Rooftop vegetable gardens, community vegetable gardens, raised vegetable gardens, container vegetables gardens, vertical vegetable gardens, hanging vegetable gardens, decorative vegetable gardens...if you don't have or aren't planning to plant a vegetable garden this year, prepare to be judged. Vegetable gardens are au courant. That's French for everybody is doing it.
Pick a Peck of Potted Peppers
If you have never had a vegetable garden, or if you are a serial plant murderer, start small. Get over the notion that you are a farmer; you are just a dabbler in the produce arts. Be realistic about how much time, money and space you are willing to devote to it. The smallest and most cost effective way to grow veggies is using a container. Many vegetables are decorative as well; plant them instead of flowers or with flowers and arrange around your patio. Any type of pot or container with drainage will do; this has the added advantage of allowing you to move the pots to follow the sun. Just be aware that container gardens need to be watered often because the soil will dry out quicker; there are "self-watering" pots that will make this a little easier, but you still have to make sure the water reservoir stays full.
Your local nursery will carry vegetables designed for containers; in fact, you can just buy a few pots that you can take home and plop on the patio. If you want to branch out on your own, these are your best bets:
· Herbs, like rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley.
· Greens, such as lettuce, Swiss chard, mustard and collards.
· Peppers and eggplant.
· Cucumbers, zucchini and squash.
· Strawberries. Not a vegetable, I know. But easy to grow in a pot.
Raise Your Sights on a Raised Garden
My first growing season of vegetables was not overly ambitious; I had one raised bed that was simply a small rectangle constructed of 4" x 1" boards. I lined the bed with cardboard (biodegradable weed blocker), filled the bed with potting soil and Miracle-Gro, added too many tomato plants and a handful of Epsom salts at the advice of a friend. It was a tomatacklypse. We had fresh salsa and marinara sauce and caprese salads all summer long.
The next year I added three more beds; still in a relatively small area; and I planted, along with tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, green peppers and lettuce. I watered them, pulled an occasional weed, and watched them grow. I gotta say, its kind of exciting to pick that first zucchini.
Your Own Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
1. Start small.
2. Choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight.
3. Create your bed with lumber or other materials; you can make raised beds out of wood, stones, bricks; anything that can be filled with soil to a minimum of a 6" depth. For those of you who don't want to get anywhere near the ground, you can make or buy raised beds on legs. Then everything is within reach, no bending over or kneeling down.
4. Remove grass if you are making your bed on the lawn. You can till it under or remove it completely. Create a barrier against weeds with cardboard or commercially prepared materials.
5. Fill the bed with enriched, loose soil. You can buy pre-mixed soil or add compost or manure to your soil; roughly a 50/50 mixture.
6. Mulch to protect against weeds and to retain moisture.
7. When you plant, pull back enough mulch to place the potted plant in the soil. Some plants come in biodegradable pots, you can stick the entire thing in the ground. Otherwise tap the plant out of the pot.
8. Water and wait.
9. Don't expect miracles; but even the first year you should get some "raised bed to table" freshness.
Good vegetables for raised bed gardens:
· Leafy greens, as in lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale
· Tomatoes, potatoes, onions
· Cabbage, Brussels sprouts
· Summer squash, zucchini
Even if you are one of those people who like to buck the trends (I still haven't seen "Titanic" so I can relate) do yourself a favor and make room for some tomatoes in a pot somewhere. Home grown tomatoes are like nothing you can get at a grocery store; they are juicy and flavorful and turn a BLT into the food of the gods.
Still not sure? Check out Pinterest for a plethora of suggestions, pictures, hacks and how-tos and start a vegetable garden of your own.