One of the best steps you can make for improving your diet is to increase your regular consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables. Not only are fruits and veggies loaded with the kinds of healthy nutrients and minerals that aren’t as readily available from pre-packaged, overly processed alternatives, but they can be low on calories and high on taste. Whether you don’t have easy access to a local farmer’s market, organic grocery options, or you simply want to indulge your green thumb, in recognition of National Fruit and Vegetable Month, we’re providing six tips for starting a backyard garden.
Start Small. Walk before you run. Resist the urge to start growing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs by starting with just one or two plants to get some experience under your (green) belt. Tomato plants, for examples, are forgiving, making them an excellent choice for beginners and offering versatile culinary options. If space is an option for your garden, consider vining plants, such as green beans and peas, to make use of your available vertical space.
Choose a Location for Your Garden. You may be tempted to place your garden where you feel it will add the most significant aesthetic to your backyard, but set your fruits and veggies up for success by choosing the best location for their needs. Most vegetable and fruit plants require at least five hours of direct sunlight daily, while herbs and root vegetables will grow in partial shade. If you need help understanding the different light and water needs of individual plants, talk to an expert at your local nursery.
Build Raised Beds. Depending on the size available to you in your backyard or patio, build raised beds for your plants. Raised beds create a physical barrier that protects your plants from weeds and keeps food and moisture dedicated to your crops. Click here to watch an instructional video on how to build a raised garden bed.
Feed Your Organic Garden with Organic Matter. Keep your garden and yourself healthy by avoiding harsh chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and growth agents. While mineral nutrients such as agricultural lime, rock phosphate, and greensand can be added to your garden more safely the chemicals, the best fertilizer is organic matter, such as compost, manure, coffee grounds, and shredded leaves.
Water Wisely. If you start with seeds, know that they should never be dried out, so make time to water your plants daily. As your plants grow, they will need less water, but don’t think you can rely on Mother Nature alone. The amount of water your fruits and vegetables need will depend on rainfall, humidity, and soil. Clay soil, for example, dries out more quickly than sandy soil and will require more regular watering. Make sure you understand the unique needs of the plants you selected and accommodate them accordingly.
Rotate Your Crops. If you’re successful (and you will be!), you’ll find plants you enjoy cultivating and that you are confident growing year after year. Once you are committed to a seasonal cyclicality, plan to rotate your crops. Only plant the same crop in the same soil (or box) once every three years for best results.
Regularly eating healthy fruits and vegetables has been linked to improved health, while gardening has been proven to be a healthy, mood-boosting hobby. By embracing National Fruits and Vegetable Month this June and embracing the challenge and rewards of a backyard garden, you’ll be investing in a project you can be proud of that will help improve your health—mind, body, and spirit—all year long.