Reasons to Garden
- Lower your grocery bill by growing your own produce. Save money you would normally spend on groceries and gas getting to the store. Initial investment is cheap, and you are essentially turning a two-dollar seed packet into 100 times that in savings.
- Relieve stress by spending time in your garden; having something to tend to and focus on helps reduce the effect of the stresses of life.
- Know where your food comes from. Produce found in the grocery store doesn’t always have a food trail, and when it does you find your produce came from hundreds of miles away.
- Improve your physical health by spending time daily in the garden. It burns an estimated 200-400 calories an hour, depending on the level of intensity. In addition to the exercise benefit, the produce grown will be nutrient dense and provide great meals to sustain that energy burning.
- Give back to the environment. When you start a garden, you begin to replenish the ecosystem around. You replenish the soil; plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. Bees also benefit from your garden!
- Build connection by asking a friend or family member to help you with your garden, share extra produce with a neighbor, and ask questions when you visit nurseries or farmer’s markets. Gardens build community.
- It’s beautiful! Gardens are aesthetically pleasing, and make a great replacement for a water-intensive lawn.
Arizona, or most of it, has quite the reputation for scorching weather. Because of this, it is of vital importance that proper measures are taken to maintain safety while gardening. The Center for Disease Control has made a list of tips to be as safe as possible, available here.
Types of Gardens
Depending on your living situation, there are a number of ways to go about gardening.
In-Ground: This style of garden entails using the ground soil in your yard to grow plants. Depending on your soil quality, you may need to amend it with compost and organic matter. This can often be the most economical choice if you have the space for it.
Raised Beds: If you don’t have the soil quality but you have the space, this is a good choice. The bed is raised above the ground surface, usually done by filling wood frames with better quality soil. This style provides a wall from pests as well as storm runoff.
Container: This type of gardening can be done indoor and out. Container gardens are good for areas with less space. Any kind of container can be used, whether it is a normal terracotta pot, a tire, an old glass bottle or even a shoe.
Everything You Need
The initial startup of a garden is when you’re going to need to make the biggest investment. Depending on the style of garden you choose to create, there will be a few staple items. Tools, containers, compost, and soil are all found at garden supply stores. Seeds, the most important and necessary ingredient, can be found at seed libraries or exchanges. To find plants, (and usually seeds, tools, and soil) a nursery will be the best bet.
Planting and Harvesting
Not everyone is a gardening professional their first time around, and having a calendar can be extremely helpful for ensuring optimal growth in your garden. Depending on the region, the dates may vary for planting and harvesting. Below is a list of helpful calendars to give you the right idea!
Elevation between 10-3000 feet: planting guide
Elevation between 3000-6000+: planting guide
Strategically placing your plants doesn’t have to be purely aesthetic. By mindfully planting your ideal plants, you can insure optimal results with pest control, pollination, providing a space for beneficial insects, maximizing available space, and increased crop productivity.
DIY Compost & Vermicompost
Compost: biodegrading food scraps and other organic waste into humus with many nutritional benefits when inputted to soil.
- Find a spot for the pile, one that provides good sun
- Add the right ingredients: 50/50 nitrogen-carbon ratio, meaning half greens half browns, avoid cooked produce as well as meat and dairy
- Wait, and continue to add greens/browns to pile while turning for aeration, process will take 8-12 months depending on pile size
Vermicompost: raising worms for their nutrient filled castings. These castings provide beneficial microorganisms, as well as providing better water-holding content of soil. Also, this process takes a lot less time and labor than normal composting.
- Get yourself a bin: it can be glass, plastic or wooden, i.e. reusing an old fish tank or dresser drawer, make sure it is clean by rinsing out, if wooden line with plastic
- Prepare the worm bedding: cut or tear up newspaper (avoid color inks) into small strips and make damp but not soaked, add into bin until ¾ full, sprinkle soil on top
- Add in the worms: redworms should be in equal ratio to the amount of waste put in, as they can eat their weight per day
- Add in food waste: scraps like peels, rinds, and cores are fine, don’t put lots of citrus in, avoid cooked foods (butter/oil attracts pests), no meat or dairy for same reason, the smaller the pieces the faster worms gen digest
- Cover it up: adding a sheet of newspaper to the top keeps in the necessary moisture, while covering the bin with a lid (either not completely or with holes drilled) to maintain oxygen