Growing a vegetable garden at home is easy to do. Some communities provide public garden space for apartment dwellers or families with no backyard. In areas where drought is a problem, many gardeners practice water-wise vegetable gardening, using the organic growing methods that reduce water needs. Vegetable gardening can also improve your health and quality of life.
Growing a vegetable garden is good for your health and produces nutritional food. "Tending your garden is a real stress-buster," says Noble Foundation horticulturist Steve Upson, "helping relieve feelings of anxiety and providing a break from the general rush of life." Digging, planting, weeding and harvesting are all physical activities that improve strength and endurance. Food grown in the home garden can be free of pesticides and unwanted fertilizer chemicals.
A vegetable garden is best suited in a sunny location with a nearby water source. Choose a spot that gets 6 to 8 hours of sun each day. Some vegetables, such as lettuce, chard and kale, can be grown in the partial shade of a tree or retaining wall. Urban dwellers use containers for vegetable gardening, which is also a good way to keep vegetables close to the house for easy care. A vegetable garden can also be created from an area of lawn.
Growing and eating summer squash, beets, corn, radish, bush beans and salad greens increase the levels of phytochemicals in the body. Phytochemicals are nonnutritive chemicals that have disease-preventative properties and include antioxidants. Organic tomatoes have been found to have a higher level of cancer-preventing antioxidants than conventionally grown tomatoes, according to a recent study at the University of California at Davis.
Types of Vegetables
A vegetable garden can be started most easily in the late spring or summer. Tomatoes and summer squash germinate in soil above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Vegetables in the cole and cabbage family thrive in the cooler weather of fall. Radish and the many varieties of salad greens can be planted successively from early spring to fall. In hot summer months, they grow well under the protective leaves of squash plants. Turnips easily withstand cold weather and are said to be sweeter tasting after the first frost.
Drip irrigation and mulching are two ways to conserve water in the vegetable garden. Drip irrigation is a method that uses a hose with tiny holes in it to allow a constant drip of water, losing none to evaporation. Add a layer of straw or leaf mulch to the garden to keep the soil cool and conserve water. Mulch also prevents weeds from germinating.