healthy food. recipes. reviews.
I could make a list of reasons as to why it makes sense to grow your own fruits and vegetables, but they’d mostly sound clichéd and this would get dismissed as yet another meh post. So, instead I’ll begin by showing you results and you can decide whether to read on or not. If there was a way for me to make you taste the difference between home grown and store bought vegetables, I’d do that too, but I can’t, so we’ll make do with visual contentment.
Here are some tomatoes, bell pepper, Anaheim pepper, okra and cucumber. All delicious, all grown without any fertilizer or pesticides, so you can actually eat the cucumber’s skin and bite into that pepper right away.
How to grow them?
There are several ways you can, but we used a raised vegetable bed, and I’ll write about that approach here. We largely followed this with some modifications: Better Home and Gardens Article on how to build a vegetable bed.
Ingredients to makes a 4’x6′ vegetable bed:
Vegetable bed lumber: It’s important to use a rot-resistant wood that will withstand climate changes and lots of water. We used redwood. The store you buy the wood from will cut it for you as well. We made a 4’x6′ raised bed rather than the article’s 4’x4′. The changes weren’t huge, just that we needed longer pieces of lumber. Pretty simple.
Wood stakes: You’ll need these for supporting and keeping the vegetable bed leveled and in place. Home Depot or Lowes have ready made ones. Easy!
Soil: The natural soil that you find in backyards, here in Arizona, is very clay like. If you don’t water it, it hardens like a brick. Also it’s loaded with rocks. The first step is therefore to prepare a good soil combination. We dug up our 4’x6′ area and manually separated out most of the rocks. This was the most labor intensive and tiresome process. We dug to a depth of about half a foot giving us about half the soil needed for the vegetable bed. For the rest we used 6 cubic feet of planting soil and 6 cubic feet of composted mulch, bought from the store. After our vegetable bed was built and in place, we mixed the three (dirt from backyard, planting soil, composted mulch) in place.
Irrigation: With as hot as it gets here we had to put in a drip system that waters the vegetable bed daily. So, we installed a mini spinkler system at the four corners that runs for about 15 minutes daily, which is enough water for all the vegetables.
Seeds/ Saplings: We have tomatoes, okra, zuchini, cucumber, bell peppers, anaheim peppers and cantaloupe in the vegetable bed. Except for the okra, for which we used organic seeds, everything else was planted from saplings bought from the store.
Planting: A good rule of thumb is to give each plant a one square foot area to itself. So, leave atleast 1 foot between all seeds and saplings. Although, now I think that since tomatoes grow so much, I should’ve allowed 2 feet between them.
That’s all. It isn’t complicated, just care for them a little, make sure they are well watered and that’s it. We did not use any fertilizer or any pesticides.
Here’s what our vegetable bed looked like in early March, after we had just built and planted stuff.
We planted in rows:
Here’s what it looks like now in May:
Tomatoes: Are growing like crazy. We supported them with a metal grid bought at the store. In hind sight, we’d definitely should have planted them atleast 2 feet apart. But they taste delicious.
Peppers: Don’t need much caring, except that bell peppers need to be plucked otherwise the small plants will droop.
Okra: We sowed the seeds in March and they took about 2 weeks to sprout and were very slow to grow initially. But they started growing well once it got hot. So be patient. Also, the more you pluck the okras, the more the plant produces.
Cucumbers: You can either let them grow on the ground or support them using tomato rings. But, again be sure to pluck the cucumbers because if mature ones aren’t picked they produce a hormone that will kill the whole plant.
Cantaloupe: My cantaloupe vines are growing freely on the ground. We haven’t seen any cantaloupes yet, but lots of flowers.
Zucchini: Didn’t plant this in the vegetable bed, planted it outside where the irrigation happens to get some water. It’s growing very well.
Karela (Bitter gourd): Sowed seeds indoors in a small planter and transplanted these just yesterday (not in the vegetable bed), will report back on their progress.
Lauki (Bottle gourd): Sowed seeds indoors in a small planter and transplanted these just yesterday (not in the vegetable bed), will report back on their progress.
Tulsi (Holy Basil): I had bought a little plant last year online, but it didn’t survive the frost. 😦 So, this time I’m trying with seeds, rather than a sapling. Sowed seeds about 4 weeks back and they have just begun to sprout. Will write back about this later too.
So, you see, if I can do it, so can you! It’s easy, it’s environmentally friendly, it’s healthy, it’s pesticide and fertilizer free, it’s home grown! What more could one want!
Do try your hand out at growing some easy vegetables and you’ll be surprised at how much fun it is. Please do write back with questions and comments. 🙂
See more here in Part 2.