Starting your own vegetable garden is not only a fun and rewarding experience but can also be financially beneficial. Below, the garden maintenance experts from Fantastic Gardeners share everything you need to know about how to do it on a budget.
What are the key factors to setting up a vegetable garden?
The first thing to consider when starting a vegetable garden is the location. The ideal spot should get plenty of sunlight and be sheltered from harsh wind and weather conditions. Spend some time observing your backyard and planning how to arrange everything.
Take note of the light exposure at different times throughout the day. Avoid planting crops under trees because they block the sunlight the vegetables need to grow. Besides, many vegetables require a spot sheltered from strong wind and flooding. The perfect solution for this is garden hurdles.
Once you’ve picked the perfect spot, it’s time to choose the type of bed in which the seeds will be planted. You can choose from several options, most of which are fairly budget-friendly.
- Pots – Pots are the best option when you have limited space for gardening. They can be purchased in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit even the smallest of apartments. Besides that, they’re easily moveable.
- Raised beds – Raised beds are an excellent choice for starting a vegetable garden. They’re cheap, easy to build, and don’t require soil tilling. In addition, they make an excellent weed barrier. However, their main downside is that they need to be filled with a substantial amount of dirt, which can be costly.
- Directly into the soil – People who have a back or front yard can sow their vegetable seeds directly into the soil. However, in this case, you’ll need to till and amend the soil before planting. Regardless, sowing directly into the soil provides the benefit of companion planting.
What are the essentials for starting a new garden?
To start a vegetable garden, you don’t necessarily need an entire shed equipped with tools for each specific type of plant you plan to grow. The essential items you’ll need include:
Opt for good quality soil that’s appropriate for the type of vegetables you want to grow. The best kind of soil will depend on the plant and the environmental conditions in the area you live in.
Generally, the ideal soil for gardening is loose, well-draining, and nutrient-rich because it allows the plant roots to penetrate quickly and grow, while well-draining soil helps prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot. Besides that, nutrient-rich soil provides the necessary minerals and nutrients that plants need for healthy growth.
Ensuring the soil pH is suitable for the vegetables you want to grow is also essential.
Seeds or plants
Decide what vegetables you want to grow, and purchase the seeds or already grown plants from a nursery.
Watering can or a hose
You’ll need a way to water your plants, whether a watering can or a hose. If you’re planting directly in the ground, opt for a hose and make sure it’s long enough to reach all around your garden. If you’re container gardening, a watering can will suffice.
A few essential garden tools include a trowel, hoe, pruning shears, and gardening gloves. They’re extremely helpful in planting and maintaining a garden.
Depending on the type of vegetables you want to grow, you may need to add fertiliser to the soil. Fertilisers are products used to supplement and enrich the soil with nutrients essential for plant growth. The two main types are organic and synthetic.
Organic fertilizers are derived from natural sources, such as compost, animal manure, and bone meal. They release nutrients into the soil slowly over time and increase microbial activity.
On the other hand, synthetic fertilizers are man-made chemicals that typically act faster than organic fertilisers. They can effectively provide plants with the nutrients they need to grow quicker. However, overuse of synthetic fertilizers can lead to a nutrient imbalance in the soil, negatively affecting the plant’s health and the environment.
When choosing a fertiliser for your garden, consider the type of plants you’re growing, the soil conditions, and the climate in your area. It’s important to use the correct amount and type of fertiliser because over-fertilising can lead your plants to stress or die. On the other hand, under-fertilizing can result in stunted growth.
There are also several DIY soil fertilizers you can make by using common household ingredients:
- Composting is a natural process that turns organic waste into nutrient-rich soil. You can make your own compost by collecting food scraps, yard waste, and other organic materials in a compost bin or heap. As the materials decompose, they release nutrients that can be added to your garden soil.
- Epsom salt is a natural source of magnesium and sulfur, two crucial nutrients for plant growth. Mix 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt per 4 litres of water and use it to water your plants.
- Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, which is an important nutrient for plant growth. Sprinkle them around your plants or mix them into your soil.
- Crushed eggshells are a good source of calcium, which is vital for plant growth and development. Crush them and sprinkle them around the base of your plants, or mix them directly into the soil.
Remember that homemade fertilisers may not provide the same level of nutrients as commercial fertilizers, and their nutrient content can vary depending on the ingredients used. Use them in moderation to avoid over-fertilising your plants because it can damage their roots and lead to poor growth.
Mulch is a layer of material that’s spread over the soil surface around plants to help retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth. It can be made from a variety of organic or non-organic materials, including leaves, straw, wood chips, bark, gravel, and plastic.
Organic mulch, such as leaves or grass clippings, gradually breaks down over time and releases nutrients into the soil. It can also help improve soil structure and provide a habitat for beneficial insects. Non-organic mulch, such as plastic or gravel, doesn’t decompose and can help conserve moisture and regulate soil temperature by reflecting sunlight and heat.
When using mulch, apply it in a layer that’s thick enough to be effective but not so thick that it blocks water and nutrients from reaching the soil. The ideal thickness will depend on the type of material used and the conditions in your garden.
How much is starting a vegetable garden likely to cost?
Starting a vegetable garden has no definitive final cost. It’ll all depend on how big you plan on it to be, the type and quality of plants and seeds in your area, the beds and soil nutrients you choose, and a few more factors.
Ultimately, it may cost you from £30 to as much as £400 and above, depending on the scale of your vegetable garden project.
How much space will you need?
Going big is always best. However, sometimes this option isn’t possible. Despite that, growing veggies can be done even in a small apartment and be just as fun and rewarding experience. Your vegetable garden can thrive perfectly if you have a few pots, good-quality soil, and a space with plenty of sunlight.
Starting your own vegetable garden isn’t only very likely to save you a lot on grocery expenses but also provides numerous health benefits. Regardless of how you begin your journey, remember to focus on the small actions and appreciate every achievement. With patience, you’ll be able to learn, improve and move forward toward a more significant project.