Have you ever tried to grow your own vegetables in a backyard garden? With the growing trend to become self-sustaining and lead a “greener” lifestyle, many people have found ways to provide their own vegetables, fruit and eggs, right from their own backyard efforts. Living off the land is not as difficult as you think, it just takes a little bit of knowledge, some space and a couple of seed packets to get started.

Use groundcover perennials in sunny areas. Groundcover perennials can be used as an alternative to grass where there is minimal foot traffic, or in an area where grass is difficult to maintain, such as on a slope. They are also handy in between larger perennials, as they help to suppress weeds and keep the soil moist and cool. Good choices for groundcover perennials are creeping thyme, ajuga, various sedums, alyssum and armeria.

Plant vegetables and flowers that are native to your local area. These plants will grow better with less work than plants that are not native. Also, native plants won’t require much extra watering, as they will generally adapt to the amount of rain typical to that area. This will also reduce your need for pesticides and fertilizers, since the plants will be able to handle the soil and pests in your area.

Plant a new and different edible each week. Eating tomatoes or corn every day can get old real quick, but if a variety is planted, this problem will never happen. The garden can offer a wide variety of different edible plants and if they come to maturity at the same time the variety will make the garden more enjoyable and more fun.

Put compost down on the soil in your garden about two weeks to a month before you plan to plant. This allows the compost enough time to integrate with the soil. Giving the compost time to stabilize means that your soil pH will be steady enough to test, and your plants will be ready to thrive when you plant them.

If you can’t get mulch for your soil, use wet newspapers. Damp newspapers around the base of your plants will help hold moisture in the ground and protect your plants’ root systems from heat and sunlight. Newspaper is biodegradable, so it will eventually degrade and actually add more nutrients to your soil.

If you are practicing organic gardening then try using baking soda to prevent powdery mildew from forming on your plants. Simply mix one tablespoon of baking soda with a half teaspoon of mild liquid soap and add to a gallon of water. During humid or damp weather spray your plants which are susceptible to powdery mildew with this mixture each week. The unused mixture cannot be stored and used later.

Plant for fall color. A lot of gardeners see fall as the time to wind things down in the garden, but with some plants the opposite is true. Certain trees and shrubs really ‘come alive’ in the fall, offering vivid displays of color through their foliage. Trees and shrubs for fall color include maple, cornus, gingko, dogwood, sumac and viburnum.

Mini roses are very popular and are low maintenance. They come in many bright colors and offer a variety of interesting flower shapes. However, if you want to add a rose to your garden for the fragrance, then a mini-rose may not be a good choice because they produce little to no fragrance. If fragrance is your preference, try a larger, hybrid rose for the most intense fragrance.

Just think of the beautiful harvest you can add to your dining table from your garden. Not to mention the environmentally friendly impact of growing your own food. Maintaining a personal vegetable garden can provide food at low cost to your family — and wait until you savor the amazing taste of vegetables, picked straight from the plant. Store-bought produce never tasted this good!

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