10 Steps to Take Food from the Garden to the Table

Save money and add fresh veggies to your diet in no time.

If you want the freshest produce possible, consider planting your own home garden—after all, you can’t get any closer to your kitchen table than your own backyard. Growing your own vegetables is thrifty, too. According to the National Gardening Association, the average family with a garden spends $70 on their crops—but they grow an estimated $600 worth of veggies!

To get started, here are 10 steps recommended by the National Gardening Association.

  1. Choose the right spot. Choose a location for the garden that has plenty of sun, ample space and close proximity to your hose or water source. Find a level area to help prevent erosion.
     
  2. Select your veggies. Decide what produce to include based on your climate, space, tastes and level of expertise. Newcomers may want to consider some of the easier crops to grow, like carrots, beans, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce.
     
  3. Prepare soil. Mix compost and natural fertilizers into your garden to condition the soil for your plants. Garden-supply stores can test the acidity of your soil and recommend supplements, or you can simply purchase specially made soil in bulk.
     
  4. Design a plan. Growing conditions and ripening cycles are different depending on the plant and the season, so you should not sow all the seeds at the same time. Review the ideal conditions for each veggie you want to plant before creating a gardening schedule.
     
  5. Get your hands dirty. Place your seeds or plants into the soil, following the depth and spacing directions carefully. Beginners and experts alike may benefit from the Nourishmat, a 4’x6’ mat with holes that indicate precisely how to space out individual plants.
     
  6. Just add water. Gently spray the garden with water to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season. Purchase a spray nozzle for your hose so you can create a gentle rain-like mist for your garden.
     
  7. Keep the weeds out. Mulching is the most effective way to prevent weeds. Add a 2- to 4-inch-thick layer of organic mulch to your garden to keep the weeds from overtaking your crops.
     
  8. Give your plants room to grow. If weeds do appear in the garden, grab them low on their stems and yank sharply, making sure to extract the entire root. Also be sure to remove crowded seedlings right away.
     
  9. Fertilize as needed. Lightly till the soil by hand and add fertilizer to keep it rich. You can purchase prepared garden fertilizer or make your own from items like Epsom salt, eggshells, fish tank water and kitchen compost.
     
  10. Reap what you sow. Harvest vegetables when they’re young and tender—but only pick them when you plan to use them. Pull root crops as soon as they reach edible size. Collect leaf crops by cutting them to within 2 inches of the ground. Finally, enjoy your harvest!
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