Whether you have a large back yard or a cozy balcony, your space has the potential to be a lush garden of flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Gardening in urban areas has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, as city folks embrace backyard gardening and dabble in urban homesteading in their quest for organic and locally sourced produce.
According to the 2018 National Gardening Survey conducted in the United States, 77% of Americans now claim to be involved in some form of gardening. This is thanks to an increasing number of young people (18 to 34) growing their own food. To start homesteading today, follow these backyard gardening basics.
Credit: Blake Culver
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Maximize Your Space
Using every inch of your space will allow you to maximize the volume and variety of plants. If you have a small area like a balcony or terrace, vertical gardening is a great way to grow more than your square footage would traditionally allow.
Examples of vertical gardening include hanging baskets, window boxes, trellis, and even pots stacked on rebar. Whatever the size of your gardening space, make sure it receives a decent amount of direct sunlight and has some protection from wind.
Know About Nutrients
Whether you are planting in a garden bed or pots, always be aware of the nutrients in your soil. In garden beds make sure you rotate the planting area of certain crops each year or two so the natural nutrients in the soil don’t become depleted.
Learn how to create the best at-home composting system. Adding compost will help regenerate nutrients in the soil and provides a useful way for you to dispose of old leaves, kitchen compost, animal manure and other organic matter. Compost or fertilizer should be used for potted plants as well since the soil in a self-contained vessel has a limited source of nutrients.
Related: Teach Kids to Compost
Best Plants for Backyard Gardening
Once you’ve designed the layout of your garden, it’s time to choose what to plant. The ideal plants for your backyard garden will depend on the local climate, growing season, and other factors, so make sure you know the growing requirements of the seeds you plant.
Certain fruits and vegetables such as cucumber, tomatoes, beans, carrots and lettuce are great for beginners because they’re easy to grow and produce a high yield in a small amount of space.
And if you want to have a continuous harvest, make sure you stagger your planting cycles so you always have some fresh edibles ready to go. Make use of the natural features and microclimates in your garden as well.
Related: Permaculture Design Principals
Keep Detailed Backyard Gardening Records
Now that you have decided when and what to plant, start keeping detailed records of your garden. You want to keep track of where and what you planted, as well as the date from seed to harvest.
Detailed record keeping allows you to track your successes and make room for improvement year-over-year. You will start to notice certain varieties of plants doing better in your garden than others, which will help you decide what to plant the following year.
As with any garden, you should always watch for birds and critters eager to eat your tasty plants before you get to harvest. Depending on the set-up and plant varieties, a simple gardening mesh over your plants will do the trick.
Another simple way to deter most animals and insects is to sprinkle cayenne pepper around your garden or mix it with water to spray on your plants.
Don't Use City Water on Your Backyard Garden!
Lastly, try and avoid using tap water on your garden since the chlorine in city water can burn your plants and have other adverse effects. Use a rain barrel to collect water for your garden and you will always have natural and accessible water ready to go.
If you don’t have space for one, just fill up a container with tap water and let it sit for a day or two outdoors. Most of the chlorine and chemicals will settle or evaporate.
By following these backyard gardening basics, starting your own is easier than you think. Remember to plan it out, pick the right seeds for your conditions, and keep good records of your trial and errors. Your garden will only get better year-after-year!