Introduction: Beginning Food Gardening Lessons
You can learn to garden from the internet.
There is no reason not to try something out, even if you never have before, even if you have very little room for plants.
You only have a flowerbed in the front yard of your rental house? You can grow food.
You only have a shady balcony? You can grow food.
You only have a windowsill? You can grow food.
Please read through this informative, if casual, beginning gardening lesson I presented at my local library. Let it inspire you to try.
Step 1: Sun or Shade?
Please make copy of this empty table. It has been filled in as an example of what you're looking for. Throughout the day, check to see if your gardening area (flowerbed, balcony, windowsill) has the sign shining on it or not. If it has sun on it 6 hours or more a day, its sunny. Everything else is part sun, part shade, or shady. This tells you what you can plant there.
Step 2: What's My Zone?
This is a map of the hardiness zones of the United States. It shows about how cold it can be expected to get in your area. Consult your local plant nurseryman about his opinion of your zone. He has experience and advice.
Step 3: What Can I Plant?
I include here the list of vegetables I can grow in zone 6. Included are times to begin to plant, how long until you get a crop, if it can be planted again for a second crop, and an idea of the color range of the vegetables. Your area may have different choices.
I must admit, I included lettuce though we can grow it not. It bolts before it matures.
Step 4: Decorative Vegetable Gardens for Your Front Yard
In these pictures you will see two plans for planting vegetables. Both are decorative, as you may be planting in front of your house and value your neighbors' opinions. The flowerbeds are estimated to be about 3'x5'.
One is for vegetables that do well in full sun, with just a little weeding and good watering. That means water when it is dry, let it dry all the way out between watering.
The other is for vegetables that do ok in shady conditions. Most roots and leaves and stalks do ok in shade, whereas most things you pick off a plant only do really well in sun.
Even less space than this? You can get a very large amount of summer food from a zucchini planted on either side of your front steps. They are also beautiful and architectural.
Step 5: All I Have Is This Balcony
Some balconies on apartment buildings are full sun and some are full shade.
These two plans are for things that do well in sunny or mostly sunny, and mostly shady.
The sunny balcony plan features a hanging pot with a medium sized tomato called Tumbling Tom, in case you are tired of cherry tomatoes. It is just as nice to have in a patio container, but is bigger. I also included edible flowers, herbs and fruit, as well as taking advantage of the balcony railing as a trellis for a cucumber. I have had success with zucchini in a pot, as long as the pot is very large and there is one zucchini.
The shady balcony plan has edible flowers, and leafy vegetables and roots. The roots do well in loose sandy soil in a very deep pot. A very exciting addition to the shade is the pot of ginger. It might not do well enough to produce edible ginger roots, but it will grow an attractive plant that will be beautiful all summer, and it might grow ginger for you to eat. It also might grow a very handsome flower.
Step 6: All I Have Is a Windowsill
There are times when you only have a windowsill to your name. You can still grow your own food.
The classic way is with a windowsill herb garden. They smell nice and taste good, they add to your health and vigor. Most of them don't thrive forever indoors, but they can make you feel very much better about your own environment.
A different way to grow windowsill food is through microgreens. All you have to do is sprout them, either on a large flat of earth like the pea seeds are, or on a damp paper towel in a (cleaned, bleached) recycled food container. When they have their first true leaves, the plant can be snipped off and will grow again.
Eat them on salads, stir fry them with other vegetables, realize the goodness you grew yourself.
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