RISMEDIA, March 18, 2009-(MCT)-2009 might turn out to be the year that more of us get back to the good Earth. At a time when your grocery store receipt may leave you breathless, many are taking matters into their own hands. Online seed companies have seen their sales skyrocket as consumers fall back into the practice of growing their own food-especially when it comes to vegetables.
There are so many reasons to grow your own including the low cost, organic opportunity, enhanced flavor and local convenience. There is nothing more rewarding than stepping out into your own back yard for a deep and deliciously flavored cucumber, tomato or any of your other favorite veggies.
If you are thinking about starting a vegetable garden for the first time, here are a few things you should do so that you are successful in your growing endeavors:
Pick a spot in full sun
If there is lawn (grass) in the spot you choose to start your garden, you will want to scrape it off, not dig it under if it, especially if it is Bermuda or St. Augustine. If your lawn is fescue, you can dig under it and it will add nitrogen to the soil. Order compost by the truckload (Aguinaga and Sierra Soils) or buy it by the bag. You will want two to three inches of compost on top of the area to start. Some experts say to steer clear of cheap composted cow manure, but others use it every year and see abundant results, so the choice is yours.
Choose an all-purpose fertilizer
Look for an organic fertilizer if possible, and look for one that is not as high in nitrogen as it is in phosphorus and potassium. The numbers on the bag work like this: 10-10-10. The first number represents nitrogen, the second represents phosphorus and the third, potassium. So look for numbers like 5-10-10 or 10-30-30.
Sprinkle your dry fertilizer on top of your two to three inches of compost according to package directions.
Dig it all under
Sharpen your shovel and dig your compost and fertilizer under. Keep digging and working the soil until you achieve a chocolate cake like consistency. The deeper you dig, the happier your vegetables will be, especially root crops like carrots. If you’re starting a large vegetable garden, think about renting a rototiller at least for the initial digging.
What to plant
Since Summer will be here before you know it, you will want to start with heat-loving produce (winter vegetables were planted in October). These include beans, peppers, tomatoes, corn, squash, melons, cucumbers, carrots and beets.
So many of our herbs are Mediterranean region plants, meaning they might need less water than vegetables. Plant rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage in the larger garden and start these slow growers as plants, not seeds. Green leafy herbs such as dill, fennel, parsley and cilantro are easily started from seed.
When planting seeds, it is critical to follow the instructions found on the individual seed pack. For instance, if you plant the seeds too deep, or let the seeds dry out before they germinate, the seeds will not germinate. Seeds are easy, but there is not much room for interpretation.
You might want think about growing your tomatoes in pots since nematodes seem to be a big problem in sandy soils.
The sun situation
If you absolutely don’t have a spot of sun on your property, you can still grow food. Choose your brightest spot to plant lettuce, cucumbers, spinach and other green leafy crops and herbs that can tolerate some shade.
© 2009, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).
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