You live in a cozy house surrounded by lawn and a few trees. That’s nice. You are the typical homeowner. You water and fertilize the lawn so you can have the privilege of mowing it every week during the summer. Over and over again you follow the same routine. By the end of summer, you are thoroughly sick of it. Then, as refreshing cool fronts boldly begin to intrude, you are required to deal with all those leaves. It is then you begin to wonder, “Who invented this ‘lawn-thing’ anyway?” When it dawns on you that all it does is make work and require expensive water and fertilizer, you may begin to wonder about the sanity of it all. My question to you is, “Why don’t you kill some of that lawn and redirect your water, fuel and energy, toward growing something you can eat?” When you bought or rented the place, gardening may not have entered your mind. Now you think you might like to grow some stuff. So where will you put the garden? Good question. Let me try to help you.
Space is what you need
Space…the final frontier. You must boldly go forth and find a spot where the sunlight reaches the ground for at least six hours a day in the summer. A few vegetables, such as some peppers, grow well in dappled shade. But, for the most part, if you don’t have a sunlit spot you’re out of luck. The next option is to find a space somewhere else, perhaps a vacant lot or a space along the alley, behind the fence, etc. You must also have easy access to water, but later on we’re going to discuss ways to use very little of that precious and pricey resource. Now that you have found a place to garden, there are several preparatory steps.
You will need some hand-tools: shovel, digging fork, rake, wheelbarrow or garden cart, trowel and hand fork. It is important to have a place where these can be covered or stored away from the elements when not in use.
Make provision to get water to the vicinity of your garden (hoses or pipes). You will eventually need to think about drip irrigation – the most efficient way to water in our semi-arid climate.
Begin stockpiling mulch. You will never have enough! Save newspapers, cardboard, leaves, clippings, trimmings, and put them in a place where you have enough room to work with them. In my town and many other cities in the region, you can fetch loads of mulch from the local recycling center.
Begin a compost pile or bin if you have not done so already. All vegetable scraps from the kitchen, plus tea leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc. make excellent compost. You can also begin a worm bin.
Buy enough compost to cover your garden beds two inches deep and have it on hand. If you have a pickup or trailer, buy bulk compost. It is substantially cheaper than the bagged variety.
It is never too late to begin a garden. This time of year when the weather is cooler is ideal. Start small and add more space as your needs dictate. The result: fresh, safe, delicious and nutritious vegetables!