A Statement About GCG's Response to COVID-19 Learn More
Growing food at home has multiple benefits. At GCG, we believe strongly in the value of having a home vegetable garden- we help people install and maintain them for a living! The uncertainty around our food system and access to fresh ingredients during this ongoing crisis emphasizes the importance of keeping our food chain as close to the source as possible ,now more than ever. This concept is, in fact, not new to us Americans. A national “Victory Garden” campaign was launched during WW1 and WW2, promoting the cultivation of available private lands to increase local food production thereby greatly reducing shipping costs and helping the war effort. Even when not in times of war or crisis, homegrown produce can also taste better, retain more nutrients than store-bought options, and is a more environmentally sustainable way to produce food. Lots of good things come from growing-your-own!
For crops to thrive, they ideally need a space on your property that have 6 or more hours of sunlight. Crops that you eat the leaf or root of (ex: beets, parsley, lettuce mix, radishes) can grow with less light, with 4 hours being sufficient. Plants that you eat the fruit of (ex: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers) need their 6 hours.
We suggest using the app SunSeeker to track the sun’s trajectory and learn about your space. This app is a great tool and can help you assess your windowsill, deck, or yard space to see if enough light is available.
Note: if you are growing in a windowsill, assume you likely won’t have more than 4 hours of light for your crops and choose herbs of leafy greens. There are lots of grow light products available to assist with growing indoors!
We know everyone’s space is different. Some of you will live in apartment buildings without outdoor access, while others may have acres of available land. Sunlight is the deciding factor for where a garden should go on your property. Once you know how much light you have, what needs to happen prepare the space?
Gardens can look very different- some folk till up an area of their yard, other use pots or even recycled milk crates to grow. Whatever structure you choose- be it a raised-bed like the ones GCG installs, containers, or growing directly in your yard- drainage and soil quality are key factors for success. Make sure the soil mix you are using allows water to flow through it and not pool, and if you are using containers, make sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom of the container. If you are concerned that there may be contaminants in your soil, you can send a soil test in to you local university’s extension soil testing lab** to test for heavy metals. Regardless, if you are converting lawn space to an in-ground garden, we suggest testing the soil so see what amendments should be added to prep it for growing vegetables instead of grass.
**Due to COVID-19, labs are currently closed. We suggest growing in containers with soil purchased from a local farm or garden center in the meantime.
Container soil mixes are best, but your local farm or garden center should be able to help you identify the best growing mix for what you’re trying to produce. Green City Growers also sells yards of our soil mix for delivery in Eastern MA.
It is important to plan out your garden before you start planting. Consider the time of year you will be planting and which crops will grow best at that time. You won’t have much luck growing tomatoes in April, and your lettuce will likely bolt if you try to plant it in mid-July. This information is available on the seed packet!
Another tip: Plant your taller crops are on the north side of your raised beds. This way, they won’t shade out your smaller plants as the sun moves through the sky. Here is an example crop map that considers seasonality and plant height:
There are two basic methods to plant: by planting seeds directly into the ground or by using transplants (or ‘starts’) that you have purchased or grown indoors. When a spring crop is finished, you can replant that square with a summer crop, and later for a fall crop. For both seeds and starts, draw a grid with your fingers inside each square foot to make the appropriate number of squares (4, 9, or 16) and plant seeds or seedlings in the center of each newly drawn square. Always remember to label where you have planted which seeds or transplants.
Generally, seeds should be planted at a depth of two times their size in cold weather, or four times their size in hot weather (approximately 1/8 to 1 inch). Plant seeds below a moist surface to prevent them from drying out. After planting, gently tap the soil down on top of the seed to bring it into contact with the soil. The best way to water newly planted seeds is with a light mist or spray from the hose so that they are not unearthed.
To transplant, dig a hole slightly larger than the container in which the seedling is growing. With vegetables, bury the plant up to the first set of leaves. Pat down the soil firmly around the plant and smooth it around the stem at a slight decline so that water drains toward the plant.
“Vertical crops” such as peas, pole beans and cucumbers grow well on trellises, which will conserve space. Plant the seeds in a line underneath the trellis and train them to climb by twisting the main stem through the trellis once a week.
After planting, water each seedling immediately and every day for the next few days until they are established, keeping them moist, but not drenched. To water, pour warm water directly at the base of the plant. Only water the base of plants – wet leaves are more susceptible to fungal diseases. The best time to water is early in the morning.
Water frequently (every one or two days,) based on the weather how your plants look, and what the soil feels like. Plants need more water if it is hot and sunny than if it is cool or cloudy. If plants turn yellow, they are getting too much water. If they are wilting, they are not getting enough. If the top one or two inches of the soil feel dry, it is time to water. Water the soil deeply to encourage deep root growth.
Please refer to our guide for where to buy supplies from home. Green City Growers installs raised-beds, provides planting and consulting visits, and we can also do home delivery for seeds and horticultural materials.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if we can help you get started. GCG offers garden bed installations, ongoing maintenance and education plans, along with other gardening tools and resources to help you succeed.
Email us in firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
We’ve made all of our gardening handouts available for FREE! These are our go-to guides for planting and maintaining a home garden. You can check them out and download them here:
To learn all about organic pest and disease management, proper harvesting techniques, soil maintenance, and more, you can also purchase a copy of our comprehensive how-to book, “The Urban Bounty- How to Grow Fresh Food, Anywhere”. All the information you need to get growing shipped to your door.