With the state of the environment as it is currently, it may often seem there is little we can actually do to improve it. And yet, however insignificant one drop of inspiration can seem in an infinite sea of possibilities, a sea is a collection of millions of tiny drops, each connected to the other, forming a tight, unified body. Just like that, each of our choices counts, so even as small a thing as what we eat can make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.
It goes without saying that buying foods locally is one of the most important steps to leading a sustainable life. But what if we told you that you can take it a step further? Growing your own veggies might seem like an intimidating task at first, but it’s actually quite achievable. It can also benefit you and the environment in many different ways.
Before you can start dining on your home-grown veggies, however, you need to grow them. While you can definitely cultivate some smaller herbs on your kitchen worktop, a home vegetable garden is what you’ll need if you want to grow vegetables in a sustainable way. Don’t know where to start? That’s what we’re here for.
Picking the right spot
Before you begin any work, you need to find the right place for your garden. This may seem obvious at first, but finding a spot of land on your lot that meets all the requirements of your vegetable garden takes a little bit more thought.
First of all, consider the fact that your plants need even footing. In order to ensure that your vegetables have the easiest time growing, you need your vegetable garden to be completely level. Granted, slight slopes are not completely out of the question, especially if they’re located in an area that offers a greater amount of sunlight, but you might need to use some tools to make it more level if the ground is too uneven.
You can also make slopes easier to access using some basic landscaping. You can use farm equipment and install small brick walls on your own, but if you live up North and want something with a bit more flair, there are plenty of Edinburgh gardeners and landscapers that can help you get the exact look you want.
Testing the waters
Once you’ve secured a place for your garden, it’s time to dig deeper and find out what hand you’ve been dealt. The key thing to find out at this stage is whether your soil is more acidic or alkaline in content. Needless to say, this step is important, as it determines what exactly you can do with the garden, mostly by determining the type of mulch and compost you’ll be using.
Keep in mind that this will also determine which plants will grow more easily, and which ones will require more attention. A neutral pH is ideal, as most plants can thrive in that kind of environment, though there are certain plants that will enjoy acidic soil but not alkaline, and vice versa. If you’re determined to keep growing that vegetable instead of buying it, you should adjust your mulch accordingly. Of course, whatever the case, make sure your mulch is completely organic – but more on that later.
Getting to the heart of the matter
We’ve already talked a lot about how plant choice will determine how you approach mulching. Now that you know the ground you’re standing on, it’s time to decide what exactly you’ll be growing in your garden. Perhaps you’re fantasising about fresh cucumbers, tomatoes or bell peppers in the morning – you can definitely get all that much more easily by having it grow just outside your kitchen window. It’s honestly the best, most enticing part about your home veggie garden.
However, sustainability is about much more than just being eco-friendly. You should also consider your financial situation and whether or not growing a vegetable is more profitable to you than simply buying it at your local farmer’s market. Some products will be much more scarce or expensive when store-bought. If that’s the case, go for it! However, keep in mind that these things might change from season to season and from year to year, so keep tabs on how profitable your garden is to you and make sure to adjust accordingly.
Did you know that basil growing together with tomatoes actually boosts the taste of the tomatoes, while also acting as a natural bug-repellent? Or that broccoli is a perfect companion to lettuce because it grows faster and taller, protecting it from the sun the lettuce doesn’t need in large amounts? This relationship between vegetables is what we call companion plants, and you should consider that carefully when deciding which seeds go where, as it can greatly boost your garden’s output in an organic way.
Speaking of companion plants, don’t limit yourself to just vegetables. Edible flowers will make an incredible addition both to your meals and your garden. There are plenty to choose from, with plants like sweet alyssum or yarrow are particularly beneficial, as they’ll attract bees and other good bugs to your garden. The same goes for some very popular herbs like rosemary or lavender. Let’s not forget how much more lovely your garden will look with these additions.
Helping your plants grow – about compost and mulch
You can save a lot of money and resources by using your own mulch for your gardens. There’s no need to use chemicals – they’re both a drain on your wallet and a menace to the environment. By using organic compost and mulch, you know exactly what’s going in there and adjust the pH of your soil accordingly to boost the growth of the plants you want.
As you keep your garden going, you’ll soon find out that you end up with a lot of dead matter that’s perfect for composting. In a truly sustainable vegetable garden, nothing ever really goes to waste – it’s all a matter of how well you use the resources you have at hand.
Consider a seed bank
Being prepared is an integral part of running a sustainable garden. You never know when a harsher winter will hit or when a violent thunderstorm will ruin your plants. In preparation for those instances, it’s a good idea to build your own seed bank.
Collect seeds from your plants and store them in a secure location so that, should anything ever happen, you can easily rebuild. Additionally, if you know your produce is good and want to share with your friends, you can give them the means to grow some on their own, helping them get a headstart on their own vegetable garden.