In recent years, we have seen a resurgence in the “farm to table” movement and support of eating local fruits and vegetables. While you may not have heard of “yard to table” it is also catching on. After all, you simply cannot get more local than your own backyard. Many homeowners are including space for growing their own food when creating their landscape plan and we could not be more excited to support this trend. Are you ready to try your hand at growing your own backyard vegetable garden? If so, we have all that you need to know to get started.
Pick a location
Choose an area of your yard that provides 10-12 hours of sunlight.
If space allows, build a raised garden bed. A wide variety of materials and aesthetics can be used for your structure and in any size. Raised beds are filled with ample amounts of great soil which your edibles will love. Some opt to make their raised beds tall enough to not have to bend over when tending their garden. We recommend not making each bed too wide as you want to be able to reach the center.
For those with smaller spaces, consider a container garden or vertical garden. Many items grow well in small spaces and special varieties labeled for containers are available. You can also incorporate edibles into your existing landscape in an aesthetically pleasing fashion.
Plan your fruits and veggies
When beginning to plan what you will grow and take from “yard to table”, consult your family. What do you often eat? What would be new and fun to try? Local garden shops will have a fantastic variety and will only have items that grow well during our short Colorado growing season.
For beginners and experts alike there are some easy to grow staples. These include squash, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, carrots, and other root veggies. For specific varieties tested by the best of the best, check out Pikes Peak Urban Gardens.
Prepare the soil
The proper soil is one of the most important things your plants need to thrive. We recommend purchasing a garden mix or compost. If you’d like you can even create your own compost using our Colorado Composting Guide. Your beds should be amended with new, rich soil each year prior to planting.
Plant seeds or starter plants
Seeds and starter plants should be spaced and planted per the directions on the packet or container. Larry Stebbins from Pikes Peak Urban Gardens recommends that you never plant in a dry hole. Rather, you wet the soil first and then plant. This aids in stimulating root growth and development. For very small seeds use a spice jar or other shaker to evenly distribute them when planting. To get a jump start on the planting and growing season you can start seeds indoors during late winter or early spring. Our complete guide on starting seeds is available here.
Consider mixing some pollinator approved flowers into your garden to attract bees. Many of these, like lavender and mums, serve the dual purpose of keeping unwanted garden pests at bay.
The warm, dry conditions we see in Colorado Springs over summer months mean that your veggie garden needs to be watered regularly, as often as every day. You can opt to water by hand, or, if available, run drip irrigation to automatically water your garden.
Watering in early morning or late evening will ensure you get the most absorption into your soil while avoiding evaporation from the hot sun. Adopting a cycle and soak method will also help maximize water use. In cycle and soak you would split your typical irrigation cycle in two, allowing water to penetrate the surface fully in between.
We recommend checking your garden for pests daily and ensuring that you treat for any pests as naturally as possible. Our blog on natural pest control has many great options and further info.
Protection from the elements
Protection from the elements, such as hail, is something every Colorado gardener must take into account. Consider constructing a cover to avoid hail damage. If your garden does take a hit from a storm or from pests you can try replanting, or simply fertilize.
Food safe fertilizers
Food safe fertilizers will give your garden an extra boost. Once per month apply seaweed extract and fish emulsion. Adding additional compost or manure monthly is also helpful.
Weeding, Pruning, & Thinning
Weeding is a necessary part of garden maintenance. All weeding should be done chemical free, as chemicals are harmful if swallowed. Mulch, grass clippings, or straw are great for placing over your soil in order to discourage weed growth.
Thinning your plants as seeds come in will allow them room to mature properly without overcrowding. Space them according to the directions on the seed packet. Some fruits and vegetables benefit from pruning, such as tomatoes.
While there are different signs of readiness or ripeness for each item grown in the garden, one rule of thumb applies; harvest when ready. Putting off harvesting could result in flavor changes and reduce yield.
Fantastic information on maintenance and care of specific vegetables is available on the Pikes Peak Urban Garden’s website. They also provide excellent classes on many aspects of gardening.