Gardening 101: How to Grow Your Own Food

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"Growing your own food is fulfilling, and tending an outdoor garden gives you fresh air and sunshine. Here's our gardening guide for beginners."

Gardening is one of the most sustainable ways to reduce your own food waste, take care of the planet, and nourish your family. It also gives you an opportunity to reduce trips to the grocery store, cut down on your grocery budget, and even support local businesses.

But if you’ve never gardened before, you might be unsure where to start. Below, we have 11 tips to get you started and on your way to growing beautiful, healthy fruits and vegetables you can enjoy all summer (and into the fall).

11 Tip for Growing Your Own Food

1. Know Your Location

The most important thing to do before you start your garden is conduct a little research. Most vegetables and fruits have different zones where they’re able to grow. For example, as much as I love lemons and limes, they’re not going to grow in Virginia outside of a greenhouse.

Understanding which season to grow your crops is also important. Do a quick search for your zone and start making a list of what you want to plant, and when is the best time. Research the Farmers’ Almanac for tips on when to expect the last frost, which can kill your plants early and unexpectedly.

2. Know Your Soil

Knowing which kind of soil you have is also important. If you have a lot of clay in your ground, you may have to add in top soil, fertilizer, and plant food to help your seeds grow. Potted plants or raised garden beds are a great option as you can control the type of soil you have.

Many plants grow easily in large pots or raised planters, such as tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, and other vine plants. Blueberries prefer more acidic soil than other plants, which makes large pots perfect for them. Research nutrient-rich soil and fertilizer, such as mushroom soil, manure sold from a local farm, or fertilizer.

3. Composting

Composting is a great organic alternative to all the various garden soils available, and again, cuts down on your food waste and is good for the environment. You can start with a simple countertop compost bin or, if you have a large garden, invest in a turning bin.

To begin, all you have to remember is “mix of browns and greens.” This means brown things, like dead leaves and sticks, mixed with green things, like lawn clippings and newspaper. Add in your coffee grounds and loose-leaf tea. You can then add in eggshells, fruits, and vegetables. It is not recommended to put in citrus, meat, dairy, or animal products (eggs, grease, etc.) into your compost.

Chop up banana peels and larger food waste to help it decompose faster. Add in some potting soil and water, then mix it up. Remember to turn it every so often and in about six weeks you will have beautiful fresh compost. Make sure you have some earthworms in there too; they help make it richer.

4. Find Your Seeds

Most hardware, grocery, and home improvement stores have relatively inexpensive seed packs to get your garden started. However, you can look online for organic or specialty seeds. On Etsy, you can find organic, rare, and even hand-grown seeds, and customize which seeds you want.

5. Getting Started with Seeds

Now that you have researched and prepped your soil, know what you want to plant and when, it is time to get started. Early spring is often best to begin planting indoors to ensure your plants have warm temperatures and will thrive. Keep them properly watered and in a warm and sunny spot. Look for biodegradable seed containers (like these newspaper seedling pots) that can be easily transferred to the ground when you’re ready.

6. Transferring Your Baby Plants

When it’s time to transfer your baby plants into the ground, pick a time when the ground is moist and soft. When you take out your plants, be careful not to break any of the small roots. Gently place them in the ground or pot, cover with potting soil, and water them well so that the plants can root down into the soil.

7. Buying Starter Plants

If you don’t have time or think you won’t be successful with starting from seed, you can buy baby plants. Visit your local greenhouses or farmer’s market, or look for local events from farmers in your area who may be selling baby plants.

This is a good idea if you’re new to gardening or want to make sure you have healthy plants from the beginning. It’s also a good opportunity to purchase harder to find varieties, and that you are buying plants that thrive in your zone.

8. Consider a Greenhouse

If you live in a cold climate, or want to try your hand with plants outside your zone, consider buying a greenhouse or building one yourself. There are many sizes, from mini-greenhouses for potted herbs, large coverings for long rows of plants, to whole greenhouse systems. You can find the right size perfect your needs, whether on Etsy or other small business websites.

9. Try Radishes and Mixed Greens

Looking for something that grows quickly and easily? Try radishes and mixed greens. They are easy to grow and sprout within 4 to 7 days. Radishes are delicious raw, with a nice peppery taste that is a great addition to salads, or they can be pickled or roasted. Greens can be used all summer for a healthy side dish for your meals

10. Start with Herbs

Starting with herbs is always a good way to go when you are first starting out gardening. Some herbs are trickier to grow, like basil, and you don’t want them to “go to seed,” or are allowed to flower, as this affects the growth and taste of the herb. However, herbs are great plants that can be grown indoors or out, and once they start will usually thrive.

You can reduce waste of herbs by drying them or freezing them. You can chop them up and put them in ice cube trays with olive oil and freeze; these create instant flavor boosts for any meal. Freshly cut and ground herbs mixed with garlic and olive oil also makes a simple but delicious dipping sauce for bread.

11. Try Grow Kits

11. Still not sure where to start or what to grow? Try some grow kits, or these cute seed lollipops that are hassle-free. You can even get pre-made garden kits that have everything you need to get started. Whether you’re a professional or new gardener, the options are endless when it comes to creating a garden you love.

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Growing your own food is fulfilling, and tending an outdoor garden gives you fresh air and sunshine. Here's our gardening guide for beginners.

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