LEARN AS YOU GROW
Beginning gardeners, take note. Growing your own food has never been more fun or rewarding with tips and tricks from Crystal Broussard. A relatively new gardener herself, Crystal offers valuable advice for those who long to raise their own vegetables and fruits—whether to honor a family tradition or for the simple sake of being more self-sufficient.
By CRYSTAL A. BROUSSARD
I’m not rich or fancy, so I shop where I get the most bang for my buck. I found a 56-x-57-x-76-inch greenhouse on sale at Big Lots for $50 and set it up while my husband wasn’t home to ensure it was assembled according to the diagram and there were no leftover parts. When he got home, he made sure everything was secure and fit snugly.
A greenhouse allows you to get your seedlings going sooner and also provides a place to grow crops that are sensitive to weather changes. I set up my small, yet efficient greenhouse in a space that gets full sun most of the day.
Starting seeds does not require special equipment. I wash and use containers that may have at one time held soda or fast food, and after they’ve served their purpose, I take them to the recycling center with the rest of my stuff. To start my seeds, I purchased a small bag of topsoil for $3 and mixed it with a few shovels of dirt from my garden in a large bucket. My garden had already been fertilized with my own compost, as well as horse manure that I bought for $20 from a local horse farm.
Another cost is seeds. The $15 to $20 that I spend on seeds each growing season buys way more than I need. However, I take into account the fact that not all seeds germinate properly, pests will overtake some of the plants and weather will affect my crops. With all these factors in mind, I tend to go overboard.
So far, I’ve spent $93 for my garden this year. It sounds like a lot, but I keep in mind the long-term savings. I will save money on produce, I can reuse my greenhouse next growing season, and I will have a profound sense of pride when I can say, “That came from my garden.”
My gardening plans consist of organized chaos. I have labeled everything in the greenhouse and garden, and I set up the plants according to how I want them planted. My corn gets the tallest, so it goes farthest from the point that receives the most sunshine. Tomatoes are a perimeter plant, as well as squash. Cucumbers go by the neighbor’s privacy fence so the vines can “trellis.”
As I plant my garden, I diagram what is planted where. I also hold onto my seed packets from year to year so I can track whether I like the result of the seed, and whether I like the particular variety of the seed I purchased. For example, while I love the rich taste of heirloom tomatoes, my children won’t eat them because of their purple color.
Here are some final tips for setting up a greenhouse:
- Make sure your greenhouse is in a location that receives plenty of sunshine. If you don’t have plenty of sunshine, your greenhouse is pointless.
- Don’t under water or over water your seeds. Use the touch test. Touch the top of the dirt with two fingers; if the soil is dry, use an empty 2-liter bottle filled with water, or a watering can, to gently water them. Garden hoses are too harsh and will wash out your seedlings. If the soil is moist, leave it be, but check again the next day.
- Make sure your cat, or the neighborhood cat, doesn’t get into your pots and use them for a litter box.
I won’t transfer my seedlings from pot to garden until around Derby Day, which is the first weekend in May, for those not from Kentucky. Waiting until this time allows the spring storms to pass and the spring temperatures to level out.
Remember to keep your thumbs green, and reduce, reuse and recycle!
Crystal A. Broussard lives in Hillview, Kentucky, with her husband and children. She learned her gardening skills from watching her grandparents and by trial and error.