Gardening seems like one of those things that only specific and talented wizard-humans are capable of- like fixing cars and giving massages and baking pie. Fortunately, the knowledgeable and lovely Olivia of Innerspacism was kind enough to impart some of her wisdom upon the CRUDE team and now we’re all giddy about being plant parents. Weee!
If you yourself would like a dream garden but can’t seem to keep even the heartiest succulent alive- fear not! We worked together with Innerspacism to create our Grow Series: a practical guide in planting, growing, maintaining, storing, and devouring your own fresh herbs and veggies.
In our gardening journey, we began by becoming versed in germination (which you can catch up on by heading over to our Grow, Part 1 blog post.) In this installment, we’re learning about phase two- planting a successful raised vegetable garden.
Olivia has outlined 7 simple steps for us to follow:
#1: Deciding What to Plant
When deciding what to plant in a garden with vegetables, it's best to start small. Many gardeners get a little too excited at the beginning of the season and plant more than they need- which results in wasted food and feeling overwhelmed by the project.
Be realistic about how much you will actually eat as you start selecting items for your garden. Think about all the times you’ve bought a Costco size tub of mixed greens and guiltily tossed it three weeks later after the majority of it became a wilty mess. Avoid over-planting and it will be much easier and more enjoyable for you in the long run!
Keep in mind that vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash provide continually throughout the season, while other vegetables such as carrots, radishes, and corn produce only once. You may want to plant more of those that produce only once.
We chose an exciting variety of herbs (parsley, thyme, lavender, catnip, basil and rosemary,) vegetables (tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, peas, squash, spinach, kale, raspberries,) flowers (poppies, foxglove, dianthus and the super-fragrant alyssum) and a special space for some beautiful succulents!
#2: Determining How Much Space You Need
Once you know what you want to plant, you can figure out how to plan a vegetable garden with the right amount of space. Your seed packets or plants should have the proper spacing they need noted on them.
#3: Picking the Perfect Spot
No matter how big your vegetable garden is or what you decide to grow, there are three basic requirements for success:
1. Full sun. Most vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of direct sun. If they don't get enough light, they won't bear as much and they'll be more susceptible to attack from insects or diseases.
Here's a hint: If you don't have a spot in full sun to plant a garden with vegetables, you can still grow many leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach. And if you're in a hot-summer climate, cool-season varieties such as peas may do better in part shade. Refer to the back of your seed packets for information on whether your plant requires full sun or part shade.
2. Plenty of water. It is better to water your plants early in the morning or later in the evening. Try to avoid spraying water on your plant leaves because once you add sun, holes can be burned through your leaves. Make sure your irrigation system is working properly so that all plants are being watered properly. If you’re watering by hand, make sure you have a hose attachment that allows you to choose your water pressure. It is especially important to make sure you don't forget to water your plants on those extra hot days.
3. Good soil. As with any kind of garden, success usually starts with the soil. Most vegetables do best in moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter (such as compost or peat moss).
Here at CRUDE we were lucky enough to have the perfect rooftop space with appropriate sunlight, lots of water and great soil. We even decided to start our own compost bin!
#4: Designing and Planning your Vegetable Garden
Planning your garden beforehand is always a good idea. This helps prevent overcrowding, makes your garden less prone to pests, and gives you a more effective, high yielding garden.
Olivia recommends planning a garden using the companion planting method. Companion planting is the close planting of different plants that enhance each other's growth or protect each other from pests.
When choosing plant varieties for your garden, you'll probably notice that the possibilities for are endless. There are thousands of tomato varieties alone! When selecting varieties, pay close attention to the description on the tag or in the catalog. Each variety will be a little different: some produce smaller plants that are ideal for small gardens or containers, others offer great disease resistance, improved yields, better heat or cold tolerance, or other features. Seed catalogs are one of the best sources for vegetables. Once you narrow your choices to types of vegetables, pick two or three varieties that seem promising. That way if one variety doesn't perform well, you'll have other plants to make up for it. Next year, grow the best performer again, and choose another to try.
Always refer to your seed packets while planning your garden so that you know what plants like full sun, what plants like shade, what plants need to be planted earlier in the season, what plants need to be planted later in the season, and the proper spacing each plant needs.
Olivia created an amazing garden design for us using companion planting and we made sure to keep in mind how much light they needed and proper spacing as we placed them into their new homes.
#5: Planting your Vegetable Garden
· Make sure soil is moist.
· Dig holes that are 2-3 times the size of your plant.
· Massage carefully through the sides of your plants roots to lose up.
· Place your plant in the planting hole and fill in with soil. The presence of the root flare is an indication of good planting depth. Press soil down firmly around plant but not too hard because it can cause compaction.
· Your plant is going to need to be watered more than usual over the next few days after your plant has been planted to help give it the proper nutrients it will need to establish itself. Adding a root starter can also help give it a kickstart.
The CRUDE team got together at our rooftop garden space with bags and bags of soil, two trowels, a few rain jackets, some warm tea and got planting.
This is what it's all about, so don't be shy about picking your produce! Many vegetables can be harvested at several stages. Leaf lettuce, for example, can be picked as young as you like; snip some leaves and it will continue to grow and produce. Summer squash (zucchini) and cucumber can be harvested when the fruit is just a few inches long, or it can be allowed to grow to full size. The general rule: If it looks good enough to eat, it probably is. Give it a try. With many vegetables, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce.
Based on our planting map we can’t wait to share harvesting along with maintaining, storing and enjoying your garden.
#7: Other Things
· Always keep an eye out for pests and diseases. The easiest way (I’ve found) to diagnose is to Google what you're seeing on the plant. Example: Google “yellow spots on leaves,” match your plant to a photo, diagnose the problem as rust spots, and look into treating it.
· Fertilizing your crops is critical to maximizing yields. Organic gardeners often find that digging in high quality compost at planting time is all their vegetables need. Most gardeners, however, should consider applying a packaged vegetable fertilizer, following the directions on the box or bag. Don't apply more than recommended as this can actually decrease yield.
In our first Grow, Part 1 blog post we said: There’s something special about slowing down and watching nature do her thing, and what better way to do that than to get our hands in the dirt? After all of us took the time to work on the Grow Series and garden, we stand by that statement, we really enjoyed slowing down and getting our hands in the dirt.
More to come as we see the fruits of our (and mother natures) labors!