Gardening Basics

Looking for some fun this summer? Want to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine? Try gardening. Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies, and in particular, I like to grow vegetables! Gardening is not only super fun, but it is also very good for you.

Gardening has many physical and mental health benefits. First, gardening is a great workout. Pulling weeds, shoveling, watering, planting seeds and carrying bags of soil when you first plant your garden is great exercise. In fact, “gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke and prolong life by 30 percent . . . The benefits appear to come from the combination of physical exercise and the stress reduction playing in the dirt provides.” Being outside is also good for you. Sunlight gives you vitamin D needed for bone growth, cell growth, inflammation reduction and neuro muscular and immune function”.  A major mental health benefit of gardening is stress reduction. I personally think it is very relaxing to be outside. Being outdoors makes you happier. Although you may not like getting dirty, touching soil and getting a little bit dirty, it really boosts your immune system! You will be able to fight off infections easier, as well. Finally, planting veggies encourages you to eat more varieties of vegetables. Here is how to start your own outdoor vegetable garden.

Picking the right location for your garden is very important because you need to fulfill all of the requirements of the plants you will grow. Picking a good location for your garden is absolutely key. A sub-par location can result in sub-par veggies!”  You can plant in pots, planter boxes, or in the ground. I personally plant in a wooden planter box. When gardening outdoors, you want to find a space that optimizes everything plants need to grow. The soil you plant in should have lots of nutrients as well. You will want to go to the store and buy some fresh potting mix for your plants. This way they can start fresh with new soil. “Plant in a sunny location. Most vegetables need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.” The more sunlight your vegetables get, the better they will taste and grow larger.


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Along with sunlight, vegetables need to get the right amount of water. One good watering strategy is to try and cover an inch of the soil a week. Also keep in mind that it is better to give the plants lots of water once a week rather than a little bit every day. A way to test if the plant has enough water is to put one finger into the soil. It should feel damp two to three inches down. Plants with not enough water will dry up, but plants with too much water will cause the plant to wilt. Both situations include buying vegetables from the grocery store, so I would suggest being mindful of the amount of water you give your plants. 

Now that you have picked your location, you are ready to plant the vegetables. You can start your vegetables from a seed or as a plant. Some vegetables grow better from a seed and some grow better from a plant. For example, some that are easy to grow from a seed are bean, beets, carrots, and peas. You will want to do some research before going to the store and buying your plants.

When planting from a seed, depending on what type of vegetable you are growing, you will either scatter the seeds about or place them in rows. For carrots or something that you pull out individually from the ground, I would recommend rows, but for a larger one like a tomato plant I would scatter the seeds around.To plant the seeds, use your finger and make small holes just big enough for a seed, maybe a centimeter below the soil. Use your judgement on how deep to make the holes: do not bury them in the soil, but also do not lay them on top. Next, bury the seed with the soil and give it lots of water. When a plant is young, or is a seedling, you want to water the potted plant until the water seeps out of the bottom of the planter or pot. Your planter or pot should have some holes on the bottom for the water to drain out. Before the seed germinates (sprouts from the soil) and when it is just a seedling, your plant needs the most attention. Here is a step-by-step video on how to plant your seeds.

Image result for buy a plantWhen starting from a plant, you should dig a hole in your soil that is twice as large as the plant’s pot. Then you want to squeeze the sides of the container of your plant to loosen the soil and turn it upside down. Shake the plant out of the container. Avoid just pulling on the stem to get out the plant. Then place the plant where you dug out of the soil and bury it so the roots aren’t exposed. Soak the plant thoroughly when you first plant it, then less often once it is more established.

One gardening mistake that a beginning gardener could make is trying to plant a vegetable that only experienced gardeners can grow successfully. Not all plants are easy to grow. For example, I tried to plant strawberries one time. The difficult part about planting them is that the moment one strawberry becomes ripe and ready to pick, a squirrel or bird will come and eat it. So if you plant a fruit such as strawberries, I would suggest putting a wire fence over it. Another food that is difficult to grow is broccoli. If the climate in your area is too warm, they will flower in the heat. If your veggies turn into flowers, you will not be able to eat them. Broccoli may not be the best option to grow in southern California. You also want to start with a small garden, then add on to it as you become better at gardening. ”It’s better to be proud of a small garden than be frustrated by a big one!”

Although there are plants that are hard to grow, there are many that can be done by a beginner. Last year I planted cherry tomatoes (which are technically a fruit)  and they were delicious. As you grow tomatoes some fall off and decompose in the soil before you get a chance to pick them. Eventually, I got busy and stopped watering them, and the whole plant  died. When it rained weeks later, the seed of the decomposed tomato grew and started a whole new tomato plant. Therefore I would suggest planting tomatoes as a good start. Along with tomatoes, I have (successfully) grown baby carrots. “New gardeners may want to stick to ‘beginner friendly’ crops like bush beans, cherry tomatoes, peas and lettuce.”

Keep in mind what time of year you are growing the crops. Some vegetables that like warm weather (April-September) are tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, squash, and sweet potatoes. Some that thrive in the colder weather are broccoli, carrots, artichoke, kale, peas, and spinach. So be thinking about which crops to plant in the summer and which in the winter.

Image result for gardening weedsYour biggest enemy in gardening will be sitting right next to your crops: weeds. Weeds will increase competition to your plants for sunlight, water, and nutrients. One should get rid of weeds early, at their first stage of development because they are smaller and easier to pull out. As soon as you let weeds grow, it will take a long time to get rid of them again. The multiply very fast. When pulling them out, make sure to pull down far enough that you get the whole root, not just the green part. In order to get the whole weed, you can use a shovel to dig down into the soil and pull it out and the bottom. This approach will also make it easier to get larger weeds.

Gardening is a super fun, satisfying hobby of mine that I really enjoy. There are many mental and physical health benefits resulting from gardening. Hopefully you now know some tips to create a garden and will start your own garden this summer!

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