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How to Start a Backyard Vegetable Garden

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Starting a backyard garden is easier than many people think. This month is the perfect month to get started planting for a Summer Harvest.

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Don’t have the space? You don’t need a large space to grow a large amount of produce for your family to enjoy throughout the Summer months. If you only have space for 1-2 things to plant then look for a couple of families to crop share.

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Think you don’t have time to care for a garden? It will take 1-2 days to get started, and then only 5-10 minutes a day to care for the garden. You’ll need to commit the 1-2 days every year to refresh and replant.

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I first started my backyard garden over five years ago in an attempt to try and calm my sons overactive immune system, and try and heal his food allergies naturally. As a young family with a child who could only eat organic fruits and vegetables, I needed to find an alternative to breaking our family budget by doing all our shopping at Whole Foods Market. It took some serious convincing, and finally I got my husband to tear out a section of grass in our backyard so I could begin growing produce in our backyard.

I’ve learned a lot over the years and figured out what plants grow best in certain places. Over the years, spending time in the garden growing natural food to help my children grow has become one of my favorite hobbies, and one of the most rewarding parts of being a Mother.

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Where to start:

First find a spot to plant your garden. I recommend finding a place that gets the most amount of sun throughout the day. I selected a spot that didn’t have the best sun coverage but was in a corner where it wouldn’t interfere with the children’s playtime space.

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The investment:

Once you’ve made the commitment to planting a backyard garden the first year is going to be the most expensive. With our soil in Orange County, you’ll need to purchase raised beds. I purchased two large plastic beds (at Costco at the time). I recently saw decent priced wooden beds at The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. Next you’ll need to purchase good quality soil (this is where you can’t go cheap). I also added fencing to keep the kids, pets, and animals out of the garden (optional) – plus trellis’ and cages.

*Important* Spend a good amount of time deciding where you are going to place the raised beds. Once you’re done installing everything – you’re not going to want to move it. I recommend spending a good week deciding on the best place for your garden – think permanent. It is a long-term commitment that you’re making for your family.

If you’re tearing out grass, then I would expect to spend at least a day prepping the area before laying the raised beds. Once the grass it out – then you’re ready to go.

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Step one:
Lay down a weed barrier. You can purchase this in a large roll at Home Depot for about $15. You’ll need to replace this every 1-2 years.

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Step two:
Fill-up the beds with soil. If this is fresh soil, then I would recommend purchasing some worm castings at the local farmer’s market and blend it in with the soil. There is usually a man at the OC Great Park farmer’s market who sells this. I also add worm castings (or compost) as a fertilizer throughout the growing season.

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Step three:
Let it sit. You want the soil to breathe before planting. I usually wait 1-2 days before putting the plants in the dirt – a little longer if I blend in some manure or compost.

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Step four:
Purchase your plants! For your first garden – I recommend purchasing mature plants. Growing from seed is a lot of work, and something you’ll want to attempt after being comfortable gardening.

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Now that you’re ready to go – involve your kids in the process. Having my kids take an active role in our backyard garden has been priceless. They have learned the importance of knowing where their food is coming from, benefits of eating organic, and they can easily spot GMO vs. NON-GMO fruits and vegetables with a blink of the eye. Even my picky eater will select vegetables over french fries on a menu any day because of them growing up growing their own fruits and vegetables.

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Berries..Berries…Berries!!

It was a long process for me to understand how to grow berries. First, I learned that most berries purchased in Orange County just won’t grow for me. I tried almost everything and lost a lot of money on dying plants. As a last ditch effort, a family friend in Oregon offered to send me some roots from his backyard where he would run a tractor over the berries bushes because they were “weeds” in his backyard.

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The raspberries he sent me didn’t take – but the blackberries soon became a “weed” in my backyard too. Years later, I am pulling them out of cracks in the backyard cement, and I swear they have roots growing underneath our house. I have to be *very* careful to keep them tied up to the trellis and pull them immediately when coming up in random places in the yard because they have strong pokers (that hurt). Most of my gardening time is spent cutting back and managing the blackberries to grow where I want them to grow.

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Canning fruit with our friends

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Jam from our garden last year

The benefit of the berries is that I barely water them in the winter months, and right when Spring begins I give them a good amount of water every day. If you want berries, then I recommend calling around to see if you know anyone in the Oregon/Washington area that can FedEx you some roots.

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Trees

The first year that I planted my fruit trees, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t get any fruit. Plan for at least 2-3 years before a good harvest from your fruit trees. Once they begin producing – be prepared to have way more than your family can handle. Also, don’t make the mistake that we made by planting them too close together. Although it has worked well for our space, it is a tough process trying to get the fruit off the trees when they are full of leaves, fruit and millions of leaves.

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Veggies

I have always had the most luck with tomatoes, bell pepper, and eggplants. They are the easiest to grow, and will yield the largest amount of food while taking up the smallest amount of space. I have found that I can plant squash and eggplant around the base of my fruit trees, so I don’t lose garden space. Make sure and water them every morning to start, and then slow down the water once they begin to produce fruits and vegetables (otherwise the water will keep going to the growth of the plant vs. production of the fruits/vegetables). Stay away from asparagus and artichoke as they won’t yield a large enough harvest to make it worth growing.

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Watering

I recommend hand watering your garden to ensure that they don’t get overwatered, and the water reaches every plant. You’ll need to water daily at the beginning of the season and with our current drought it is vital only to use the necessary amount of water to help your garden flourish.

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Good Luck! Feel free to follow my personal love for gardening on Instagram with the hashtag #BaroneFarm. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me [email protected]

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Recycle wine crates for your herb garden

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3 Comments

  1. What a wonderful garden. I absolutely agree with you on the buying plants front. It is amazing home many tomato plants you can get from a single packet of seeds. I have found that if they all sprout you are trying to off load them with your friends and neighbors (sometimes without their knowledge). However, I am envious of how much you can get out of such a small plot. The longer growing season probably helps a lot. As for the tomatoes, do you have any problems with squirrels or chipmunks? They will devastate a crop here in Illinois. Love the posting.

    • Beautiful and helpful pictures. Easy to follow. How close are you to the ocean? We live about 3/4 of a mile from beach and have much night dampness so we have to wait until late May to plant. When do you begin planting? Thanks.

      • We are just a couple of miles away from the ocean. I usually start in April/May =)

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