Get your garden ready

11/May/18 / 06:00

Flowers are blooming, the grass is coming back to life, and the sun is shining longer and longer each day – just a few of the many things to love about the season!
 
In addition to the sudden abundance of color and the (mostly) beautiful weather, spring marks the kickoff of gardening season. From lettuce to radishes, peppers to tomatoes, the coming months will yield a bountiful harvest of delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs, and more!
 
A variety of veggies lines the shelves of the supermarket, and soon fresh produce will fill the stalls of your local farmers market… But imagine picking the perfect tomato for your salad somewhere even closer to home – like a backyard vegetable garden!
 

Getting started with a backyard garden

 
Growing your own food might sound intimidating, but gardening isn’t only for Master Gardeners – with preparation and dedication, even a beginner can find their green thumb.
 
The very first step in preparing your garden, long before your hands hit the dirt, is to decide what to plant. What vegetables do you or your family eat often? How much will you eat? How much room do you have for a garden?
 
You’ll need to consider how much space your garden will occupy. If you have a yard with ample open space, you might opt for a sunken or raised bed garden. If you’re working with minimal space, consider growing vegetables in a large container like a flower pot, half barrel, hanging basket, or window box – options that are well-suited to a deck or balcony.
 
No matter how big or small your garden may be, there are three basic requirements for a successful growing season:
 

  • Full sun. Vegetables that grow well in the summer – including corn, eggplant, melons, and summer squash – usually need between six and eight hours of direct sun.
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  • Lots of water. Hydrated equals happy in the garden, so make sure your plants have enough water to withstand the heat.
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  • Good soil. Most vegetables grow best in soil that is well-watered, with good drainage and high contents of organic matter like compost. If you’re not sure what kind of soil you need, talk to the staff at your local nursery, greenhouse, or garden center.(1)

Once you know what vegetables you want to plant and what type of garden to plant them in, make sure you have the proper materials at hand. Some basic tools you may need are: a hoe, a spade, a rake, a trowel, and a watering can. (2)
 
Now all that’s left to do is start digging, get planting, and see what you can grow!
 

What to do with bushels of Brussels sprouts…

 
As you start seeing juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and brightly colored peppers popping up in the garden, don’t throw away surplus food! When you’re through enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of your labors, you can freeze extra veggies, share them with friends and family, or compost them if necessary. You can also consider helping a local hunger relief organization by donating your produce to fill the plates and stomachs of hungry neighbors in your community. Learn about the Food Bank’s Garden Connect Program here.


 

How You Can Help:

 

  • Volunteer at one of our Centers in Geneva, Rockford or Park City sorting and packing food
  • Donate to help us solve hunger in your community – every $1 donated provides $8 worth of food.

 

 
 
 
 

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(1) “Beginner Vegetable Gardening Made Easy.” Better Homes and Gardens, Better Homes & Gardens.

(2) “Vegetable Gardening Basics.” Watch Your Garden Grow, University of Illinois Extension.