In this post we intend to prepare a simple guide to understand how to set up a home garden step by step, with which you can start in the world of home gardening.
This Post aims to be a simple and clear manual with which we want to convey to the reader the interest that this hobby has from many points of view.
Growing at home is available to everyone, we just need to be clear about some basic concepts and gradually learn from the experience.
From PlanetaGarden we understand the garden at home as an exercise in sustainability, which makes us citizens more committed to the environment and more responsible in our consumption.
Do you know what you need to set up a home garden step by step?
Most of the population lives in very urban environments without any contact with the natural and rural environment, this makes every day more people feel the need to introduce a little “green” into their lives.
Having a small garden in our home, will mean an escape route to asphalt, cement, noise, pollution and also to stress and worries.
It will allow us to know the life cycle of plants and the relationships between different living beings, enhancing our ability to observe and offering a valuable educational resource for our children.
It will be a place of continuous learning through the experience that we are acquiring in the cultivation of our vegetables.
It will provide us with healthy, nutritious and tasty foods that will make us think about the origin of food, becoming more responsible and demanding consumers on issues such as food security and sovereignty.
For all this and for many more things, it is worth having a garden at home. Do we start
A place with direct sunlight
We can create an urban garden almost anywhere, a small garden, a patio, a terrace, a balcony or even a window will allow us to grow our vegetables. But there is an indispensable question, which is to have a place with direct sunlight.
Vegetables, like the rest of the plants, need sunlight to obtain energy through photosynthesis.
In principle, the best orientation will be that which allows us a good amount of hours of direct light, usually south or southeast orientation, although we must also take into account the obstacles that we may have and that can create shadows (buildings, etc.).
In most cases we cannot choose between several locations for the garden and we have to adapt to the available space.
In any case, it will be important to assess the availability of sunlight that we have at different times of the year and assess what type of cultivation we are going to perform.
It may be that our space only allows cultivation in spring-summer, during which the path of the Sun is higher, having sufficient light, while in winter it receives no light.
However, there are spaces that have sufficient light throughout the year, and seasonal crops can be grown at each time.
Therefore, depending on the sunstroke we have, we will choose the vegetables we will grow.
If we have many hours of sunshine in summer, we will resort to demanding crops such as eggplants, tomatoes or peppers, while if we receive less hours of sunshine, we will opt for less demanding crops such as lettuce, onions, radishes, strawberries.
Containers and substrates
In a detached house with a small plot, we can use an area for our garden, defining the space and providing organic fertilizers to the soil that improve their physical-chemical conditions and fertility.
But if we do not have soil, we can create our garden using culture vessels and organic substrates.
We will always choose those that allow us a greater volume of substrate, depending on the available space that we have, being more important the total volume that can accommodate that not the depth of the container.
There are containers of all sizes and all materials, one option or another being better depending on the space and the type of crops we want to develop.
One of the most interesting is the cultivation table , with different lengths, widths and heights, it can be adapted very well to the available space allowing us to grow in a comfortable position.
We can also use planters , giving better results of wood because of its insulating capacity of the substrate against heat or cold outside.
Other options are geotextile containers or textile pots that have as their great advantage their lightness or vertical gardens that adapt very well to the smallest spaces.
The most appropriate is to use organic substrates, which should.
- Be light, to allow us to handle it easily and not overload our terraces or balconies.
- Have adequate porosity, which allows for good aeration (air circulation that allows the roots to breathe) and water retention (which allows a reservoir of water to be created in the substrate available to the roots).
- Retain essential nutrients.
These 3 requirements are met by composted organic substrates, such as vermicompost (organic residue digested by the California earthworm), which will also act as fertilizer by providing all the nutrients the plant needs.
Another substrate that does not provide many nutrients but has some of the properties mentioned (lightness, aeration, water retention and nutrient retention) is coconut fiber .
Therefore, it may be interesting to compose our substrate by combining one that provides good structural conditions (coconut fiber) and another that acts as fertilizer providing nutrients and properties of organic matter (vermicompost).
The appropriate proportion could be 60% coconut fiber and 40% vermicompost.
Every time we finish a crop cycle and remove the plants, it is convenient to remove the substrate to avoid compaction that it undergoes over time, to improve porosity and prevent the formation of cracks, in addition to making a new contribution of compost or vermicompost , to replenish the nutrients that have been consumed or washed.
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Irrigation Systems for the Garden
In the containers, water runs out more easily than in the soil, which will force us to be more aware of irrigation.
On the other hand, sometimes, we fall into an excess of water that can cause a washing, and therefore loss, of essential nutrients for the plant.
For this reason, one of the most important tasks and where we have to be more precise is in irrigation, always seeking to maintain a constant humidity, adjusting it to the time of year and the vegetables we are growing.
We can water manually, which will be a good method especially in small orchards (3 or 4 pots).
The most appropriate, in this case, is the use of the shower and do the irrigation little by little to avoid the formation of cracks in the substrate.
On the other hand, if we have a relatively large orchard and especially if we receive a lot of sunshine during the summer season, it is very helpful to install a drip irrigation system with a programmer.
This system will allow us to control the irrigation flow rate and frequency more accurately, providing the substrate with the water it needs, without wasting it and without causing excessive irrigation.
There are complete self-watering kits on the market that adapt very well to small urban gardens .
We also have the option of self-watering planters, which have a water tank in the lower part that keeps the substrate permanently moist. This system can give good results especially in less demanding vegetables with water.
Any of the aforementioned irrigation systems can be good, although its proper functioning will depend on the substrate being of good quality and well structured, since this will allow water to have a good horizontal distribution and not so much vertical when watering. .
If the structure of the substrate is not adequate, the water tends to seep through the cracks that form and will end up being lost below the substrate, before soaking it properly.
Seeds and Saplings
Once we have clear the space that we are going to use, the containers that we are going to use, the substrate and the form of irrigation, we can only get the plants that we are going to grow, which we can develop from seeds or seedlings.
For the beginner farmer we recommend starting to grow using seedlings.
More and more nurseries near the cities that offer schools (especially in spring) due to the significant increase in home garden enthusiasts.
This is an interesting option for those who start growing because, although we do not see the first part of the plant cycle, it greatly simplifies the tasks of the garden.
Little by little, as we gain experience, we can combine the use of seeds and seedlings, preferably opting for the use of organic seeds.
Finally, in an advanced phase of our experience as urban farmers, we can also consider obtaining seeds from our own crops, selecting the most vigorous plants that have produced the best harvest.
Sowing, transplanting and harvesting are undoubtedly the most attractive tasks in the garden at home.
Next, we detail each of these activities.
Sowing the garden
The sowing can be done in a seedbed, protecting the plant in its first stages of development, or directly in its final location, in the case of vegetables that do not support transplantation such as carrots, radishes or beans.
For most of the vegetables it will be interesting to make a protected planting in the seedbed, since in addition to protecting the plant, it will allow us to take better advantage of the garden space, making the selection of the plants that we are going to grow in the seedbed and taking them to the final container when they have a certain development.
In the market there are many types of seedlings:
- Plastic alveoli(in trays or individual). They have the advantage that they can be recycled, as long as they are washed well after each use.
- Peat alveoli(in trays or individual). Peat is a type of substrate, so when transplanting it is not necessary to remove the root ball but rather the entire alveolus is planted, the impact on the plants being less.
- Pressed peat tablets. They are comfortable, since it is not necessary to provide extra substrate, you just have to wet the tablet.
- Seedlings protected. Some seedbeds include a transparent lid to prevent frost damage or temperature changes, or to advance planting.
- Electric seedbed. We ensure in winter a temperature above 20 degrees, which greatly facilitates the germination of our seeds.
- Recycled seedbeds. As small seedbeds we can also use small containers such as yogurt containers.
The steps to follow when making a seedbed are:
- Find a place where you pretty sun. Although later at night (in unprotected seedbeds) the seedbed must be protected in another place safe from low temperatures.
- Put the substrate. The same substrate is used as in the final containers. In the case of seedbeds on a tray, a tip, once the substrate has been spread, take a few small blows so that the substrate settles and puts more.
- Sembrar. The depth at which the seed is buried is 2 or 3 times its diameter, but in the case of smaller ones such as strawberries, they are mixed with fine sand and this mixture is distributed.
- Regar. In this first phase the plant is very sensitive to the lack of water, so the substrate must always be moist. When watering the watering can be used near the seedbed and making a pendular movement.
- Clear up. If several seeds have germinated by alveolus, it is necessary to make a clearing leaving a seedling, which we see stronger.
When the new germinated plants have several true leaves (without being cotyledons) and their height is greater than that of the container, it will be time to do the transplant following these recommendations:
- Remove the root ball from the socket or container. Better if one day before it has watered because the root ball will come out more easily if it is somewhat wet, on the contrary it is not necessary to try it if it is dry or encharcado. If it stays stuck anyway, with a few small strokes it will separate, although it must be done carefully in the case of cucurbitaceae (cucumbers, zucchini, ..). On the other hand, lettuces, onions or cabbages carry this operation better, being able to transplant even to bare roots.
- Plant in the final container. Once we put the plant in its final location, it is convenient to slap a little around the stem to ensure that there is no air bag between the roots and the earth, but without going over because we can compact the substrate.
- Regar. The first irrigation after transplantation must be abundant, so that the substrate settles and the roots are well in contact with it.
Harvest of fruits in the garden
This is the most grateful task of working in the garden, but you have to know how to take the point and choose the best time to collect.
The crops in which we get fruits, the right time may be when they are ripe, like tomato when it turns red. However, cucumbers and zucchini must be collected before they mature and form the seed .
Most leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach, chard) will allow us to cut leaves as we need them without the need to tear them away, so if we consume according to our demand, the crop will last longer.
In addition, with garlic and onions, we will have a crop of tender if we collect it before and dry if we leave them longer.
Starting from the base that we want to practice as ecological agriculture as possible, the first thing we have to understand is that in our crops all kinds of insects and other organisms will appear, which will make up the “microecosystem” in which our urban garden will become .
This is a good thing, we should not pretend to have an aseptic space, in fact the more varied the biodiversity associated with our garden, the more stable and resistant to pests it will be.
However, to ensure success we can use products of proven efficacy and recognition:
In addition, the study and observation of all this “life” and the relationships established between different living beings is one of the most enriching issues for the city farmer.
The main method of control and fight against pests and diseases that must be carried out by the organic farmer, must be “doing things right.”
That is, to carry out all those practices that will make our small garden a fertile, resistant, stable, biodiverse space, etc.
Some of these practices are: rotations, associations, the use of organic matter as the main fertilizer for our crops, adequate irrigation, etc.
Now, even if we put into practice all these practices, some of the living things that are installed in our garden can be harmful and even become a plague or cause diseases in our plants.
In these cases, we must identify the causes and act through effective products and procedures.
We can differentiate 2 types of problems in our crops :
- Diseases, produced by fungi, bacteria and viruses.
- Damage by pests, animals, especially insects and arachnids.
They are more difficult to diagnose and treat, since, except in some cases, we will not directly observe the cause of the problem and we will have to diagnose it by observing its effects (eg, “stabbing” the tomato leaves produced by the virus the spoon).
In these cases, we must act primarily in a preventive way, strengthening our plants with good organic fertilizers such as earthworm humus and with organic fertilizers such as nettle extract that enhances the natural defenses of plants.
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We can also use in the case of fungal diseases, which are usually the most common (such as powdery mildew , Mildiu or bold) more specific treatments both preventively, and in the early stages of development, some of them are the extract of horsetail or propolis, both natural products harmless to people.
Additionally, we can treat these problems with fungicides in a timely manner.
If we finally have affected plants, we must eliminate the damaged parts (leaves and stems) or even eliminate whole plants to prevent the spread of the disease to neighboring plants.
Plagues in the garden
They are easier to identify, since we can usually observe directly the agent causing the problem.
In these cases, before acting, we must assess whether the potentially plague agent is actually causing a problem or remains in a low and stable population that does not cause serious problems.
This is important, since sometimes having a low and stable population of some pest insect such as the aphid can be even interesting as it will attract beneficial insects for the garden such as ladybugs.
If, on the contrary, we consider that we have a pest that is damaging our crops , we will act as follows:
- Assess whether we are making mistakes in some practice (excess or lack of irrigation, excess subscriber, off-season cultivation, lack of sunstroke.). This is very important, since many times the appearance of a pest indicates weakness of the plant due to mishandling (a clear example is the massive aphid aphid, which is indicative of a large concentration of nitrogen in the plant sage , due to an excess of subscriber especially if we use liquid fertilizers, which makes them very attractive to these sucking insects).
- Manual elimination of insects. This is a very effective way to control pests in very small orchards, such as terrace or balcony orchards and against very visible pests such as deflector caterpillars.
- Elimination of damaged parts (leaves and stems).
- Treatment with organic products . When we have extended pests and difficult to eliminate manually, we can use organic products, such as:
- Potassium soap: contact insecticide that weakens the exoskeleton of insects. It is used mainly for the control of attacks of sucking insects such as aphids, cochineal or whitefly .
- Neem oil: it is a natural insecticide that is extracted from the fruit of this tree, which acts against a wide range of pests such as: whitefly , miner, red spider , thrips, aphids , louse, potato beetle, bed bugs . The joint action of potassium soap and neem makes the treatment even more effective.
- Bacillus thuringiensis: it is a toxin that these bacteria produce, totally harmless to humans and useful fauna, which acts in a very selective way with the caterpillars of many pest species such as tuta, heliothis, plúidos, green donut, the cabbage butterfly etc.
In any case, the appearance of a plague in our crops, should not discourage us but quite the opposite, stimulate our curiosity to learn and improve the knowledge of the different living beings of our garden and in the management of organic farming techniques .