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How to Grow Your Own Food (And Spend Less on Groceries)

Tips for a Deliciously Successful Garden

It’s no secret that the price of groceries has gone up, way up. In fact, according to the consumer price index which is tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s been a 10.2% increase year-over-year. It’s no wonder that many of our PorchLight agents work with buyers in search of outdoor space for gardening and growing their own food.

So, if you’ve recently purchased a home and would like to start planting or simply want to spend less at the grocery store, this quick guide is for you. Whether you plan to use raised beds, patio containers, or plant directly in the ground, here are a garden few basics to keep in mind:

  1. Amount of Sunlight 
  2. Accessibility to Water 
  3. Plant Hardiness Zone
  4. Quality Soil & Drainage
  5. What to Grow
  6. Required Maintenance

Let’s take a closer look at all of these factors and how to get your garden off to a good start.

Get to Know Your Space

Start by planning out your garden based on available space and resources. First, use a measuring tape to measure the length and width of your garden spaces. 

If you’re limited on space, have poor drainage, or big and shady trees in your yard, you may need to scale back on starting a full-fledged vegetable farm. Don’t count out your side yard, deck, or even front yard if you’re looking for places to plant. 

Herbs can also be successfully grown indoors. And some plants are happy to climb a trellis, so take vertical space into consideration as well. 

What you’re aiming for is good soil, such as a high-quality potting mix or existing soil that’s been amended with compost or other organic matter. You also want 6-8 hours of sunlight per day and easy access to water that doesn’t require lugging a 100-foot hose all over the place. You can use a soaker hose and perhaps, install a drip irrigation system at some point down the road. 

Now that you understand what space and environment you’re working with, you can plan what you want to grow. 

Choose Plants & Map Your Garden

Before you head to your local garden store, take a minute to think about what to grow and how much to grow. It might seem obvious, but start by thinking about what veggies, fruits and herbs you consume the most. 

You’ll also want to consider how many plants you’ll need to feed everyone in your household. A general rule of thumb is to grow 2-3 plants per person for each vegetable or herb. This will likely yield enough for regular meals and even some extra for canning or preserving.

If you’re limited on garden space, narrow down your list by removing any items that are generally inexpensive to buy at the grocery store. 

Now, you can begin sketching out a map for planting. Use graph paper to plot out your garden one square foot at a time. The key is to leave enough space between plants for proper growth

Overcrowding can happen quickly if you’re planting tiny seeds or rehoming baby plants from the garden store. Push vining plants to the edges so they can spill over onto the surrounding grass or out of a planter. And leave yourself room to get in there for weeding, pruning and harvesting.

Start with your must-have, priority plants and work your way down the list. Some quick-growing plants will only produce one early crop, so if you don’t have space right out of the gate, veggies that don’t make the first cut can be planted in round two. This is called succession planting.

Don’t forget to group plants together according to their needs for sunlight and watering.

Finally, consider companion planting where two different plants are grown together in a way that benefits one or both. For example, tomatoes and basil. Not only do they taste delicious together, but basil is a natural insect repellent that can help protect tomatoes from aphids and whiteflies.

No Yard, No Problem

If you have a balcony, patio or sunny spot, a successful garden is still possible! You can grow in a container (don’t forget a drip tray), go vertical with a trellis, or use hanging baskets. Just be sure to plant in an appropriately sized container filled with high-quality potting soil. Don’t skimp!

So, what can you grow? Tomatoes are an all-time favorite, and there are even mini varieties that can grow in a 6-inch pot on a windowsill. Other container garden options include:

  • Beets
  • Chard
  • Chives
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green/Bush Beans
  • Green Onions
  • Hot/Sweet Peppers
  • Micro Greens
  • Purple Kale
  • Radishes
  • Salad Greens
  • Snap Peas
  • Squash

Tips for Garden Care

Once you have your plants planted, it’s time to nurture your garden. Here are the basics:

  • Water regularly: Most vegetables and herbs require consistent watering to thrive. Check the seed packet or seedling label for watering requirements.
  • Weed regularly: With outdoor gardens, weeds can compete with your plants for water and nutrients, so it's important to remove them regularly. Use a hoe or hand-pull weeds to prevent them from taking over your garden.
  • Monitor for pests and diseases: Keep an eye out for signs such as yellowing leaves or insect damage. Address issues promptly to prevent them from spreading to other plants.
  • Keep an eye on the weather: One thing that can ruin any garden is Colorado hail. Be sure to check out our previous article that provides instructions on building a garden cover!

Good luck, happy growing, and enjoy the delicious fruits and veggies of your labor!

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