Create a Natural Kitchen Garden

For many people, the idea of growing their own food is intimidating, but it’s not as tough as you might think. You just have to keep in mind some key steps for successfully creating your own kitchen garden in your backyard or on your patio.

__Sunshine:__ Choose a spot that gets six to eight hours of sun daily. Plants will produce more if they have full sun. If you must choose between morning or afternoon sun, choose the morning.

__Water:__ Learn about the water needs of the plants you’re growing. For example, once established, herbs do not need to be watered as regularly as vegetable plants. Be sure to water the roots, not the leaves. On hot summer days, if water is sprayed from above, it can dissipate before being taken in by the plant. This means you’ve wasted your time watering and wasted money on your water bill. A good rule of thumb is to water as close to the ground as possible. And water for a good amount of time so the water has the opportunity to really soak down into the roots. If you practice the idea of long and deep watering rather than short and shallow, you’ll have happier plants and you won’t have to water as frequently.

__Fertilize: __Use organic fertilizers such as composted manure, worm castings, bone meal, blood meal, seaweed and guano. These are slow-release fertilizers/soil amendments and will enhance the quality of your soil, which makes your plants healthy and happy.

__Drainage: __Plants need to breathe. Add compost to the soil or rocks in the bottom of a container so the roots don’t suffocate and rot.

__Compost: __Between seasons or planting new items in the garden, add a couple inches of compost to your garden. This will provide valuable nutrients to the soil that your plants will love.

__Grow what you love:__ If you won’t eat tomatoes every day, don’t grow them. If you love salads, use a heat-tolerant variety of lettuce like “buttercrunch” bibb or “little gem” romaine. Lettuces also can be grown in part shade in the summer months (morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal). Herbs are also a fragrant garden addition and can be added to just about any dish.

If you don’t have the space or time to devote to a home garden, come garden with the Charleston Parks Conservancy. We are now leasing beds at our new community garden in West Ashley. Plus, we’ll have plenty of opportunities for you to volunteer in the garden with us so you can take home a few fresh goodies and lots of great gardening know-how. For more information, contact Leslie Wade, community garden coordinator, at lwade@charlestonparksconservancy.org

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