COVID-19, the great disrupter of everyday life. Thanks to this dangerous virus we’re all “camping out” at home with our families. And, as much as we love them and are thankful for this time we have together, let’s face it, we need something more to do than just look at each other all day.
All of us, at one point or another during this time, have contemplated what exactly is left for us to do at home. We’ve cleaned everything, gone through storage to see just what exactly is in that unlabeled box in the garage or attic, and we’ve played every board game in the house and remade every TikTok video there is. So, what else is there to do? The answer is gardening.
Gardening is a great pastime that many people have taken up in recent years. There’s just something about successfully growing your own food, even in a small rooftop garden, that just makes you feel good inside. Anyone can garden and the rewards are oh so satisfying. Starting a fruit and vegetable garden gives you a look at the process of planting, maintaining, watering, and eating the final product. With a little TLC, you can enjoy the bounty of your harvest that is healthier and tastier than many of the commercially grown store-bought crops. If you are ready to dive into home gardening, here are some things to keep in mind.
Soil is probably one of the biggest factors to consider when gardening. If your solid is too dry, too wet, or doesn’t have enough nutrients for plants to thrive in can spell disaster. They say “A poor gardener grows weeds, a good gardener grows plants, but a great gardener grows soil.” Soil has organic materials and microorganisms and contains EVERYTHING that plants need. These days, you can buy soil that contains plant boosting additives or you can buy the additives separately.
The other big factor is sunlight — vegetable plants require at least six to eight hours of sun for optimum growth. But in Texas, heat is something you need to factor in when deciding what to plant. The downside with any vegetable garden is the heat and intense sunlight of our summers. A shade structure can help alleviate this issue and protect your precious plants.
What to plant
First, think about where you live. This will ultimately determine what will grow best and what will eventually founder. Because of this, you will need to make a plan. Decide how big a garden you want to maintain, then decide what you want to plant, and try not to overwhelm yourself either. Also be sure to research your plants because, as with anywhere, there is a planting schedule that you will need to follow.
Fruits and Vegetables
A good rule to remember is that most vegetables are planted much sooner than fruits. Vegetables are planted in late winter, spring, and early summer. Fruits are planted in early to late summer, fall, and some in winter.
For vegetables being planted in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, carrots, onions, potatoes, and zucchini are some of the best to grow. Peppers will generally keep producing in the heat, so one or two of those would make good additions and focus on the smaller tomato varieties, at first, such as cherry tomatoes, which tend to grow better in the Texas heat.
For fruits being planted, apples, berries, cherries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, melons, peaches, plums, nectarines, pears, and pomegranates are great to plant. But remember that some fruit plants, like fruit trees, can take a while (sometimes a year or more) to really produce a quality harvest.
One of the most popular plants people add to their gardens, especially in apartments, are herbs! Herbs are some of nature’s most versatile gifts. They can be used for culinary masterpieces, medicinal remedies, and even repelling or attracting certain types of insects like mosquitoes and butterflies. Popular varieties to grow in North Texas include basil, parsley, mint, thyme, oregano, chamomile, chives, cilantro, lemongrass, and rosemary.
Remember to start small
Something that makes sense to almost everybody is taking things slowly and starting small. If this is your first garden, start small and with a few easy plants to get your feet wet and build your confidence. Then next year, add a few more easy-intermediate level plants, and so on and so forth. Expect bumps in the road, too, as the seasons change. Plants are more resilient than we give them credit for, but more often than not we love them to death, literally. And usually, it’s with too much water. For plants, it can be the silent killer. Simply remember to check your garden daily for moisture needs and if any pesky little pests have appeared. Believe it or not, herbs would actually be much easier to start with for first-time gardeners. Mint is a fantastic example as to will run wild with very little care at all.
As you go just remember to enjoy yourself and your plants. It’s a given that success won’t happen in the blink of an eye but gardening can be a very meditative, therapeutic and stress-relieving process. If you let it.