Beginner’s guide to the vegetable garden
ANN/ THE DAILY STAR – Many of us are just farmers at heart, but rarely get the chance to explore that side due to city life.
The satisfaction of consuming the products you grow with your own labor and effort can be irreplaceable. The final harvest aside, the little experiences along the way, whether it’s the feeling of dirt on your fingertips or the sight of new blooms, are joyful in themselves.
You don’t necessarily need to live in the countryside to start gardening as long as you can provide your plants with enough sunlight.
Plus, if you’ve ever wanted to grow your own produce, winter is the perfect time to start. Colder temperatures make vegetable gardening more beginner-friendly, as plants are generally less thirsty during the winter months. Pests are also less of a problem when the temperature drops a few degrees.
Check harvest windows
While there are a variety of greens and cold hardy vegetables to choose from for your garden, it is important that you check the time windows for harvest to ensure those that only thrive in a cold climate have enough time to grow before the heat returns. While some vegetables like broccoli, cucumber, okra, and tomatoes can grow year-round in warmer regions, others are more specifically suited to colder climates like bitter gourd, cabbage, lettuce, and the radish.
Even if the plants of your choice are cold hardy, it’s still crucial to plant them in an area of your balcony or garden that receives a few hours of direct sunlight.
Consider growing herbs
For many, growing herbs is the gateway to growing fruits and vegetables of all kinds.
Freshly cut herbs tend to taste better than dried herbs and those found in grocery stores. Cilantro, mint, and holy basil are good options even in winter for tropical and subtropical climates.
One of the fastest ways to grow herbs is to propagate stem cuttings. All you have to do is cut off four to five inches of a healthy stem, remove the bottom leaves, and put it in a glass jar filled with water. If your cuttings receive enough light, a healthy root system should emerge in about two weeks. Once a stable root system is established, you can repot the planting in an area that receives a few hours of direct sunlight each day.
Gather all the necessities
Before you start farming, you should try to get all the necessities that may come in handy during the growing season. This may include a few tools such as shears, a spade, and a shovel. For vegetables and herbs, biological pesticides are the best solution.
Neem oil and neem oil sprays are among the best biological pesticides. Also try to get your hands on organic fertilizers, as fertilizers are extremely useful during the planting, flowering and fruiting period.
Perfect the soil mix
If you plan to use containers or seed trays for your vegetable garden, potting soil usually won’t do. Ground soil tends to be too heavy to provide adequate drainage. It also lacks the necessary nutrients. Many online nurseries provide customers with vegetable-specific potting soils and seedlings if needed. If you prefer to make your own potting soil, prepare a mix of 55-60% topsoil, 30% organic matter and 10% coco peat.
Adjustment requirements for balconies
If you are planning to turn your balcony into a vegetable garden for the colder climate, cherry tomatoes, chili peppers, peas, beets and small varieties of carrots are your favorite vegetables.
These vegetables generally adapt to smaller spaces without compromising its root system.
Most herbs also thrive on balconies, as they receive enough hours of direct sunlight. Although these vegetables are suitable for balconies, try to ensure that the pot you choose is as large as possible so that the containers do not interfere with growth.
Some vegetables may even need pots deeper than 12 inches. Also, make sure the pot has good drainage. This requires the pot to have a handful of drainage holes and good potting soil.
It’s best to place the pot in areas of your balcony that get a few hours of direct sunlight, especially in the morning.
Finally, try to be as patient as possible. The long wait for seedlings to grow into mature carriers of produce is what makes the process of eating what you sow extremely rewarding.