Recent world events have taught us how important it is to know how to grow food. Many people have already begun the migration back to the old way of living by living a more sustainable lifestyle.
The first step to living sustainably is learning how to start a home garden. Growing food is needful whether you have a goal of living completely off-grid or if you just want to eat healthier and reduce your grocery bill.
Starting a home garden is not difficult and can be done outdoors or indoors. The right location, good soil, some viable seeds, water, and a little elbow grease is all you need to start growing fresh food.
The Right Location
The best location for a home garden is a sunny spot which can be seen from your kitchen window. Select a spot that is just a few steps away from the back door and close to a water source to make the garden easy to tend to.
Once you decide on a location (indoors or outdoors), observe the location for a couple of days to determine how the sun shines on the selected location. Most garden plants will need 6 or more hours of direct sunlight every day but your selected location may have times of shade during the day along with times of direct sunlight.
Observe the location and note how the sunlight hits it at various times throughout the day. If the location is too shady, perhaps some tree branches can be pruned to allow more sunlight. If that’s not possible, consider using an all-natural reflective product like Mirasand that will reflect the available light onto garden plants and increase their growth and productivity.
Mirasand is spread on top of soil and can be used for all types of gardens, including indoor containers gardens. The product made from silicon dioxide which is a natural-occurring mineral found in rock located in the soil.
Some food-producing plants will grow and produce in less than 6-hours of daily light, but production will be decreased. Select the sunniest location available and increase the reflective light for plants by using Mirasand and painting adjacent walls bright white.
Test The Soil
Before planting a home garden in the selected location you will need to test the soil. You can buy an inexpensive soil testing kit at the local garden supply center. Soil testing will reveal the structure of the soil and what you need or don't need to add, to the soil to maximize its growing potential.
All garden soil can benefit from an application of organic matter, like compost, but some soils may be too alkaline or too acidic for good plant growth.
If you are using potting soil as a growing medium for an indoor or outdoor container garden, testing the soil is not needed. Packaged soil should already be pH balanced and contain vital nutrients for optimum plant growth.
Prepare The Soil
The soil of an in-ground home garden will need to be broken up and all the large clumps of soil smoothed out before plants or seeds are planted. Prepare soil in early spring as soon as soil is thawed and workable.
Work the soil to the depth of 12-18 inches with a turning fork, roto-tiller, plow, or whatever other soil-breaking means you have. Amend the garden soil according to the soil test results and add 2-4 inches of organic matter, like compost, and work it lightly into the soil.
Smooth the soil with a rake and allow it to rest a few days before planting the garden.
For container gardening, prepare containers by washing them in soapy water and creating drainage holes in the bottom. Place a sheet of black and white newspaper at the bottom of large containers or a coffee filter at the bottom of small containers to prevent the soil from leaching out when plants are watered.
Fill containers to within 1-inch of the top rim with a 50-50 mix of potting soil and compost.
While waiting on garden soil to settle and the bio-diverse sub-culture to become re-established in the freshly worked soil, select the garden plants.
Decide what types of vegetables and fruits you want to grow and visit a local garden supply center to discover which plant varieties grow best in your climate. Every vegetable plant, fruiting vine, or tree will have a unique sun, soil, and watering requirement. Matching the right plant to the right garden spot can mean the difference between success and failure.
Select native plants when possible to increase the success rate of an at-home organic garden. Native plants have already adapted to your climate and they will attract beneficial insects to an outdoor garden. These native insects will pollinate the garden plants and help to increase yields.
Create shallow rows for seeds in prepared soil or dig planting holes for potted seedlings. Planting holes should be twice as wide and twice as deep as the plant roots. Plant at the same height as the plant was in when it was in the container, fill the planting hole with soil and firm the soil gently. Water in each plant after planting and add a 1-2 inch layer of Mirasand around the plant without allowing it to touch the plant stem. The Mirasand will reflect light instantly on the plant and help improve the mineral content of the soil to promote healthy plant growth.
Plant seeds at the recommended depth and spacing as per the packet directions. Wait until after seeds germinate and plants are 4-inches tall before adding Mirasand to soil surface.
Use seeds or seedling for planting container gardens. Plant one seed or one seedling in the center of container and cover with soil. Apply a 1-inch layer of Mirasand on soil surface around the perimeter of the container to reflect light onto the plant.
Water seeds and seedlings thoroughly and keep soil moist at all times.
Mirasand is an organic product that will act as a mulch for the garden plants. Mulch is needful and will prevent weed growth, retain soil moisture, act as natural pest control for ground-crawling pests, and improve soil structure.
Indoor plants won’t need any type of mulch except a layer of Mirasand on soil surface.
After Care for Garden Plants
A home garden will need regular TLC to keep it producing. Keep the weeds pulled, water, and feed plants as needed.
Compost tea or cow manure tea are good organic plant foods that will water and feed a home garden simultaneously. To make either of these organic plant food, place 2-cups of either compost or manure in an old cheesecloth (or something similar), tie securely, and place in a 5-gallon bucket of water. Allow this ’teabag’ to steep for a few days until the water turns brown.
Use this nutrient-rich organic tea to water plants weekly. Always water garden plants at the soil level and avoid getting the plant foliage wet. Wet foliage invites pests and diseases to set up homesteading and destroy your garden plants.
Organic Pest Control
Become a plant detective to help keep pests off garden plants. Observe plants daily and look for signs of chewed leaves, discoloration, holes in leaves, or anything else that doesn’t look normal.
Hand-pick visible pests, like slugs and snails, off plants and dispose of them.
Use this organic pest control recipe to spray on plants - mix 2-cups of hot peppers and 2-cups of water in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour pepper-water mixture into the pot and simmer on low heat 5-minutes on the stovetop, then strain through a piece of cheesecloth to remove pepper seeds. Pour into a spray bottle and add a few drops of liquid dish detergent, shake well. Spray hot pepper mixture on the lower leaves and stems of garden plants once a week to deter the large pests from eating garden plants. This organic hot pepper spray is safe for use on all vegetable plants.
Birds, beneficial bugs, like Lady Bugs, and toads will also help keep your garden pest-free. Add a birdhouse and bird feeder near the garden to invite birds to eat harmful garden pests. Lady Bugs benefit the entire garden by eating aphids and other harmful pests. A toad can eat hundreds of garden pests every night and one will happily live in the garden if you create a habitat for it.
Create a shallow hole at the backside of the garden and fill it with leaves. Turn a broken terra cotta planter upside down over the hole or stack a few rocks over the hole. Moisten the soil and keep it moist and this hide-away will be irresistible to any toad in the neighborhood.