Even the tiniest of apartments can have windowsill gardens where herbs or smaller vegetables like Roma tomatoes can be grown.
The simplest way to start a garden is by obtaining potting soil and plant containers from local garden centers or from neighbors who already garden.
This method works best for those who want smaller gardens or have less space.
For people with more space and greater gardening ambitions, plant beds or a raised bed garden can be bought or constructed and are advantageous for those who don’t have the best soil conditions or who live in areas where the soil contains contaminants. A basic plant bed consists of four wooden planks that are connected and form a rectangular or square shape and separate the areas full of wanted plants from grass and/or other non-wanted plants (also known as “weeds”).
The following resource goes more in-depth on how to create a raised bed garden:
A more organic method of weed management when it comes to creating space for plant beds is a gardening technique called “Double digging.” Double digging is a gardening technique, where the soil is loosened in two layers, and organic material is added. Double digging is very labor-intensive but has been known to double the harvests of certain plants and is especially good for root crops like carrots, potatoes and beets.
Here are some sites that give instructions on how to double dig:
The optimal composition of the soil used in your garden will vary depending on what you plant and for the best harvest you should to refer to more in-depth articles and books about vegetable gardening. Some of these resources will be listed at the end of the article.
If you want to get really technical regarding the composition of the soil in your back yard, there are several tests on the market that will tell you the nutritional composition of your soil, including your soil’s pH level and its levels of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium; macronutrients necessary for plant growth).
One of the most popular and inexpensive kits is the Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Soil Test Kit. Almost all soil can benefit from the use of compost. Compost is decomposed organic material.
The following website provides more information on how to create plant-based compost at home:
Now comes the fun part: deciding which vegetables you’d like to grow! There are many factors that should be considered when choosing possible vegetables.
The first is what based on your own taste buds. What will you actually eat? The second is based on what climate (plant hardiness) zone you live in. What is the point of plant hardiness zones?
They “…help you know which plants will grow where you live, so you don’t plant things that will soon die just because they can’t manage your region’s temperatures. Plants vary in the temperature extremes they can endure.”
Climate zone map: http://www.weekendgardener.net/climate-zones-map.htm
The third factor is which season the plants grow best in and how long they will take to grow. The length of time that a plant takes to grow is important because even though a plant may be able to grow in a certain climate/hardiness zone, it may only be able to grow during a certain part of the year because it can’t stand the colder temperatures of that particular climate zone.
We’ll get you started with a list of different vegetables, how long they take to grow, and what climate zones they grow best in.
“Dried” beans (examples include: pinto, navy, kidney, black-eyed, garbanzo, adzuki, hyacinth, and mung beans)
- Maturation Time: 90 to 150 frost-free days
- Best Climate Zones: Zones 4 and warmer
- Site with more specific information: http://www.weekendgardener.net/vegetables/beans-dried.htm
- Maturation Time: “Asparagus may be picked sparingly for 1 to 2 weeks in the second year. A mature patch, around 5 years old, may be harvested for as long as 10 weeks. The average is 1 pound (500 g) or more of asparagus for each linear foot (30 cm).”
- Best Climate Zones: Zones 3 and warmer
- Site with more specific information: http://www.weekendgardener.net/vegetables/asparagus.htm
- Maturation Time: 55 to 70 days
- Best Climate Zones: 3 to 9
- Site with more specific information: http://www.ehow.com/how_9874_grow-eggplant.html
- Maturation Time: varies, depending on how big you want the cactus to be
- Best Climate Zones: none specifically, but grows best in warm, arid or semi-tropical climate; can be grown in-doors in cooler climates
- Site with more specific information: http://www.gardenguides.com/79299-grow-nopal.html
- Maturation Time: 90 to 100 days
- Best climate Zones: All
- Site with more specific information: http://www.gardenersnet.com/vegetable/tomatill.htm
- Maturation Time: 80 to 110
- Best Climate Zones: 3-9
- Site with more specific information: http://www.ehow.com/how_2064568_grow-jalapeo-peppers.html
- Maturation Time: 80 to 110 days
- Site with more specific information: http://www.harvestwizard.com/2009/07/how_to_grow_lentil.html
- Maturation Time: 28 to 42 days
- USDA Hardiness Zone and Exposure: Annual
- Site with more specific information: http://gardening.about.com/od/vegetables/a/Growing_Spinach.htm
- Maturation Time: 4-6 months
- Hardiness: “Garlic is among the hardiest of plants. It is resistant to cold. It goes dormant over the winter like winter wheat or lawns, but does not die. Once spring arrives, it begins to grow with the first warm days of late winter or early spring. It is not harmed by frost, freezes or even snow”
- Site with more specific information: http://www.ehow.com/how_317_grow-garlic.html
We hope this guide has been helpful in showing you how easy and simple it is grow vegetables wherever you live and whatever your time constraints.
Not everyone has to have a backyard full of vegetables; even a small container garden will suffice in showing you how much more delicious and nutritious home-grown vegetables can be than those bought at any grocery store.
Additional resources for vegetable gardening at home:
- Google (or any search engine)!: a quick search will give you an abundance of information regarding how to grow just about any vegetable, fruit or plant known to humankind.
- Veganic gardening – The Alternative System for Healthier Crops by Kenneth Dalziel O’Brien
- Growing Green: Organic Techniques for a Sustainable Future by Jenny Hall and Iain Tolhurst
Please note, although the Food Empowerment Project is referring to the work of other organizations, we do not necessarily endorse the entire content of their websites or missions.