden was much smaller than my current garden, but I don’t make it bigger every year (although we did add an entirely separate garden to use as pumpkin patch).
Utilize the Space You Have
Many people don’t grow their own veggies because they think they don’t have enough space. I love having a big garden, but because I live in the country we have the space for one (and a separate pumpkin patch too). If you live in the city, you can create space for growing vegetables too, you just have to be more creative. Container gardening is the perfect option for those with limited space. Instead of making a flower planter, you could make a planter full of salad greens, like leaf lettuce, romaine and arugula. Pole beans and cucumber climb, so you could use a trellis or netting up against a fence using next to no garden space. Tomatoes and peppers can be planted in pots. I have also seen people cut several holes into a bag of soil and plant potted vegetables into the bagged soil. Another option is a community garden. Ask around to find out if there are any community gardens in your area where you can rent a plot to grow your own vegetables.
Choose the Right Seed
Some vegetable are easy to grow from seeds, while others are best to start with plants purchased from the greenhouse. For your first year, your best bet is to buy plants. That way you know you have strong, hardy plants and you don’t have to wait around to see if your seeds will germinate and then survive the sometimes uncooperative weather. Some of the easiest vegetables to grow are lettuce, carrots, onions, tomato, cucumber and beans. Lettuce, carrots and onions do not need a lot of space to grow. Tomato plants can grow large, but can be planted in a container and cucumber vines can easily be trained to grow up a trellis or fence. There also aren’t many insects that make growing these vegetables difficult so they would be a perfect choice for your first vegetable garden.
Easy Watering Tips
We all look forward to the hot, dry weather of summer, but when you have a garden that depends on rain, a rainy day here and there is a blessing. It keeps you from having to water the garden yourself - a definite time-saver. I have several strategies I use to make watering easy. First I like to use a catch basin, like a rain barrel under my downspouts to collect water. I prefer this method of watering after first planting because it allows you to hand water just the areas that need watering. Vegetable gardens are not planted all at once. Some veggies, like lettuce, carrots and onions can be planted early because they can withstand a frost. Other veggies have to wait until after the danger of frost has passed to be planted. So if your garden is only half planted you don’t want to water the whole thing otherwise you’re just watering potential weeds. Once the garden is fully planted and the plants are more established you can use either a sprinkler or soaker hose. I prefer using a soaker hose as there is less evaporation and it allows you to water just the roots of your rows of vegetables rather than the entire garden which also cuts down on weeds. I also use two litre pop bottles with the bottoms cut off to water my tomatoes. If you “plant” the bottles beside your tomato plant you can give the plant two litres of water at time watering only the roots.
Nothing beats walking out to the garden and harvesting your very own fresh produce. Nothing beats the taste of fresh produce right out of the garden either. You know exactly how it’s been grown and that it’s free of chemicals. Whether this is your first year or you’re an avid vegetable gardener like myself, the effort it takes to make your garden grow is always worth it!