Two years ago, you didn’t even know what microgreens were. Now, you want to grow them—along with snap peas, squash, and Swiss chard—in your backyard.
That’s no surprise, thanks to Americans’ growing interest in local food and eating well. Across the nation, the DIY crowd is planting container gardens on back porches, replacing patches of grass with miniature farm plots, and serving homegrown food for dinner. They’re trimming their food budgets, better understanding where their food comes from and how it grows, and embracing the farm-to-fork lifestyle. And, as personal gardener Amy Pennington of Seattle’s Go Go Green Garden knows firsthand, these new backyard farmers are expanding their pantries and their palates.
Learning to “farm” requires a bit of know-how if you’re a beginner, but green-thumb-challenged individuals can grow food on their own if they educate themselves about the process. Here’s how to make your garden grow green.
Brush Up on the Basics
By tapping available resources, you can glean a gardening education before you plant your first seed. Chat up the staff at your local nursery, take classes at community centers, or study books like Alys Fowler’s Garden Anywhere. These references will take the guesswork out of such tasks as prepping your soil and will teach you what to plant and when and where to plant it.
When you begin planning your garden, start small, says Pennington. “I always encourage people to clear a small area of their yard and dedicate it to growing veggies,” she says. “Try it out for a year and see if you enjoy the process of nurturing a garden.” During this trial run, Pennington also encourages new gardeners to start smart by planting their first seeds in the spring under the best conditions possible.
“Spring is a great time [to plant] because it leaves room for error. If something doesn’t work in April or May, you can still sow a lot of vegetables in June and even more in September or October,” she says. You can also lessen the chance of making errors by planting your seeds in good conditions. Seek a spot that has good soil (see sidebar), plenty of sun, and access to a water source, whether that source is a hose or a watering can.
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