Growing to eat III – To the ground!

ALL ABOUT TAKING YOUR KITCHEN GARDEN OUTDOORS.

From starting seeds indoors to transplanting them into pots – now it is time to give these beauties a ground.

As an amateur gardener, I am so thankful to the wealth of information one can get online these days. When I decided to grow my own food, the only thing I knew was that you put a seed in the ground, give it some sun, some water and it will grow into something. What I didn’t know was that it was a little more complicated than that. There were a few decisions to be made, questions that had to be answered, knowing and accepting the fact that there were no guarantees about the quality of what comes out of it. A few questions to ask:

  • Which plants will grow well in your region?
  • How much of that will your family actually consume?
  • What are the kind of diseases/pests they can get attacked by?
  • How do we protect them against that?
  • Which ones will come back next season?
  • What is the implicated cost to make this happen?
  • Is all this even worth it?

After a ton of online research, I realized the importance of investing in good raised beds. This one time investment would protect my kitchen garden from weeds, pests and just make the whole thing look and feel more organized. My initial thought was to build these beds with cedar wood planks which seemed quite straight forward. Many prefer this over pricier, ready- made options available in the market. But just when I was shopping for wood planks, I came across these fantastic, ready-made, no-fuss and economically priced raised beds in Home Depot. They were easy to install, big enough to get me started and made of real cedar wood. A few things to consider when investing in raised beds:

  • Make sure the bed is made of durable, natural and breathable material such as cedar.
  • The width of each bed should ideally not exceed 4 ft. for easy accessibility.
  • Place them in a way so they can be accessed from all sides. When your plants grow, accessible sides make it easy to harvest, and maintain your plants. (I didn’t do this, and I regretted deeply when it was time to harvest.)
  • Place them in a spot that gets at least 4 hours of sun a day (regardless of which plant you sow).
  • Space out seedlings well. They need space to grow and crowding too many in a small space will rip them off the nutrition they need. They will become leggy competing for sun and will eventually become weak and give a smaller yield (My broccoli and carrots gave me less than optimum yield because of this problem.)

A 4’x4′ raised bed asks for roughly about 8-10 bags of organic planting soil (56 qt. each). If using a non-organic quality, it might be a good idea to enrich the soil by mixing in equal part compost. The next step is to water thoroughly, and watch your little babies grow! I transplanted my 2 month old seedlings into the ground and while kale was already up and ready for harvest, I harvested my first broccoli heads and peas about 2 months later. Meanwhile, we discovered that broccoli leaves are just as nutritious and delicious! So the wait to get to the broccoli heads was not that excruciating.

Did you know Broccoli leaves are considered the new super greens? They are rich in fiber, vitamin A and C, low on calories and high on satiety, and also helps prevent disease such as cancer and diabetes!

Next Up:
Stay tuned to read about my struggles with slugs, dying grass and broccoli florets that turned into flowers! Also growing herbs and other fruits has been extremely rewarding.

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