It is a very good decision you make when you adopt a healthy plant based diet. After all, there are so many health benefits related to such a choice. But after making this decision, have you ever had a challenge with actually being able to get good, healthy food to buy? Do you find that the produce in the market is filled with all sorts of chemicals? What is a person to do to maintain a healthy diet? I think one way to ease this problem is to plant your own food. Yep… a nice little vegetable garden in the backyard. The only thing you need to decide is what to plant in a vegetable garden.
Why the challenge exists
Planting your own food has become more popular as people have become more health conscious and are more concerned about food security. Think about this. Most commercial farmers are more concerned with growing humongous crops and reaping a very large harvest, than they are with how healthy the food is. It’s not surprising though. After all that’s how they make their money. So if it means they have to add all sorts of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals to their crop so that they can reap a bountiful harvest, then they will.
How can you get foods free of all these harmful chemicals? Well, you can definitely go to the organic food store. It’s a bit more expensive but it is money well spent if it is beneficial to your health. Another option is to plant your own food.
While we refer to it as a backyard garden, it is by no means restricted to your back yard. It can be in your front yard, side yard, patio, even on your roof. As long as there is a little space, you can have a garden.
Is your yard paved all around? No worries. Have you heard of container gardening? It is just what it says. Garden in a container. And this container can be anything. From a 5 gallon bucket to a plastic bottle. All you need is soil.
Do you think your joints are too stiff for bending? You can address that problem by making a raised bed garden.
Do you have soil, sunlight, water? Good news. You qualify for a back yard garden.
What to Plant
Others in my family are good at gardening. They have a green thumb. I think I have poison thumb. I have tried gardening myself but have not been very successful at it. I enjoy eating the produce from the gardens of my family and friends. However, I still like the idea of being able to eat from my own garden, so I won’t give up. I will try again. I think certain things have changed since the last time I attempted backyard gardening which makes me think I might have better success this time. For example, this time I have more sunlight. The last time I tried my hand at farming, the area was way too shaded. I hope this will make a difference.
Because I am so excited about the project, I want to plant everything but I have to hold down the excitement and give some proper thought to this. After all this is a back yard, not a 3 acre farm plot.
I want to be able to reap foods that will provide me with a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and other important nutrients. Lots of fruits and vegetables fall into this category but unfortunately I cannot plant them all.
So here is how I decided what to plant.
- Plants that can be reaped multiple times: I like the idea of a plant which will continue to produce fruit over time and I will be able to reap many days from the same plant. Examples are tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers(red, yellow, green)
- Plants that provide a large amount of food in one harvest: Some plants will produce fruits that are so large that the one fruit can serve multiple times or multiple people. For example, pumpkin (you certainly cannot eat one whole pumpkin in one serving) and watermelon
- Plants that are easy to grow: That is pretty straight forward isn’t it? It really needs no explanation. One plant that fits this category is beans (various types).
- Plants that you cut what you need and the left over part will continue to grow: You don’t have to reap the entire plant when harvesting. You just need to cut off the amount you need. The plant will continue to flourish. Scallion and lettuce exhibit this quality.
- Herbs: It’s just good to have fresh herbs when you are cooking. Thyme is one such example.
- Plants that don’t grow too large: that cuts out large fruit trees for now. I mean, I would really love to have a mango tree and a breadfruit tree in my garden but that will definitely make the back yard too crowded.
I love tomatoes. They are great in salads, superb in sandwiches and can also just be had by themselves. There are many varieties but you can choose which you prefer. They can be grown in hanging baskets or upright containers. Or forget containers and plant directly in the ground. Ensure that the stalk is supported (usually with a stake or cage of some kind). Give your plant plenty of sunlight and water regularly. Enjoy the delicious, nutritious fruits you will produce.
Give these plants plenty of sunlight and water regularly and they will just grow and produce a bountiful crop. Pick and eat. Pick again and eat again. Pick, pick, pick……..you know what? You are just going to have to call the neighbours over to help. By the way, the cucumber plant is going to need something to climb on so, like the tomato, a stake or cage might help.
What is a vegetable stir-fry without generous amounts of bell pepper. They are not only delicious. They make your dish most attractive. They might not be the easiest to grow but the reward of reaping your lovely bell pepper far outweighs the effort. These plants require full sun growing conditions and well-drained, fertile soil.
You might be thinking that pumpkin takes up way too much space for a backyard garden, with its vines running all over the place. That is true but when you imagine that one pumpkin is such a very large fruit, providing a large volume of food and lots of beta carotene you just cannot help but include it in the mix. If you reap only one fruit, it is like you have hit the jackpot.
Pumpkin is easily planted from seed sown directly in the ground. They need plenty of warmth and plenty of water. Plant them at the edges of the garden so that the vines can be better controlled and not get all over your walkway.
Watermelons fall in a similar category. Treat them similarly to the pumpkin by planting them at the edge of the garden.
These are so simple to grow. Many of you might remember your pre high school science projects which more than likely included germinating peas/beans. Did you do that wet newspaper in a container with one pea grain experiment? It was exciting to see the sprout burst out from the side of your pea/bean. Well it’s just as easy to plant you beans now as it was then. There are many varieties. Some grow on a bush and some on vines. If you have planted the vine variety make sure you have installed a trellis or something similar for the vines to climb on.
These give great flavour as a seasoning or a garnish. Talk about easy to grow. Even the one you purchased at the supermarket for use in the kitchen. If you leave a couple of inches of stem still attached to the root and stick it in your garden, it will grow. As a matter of fact you don’t even need soil. If you stick that stem in a glass of water, it will grow. How easy is that.
When you need some scallion for the meal you are cooking, don’t pull up the whole plant. Just take a scissors and snip off what you need for the moment. Your plant will continue to grow and provide you with scallion for a long time.
Think salads, think lettuce. Think sandwiches, think lettuce. Think leafy greens, think lettuce (although they do come in different colours). It follows that whenever you think of a vegetable garden, there must be lettuce.
Because of its shallow roots, lettuce grows well in containers. Good potting soil, some organic fertilizer when necessary, and regular watering will help you to have a successful harvest.
Natural Ways gives us 12 tips to grow an endless supply of lettuce.
Check out the video.
We always have need of savory or aromatic plants to flavour and garnish our food. Even though dry herbs work well in our dishes, fresh herbs really make a difference at times. I particularly like fresh thyme but once the herb is cut from the plant it does not remain fresh for very long. It is therefore ideal to have a thyme plant so you can cut off snippets of fresh thyme when needed.
Full, hot sun with good drainage is needed for growing thyme. If planted with other crops in a container garden, plant at the edge of the container so that it will not be shaded. Plant at the edge of walkways.
How would you like a nice, little aromatic hedging. Just plant the thyme at the edge of walkways. They will release their lovely aroma when the leaves are stepped on or driven on.
Are you ready to plant?
Are you concerned about the availability of healthy, wholesome foods in the supermarket? Wouldn’t you like to be sure in your mind that you fruits and vegetables are free of harmful chemicals?
You will be 100% sure if you plant them yourselves.
In a backyard garden you probably won’t be able to plant enough for your entire food supply but you will certainly be able to make a big contribution to ensuring your food security.
Get excited with me and start a backyard garden if you have not already done so. You may want to plant different fruits and vegetables and that is perfectly fine. People will have different tastes and different reasons for choosing what they plant.
……just as long as you plant something.
Just a quick word to let you know that if you have tried everything and you are still failing to produce a harvest in your backyard garden, there is still hope for you.
Share your gardening experiences with us in the comments section below.