Imagine, seeds pushing their little green leaves towards the sunshine; fruits fruiting, and you pulling up carrots like they’re presents from the earth; eating sweet peas right off the vine. Volunteering for Fleet Farming is a wonderful way to experience these things, but if you’d like to have these kind of experiences closer to home, then why not transition a little bit of your yard or your porch into an edible garden?
Some Things to Think About Before Creating Your Garden:
Know what kind of garden you want. There are all sorts of yard garden types: raised beds typically seen at community gardens, container gardening great for porch gardens, in-ground ones on Fleet Farming farmletts, straw-bale gardens where gardens grow out of the bales, and aquaponic gardens where fish and garden become one ecosystem, just to name five. Explore the options online or in a book. Which of the many types appeals most to you? Do you feel you can successfully manage this type and is it in your budget?
Know if you have good soil for what you want to grow. A soil test kit is essential when getting to know your soil and being able to check on it to maintain its health. Out of whack pH and low-nutrient soils, like the kind we have in Central Florida, need A LOT of good stuff added to them to build up rich and biodiverse soil. Healthy, established soil smells earthy, crumbles easily, and has worms, insects, microorganisms, and fungi living all throughout.
If you’re looking to make good soil, there are so many ways to go about this depending upon who you ask. Some recommend 1/3 manure compost, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 peat moss; others suggest 1/3 top soil (rich with humus), 1/3 mushroom compost, and 1/3 vermiculite and peat moss. Soil making is like baking, people swear by different recipes for the “perfect and moistest” chocolate cake. It’s really up to what feels right to you, how much you’re willing to spend, and to which resources you have access.
Take your time. There are resources for you to explore online, in libraries and bookstores, and some at the end of this post to help you on your way to finding your perfect recipe.
Sunlight is essential. Find a place in your yard that ideally receives full sun for 6-8 hours a day, regardless of the time of year. Your busy plants need plenty of sunlight to manufacture their sugar. The sugar they produce provides them with the energy they need to flower, fruit, root, grow, and leaf.
Know which plants you want to grow and these plants’ requirements. Knowing the needs of the plants you want to grow before you build your garden sets you up for success as a gardener. Does what you want to grow need a separate area for more acidic soil plants, like blueberries? If you want to grow edibles amongst larger edibles, like broccoli and cauliflower, how big of a plot would your plants need?
Know yourself. If you are just getting into gardening, start small. Herb container gardening is a wonderfully satisfying way into edible gardening if fruiting plants feel too intimidating right now. But if you decide to build a plot, a manageable plot is a managed plot.
If you want a plot to garden, but you can’t garden in your yard due to too much shade, you live in an apartment or condo, or you just aren’t ready yet to build an edible garden, sign up to volunteer with Fleet Farming or join a community garden–both are incredible ways to join a community of gardeners and to explore, make new friends, and grow your knowledge of growing food. If you can garden in your yard and you’re ready to start, be honest with yourself when planning it out and keep it a size you can manage easily. Gardens can begin small, like 2 x 4 or 4 x 4, and then you can expand them when you’re ready to grow and manage a larger area.
Starting the New Year by being outside more, eating well, and making new friends in a community of gardeners is a beautiful way to bring more goodness and light into your life. Below you’ll find some gardening resources to check out that can help you along your way.
Get Involved with Fleet Farming: Click here
Leu Gardens’ Gardening Classes: Click here
Florida Fruit and Vegetable Garden is written by Leu Garden’s Director, Robert Bowden, and is a phenomenal resource for growing food in Central Florida. This title can be found locally at Leu Garden’s Gift Shop as well as at Bookmark It’s bookstore in East End Market.
And there are many community gardens in Orlando. A post will be posted on Fleet Farming’s website soon about the locations of them and how to get involved in Orlando’s local community gardens and slow food movement.
Audubon Park Garden District Gardening Volunteer: Click here
To receive your free composter (if you’re an Orlando City resident) and composting guides: Click here
Compost Orlando: Click here
This Old House: How to Build a Raised Vegetable Garden: Click here
And Square Foot Gardening is a wonderful resource to learn how to maximize yield in the gardening space you have. Just googling “Square foot gardening” will bring you in touch with many resources for gardening in smaller spaces and gardening smartly in the space you have.