If you'd love to gain some low-stress family time, fresh air and outdoor exercise - along with fresh, tasty food – consider growing a family veggie garden. It can also help the whole family build teamwork skills and provide a bit of education in math, science, nature, nutrition and even art - plant labels & scare crows! The biggest step is getting started…so here we go!
Where should you put your garden?
A sunny location (6+ hours a day) is going to give the best and healthiest plant growth and the most veggies. The location should have well-drained, fertile soil. Healthy soil can be purchased (pricey) or created (could be free, does take time) if you don't already have it. The first step is to have your soil tested (contact your County Extension Office) to see what nutrients it may be lacking, then you can decide on bringing soil in or boosting your existing soil with compost. A final factor in choosing a garden location is ease of access to water –growing veggies are thirsty veggies, and long hauls with hoses or jugs can get tiresome very quickly!
How do you know what to grow?
Grow your family's favorites, of course, but try something new and something fun – purple carrots, orange tomatoes! Also pick things that are ready for harvest at different times, to keep interest high and plates full; such as radishes for spring, beans early summer, zucchini and tomatoes later on and pumpkin for season's end.
Decide if you want to start with seed (more time & challenge, but more learning opportunities and lower cost) or purchase plants (easier up-front and much less lead time).
Seeds or plants can be easily found online, through catalogs or at garden centers small or large. Use the catalog, website or packaging information provided, on spacing and yield, to determine how many plants can fit in your allotted space and fill your family's appetite. There will also be information there to help you determine if a given variety is suitable for your climate's temperature and season length i.e. artichokes need a longer season of warm temperatures than northern zones can provide.
What if you need help?
Check The Gardener's Library to find detailed care information for each vegetable.