Gardening is a fun way to make use of your home's resources to grow delicious and healthy food for your family. You can get started with as little as a packet of seeds, soil and water. The numerous types of foods, growing methods and containers available make gardening a very time-, space- and budget-flexible venture. And, gardening gives you control over how your food is grown including, for example, decisions about whether to use pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
Fruits and vegetables come in many different varieties. Selecting the right type depends on your climate, location and soil type as well as, your personal preferences in taste, color, size, maintenance, etc. Select seeds for plants that will grow in your location's hardiness zone. Northeast Ohio is in zone 6b, which means our average annual low ranges from -5° to -0° and our frost free period is generally from late April to late October.
There are two major seed types:
- Heirloom seeds are older varieties of seeds that have been saved and passed down over generations. Seeds from heirloom plants can be saved and used to grow plants the following season.
- Hybrid seeds are a cross of multiple plant varieties created for specific features such as disease resistance or size. Seeds from hybrid plants tend to be sterile, which means they cannot be saved and used for more plants.
It is a good idea to have your yard's soil tested prior to planting. A basic test will reveal the soil's pH level and levels of harmful contaminants such as lead. It will also give you time- and money-saving recommendations for nutrient and pH adjustment to improve your soil. Garden soil should be fertile, well drained and have the proper pH (acidity or alkalinity). Soil with good structure enables maximum penetration of water, air and roots for healthier plants. Learn about improving soils for vegetable gardening.
Seeds can be planted or sowed directly into the ground or started indoors and later transplanted outdoors. Seed packets usually provide planting, spacing and care recommendations for the type of plant to be grown. Your plants should be located where they will receive adequate sunlight and so that taller plants do not shade shorter ones. Plants should also be spaced to provide adequate room for growth. Common types of spacing include:
- Horizontal - Planting in rows.
- Vertical - Using support structures for climbing plants, which saves garden space and can be used for a variety of natually climbing plants.
- Spiral - Commonly used for herbs, a spiral uses permaculture design to conserve water and make use of horizontal and vertical space for growing herbs. Herbs requiring more sun and soil drainage are planted near the top of the spiral and those requiring less are planted near the bottom.
Your garden can be grown in all kinds of spaces depending on your location size, site and budget, from small containers to lasagna or raised beds.
On average your garden will require about an inch of water per week, which is sometimes more than provided by normal rainfall. You can use a rain harvesting system to save money on watering costs while helping to conserve a precious resource that would otherwise be lost to runoff and likely diverted to a storm drain. One of the more common systems is a rain barrel, which attaches to and collects water from your downspout. Learn about local rain barrel workshops and resources.