Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while also creating and nurturing something. It’s a fascinating process that many farmers and do-it-yourselfers have spent their whole lives perfecting. There are many ways to grow, so hopefully this guide will help you get started. Happy planting!
When to Start
First, consider what you can grow in your area and in which season you should plant it. Each area in the U.S. is classified as a certain climate zone, often called a growing zone, and you can find your area’s zone online. You can search for spring or fall planting guides to help guide your new endeavor, and the guide for your area will tell you when to start seeds or when to transplant them into your garden. You can also look at the back of a seed packet to identify the growing zones and when to plant in your region.
Healthy Soil = Healthy Plants
Plants get nutrients from the soil, so your soil will determine the health of your plants. There are various options to choose from, including organic soil mixes, compost and fertilizers. Compost is a nutrient-rich soil created by organic matter breaking down over time, like food scraps, wood and more. Compost takes time to make, as microbes must work on breaking down the organic matter a little at a time. Fertilizer is more concentrated than compost and can feed the plants more quickly. Often, the soil in your yard will be either too hard, like clay, or too sandy. Adding different components to your soil can help balance out the consistency. You can get your soil tested to find its pH and mineral content, but it’s a good idea to add some compost or fertilizer to the area you’ll be growing in no matter what. Most plants thrive at a pH between 6 and 7, and different components can be added to raise or lower your soil’s pH. A typical soil mix for creating soil from scratch is 60% topsoil, 30% compost and 10% potting soil. The Kroger Co. Family of Stores offers various soils, potting mixes and soil test kits that you can find here.
Different Ways to Start
- To Start from Seeds: The general rule is to start seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost in your growing zone. Starting the seeds indoors gives you a jump on the season, especially in areas with longer, colder winters. Seeds are available at your local store in the early spring to give enough time to start them indoors. When starting seeds indoors, you should use a potting mix designated for fruit, vegetables and herbs. Usually, one type of potting mix will cover all these types of plants. And many of the potting mixes come with added fertilizer to help feed the seedlings; they’re made for indoor use with little to no insects.
- Transplanting Young Plants: Young fruit, vegetable and herb plants are usually available in-store after the first frost. You can pick these up on your next grocery run and determine whether you want to transplant them to the ground or a raised garden bed, or keep them in pots. As a general rule, most plants need a pot that is at least 10” in diameter and 12” deep for sufficient root growth. Fruit trees and bushes are usually planted in the ground and will have instructions on the tag. Potting mix is generally used for pots, as it drains differently than the mixes for raised beds and ground gardening. Consider a potting mix or garden soil with added fertilizer or compost for enhanced growth to get started. Ideal soil mixes for raised beds and ground gardening are covered below.
- Direct Seed Planting: Planting the seeds directly into an outdoor pot or garden is another option. If choosing this route, you often have to wait until the last frost day in your area to plant. You’ll have to wait longer for your plants to grow, but it can be a good option for those in warmer climates, like the South or Southwest. You can use a raised garden bed or plant directly into the ground. Check out some of our seed offerings here.
- Hydroponics and Aeroponics: This is a quickly growing science and differs from growing in soil. In hydroponics, the roots of the plant soak in water, and in aeroponics, the roots are sprayed with a constant mist. Both innovative forms of gardening require a stricter addition of nutrients since water doesn’t contain all the plants’ necessary nutrients. However, these two options are worth exploring for those wanting to grow indoors when conditions outside aren’t ideal.
What to Plant?
When deciding what to plant, you must first consider what you can plant in your area, based on the sun available to you each day and your growing zone. Some plants need full sun, meaning eight or more hours of sun a day, while other plants can thrive in a shadier spot. Most fruits and vegetables can be grown in the spring or summer. However, many root vegetables and squashes, like sweet potatoes or pumpkins, are started in the summer for the fall. If you miss one season, you can always get ready for the next! Here are the basic categories of what to grow:
- Vegetables: Vegetables give us so many phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals for a healthy lifestyle. Most vegetables we think of are suited for summer growing, like green beans, peppers, tomatoes and lettuces. Starchier vegetables like corn, potatoes and squash are often started in the summer for the fall harvest. Most vegetables are annuals, meaning you must replant them every year. Kale and collards will winter over, meaning they’ll last for up to a year and a half!
- Fruits: Fruits are fun to grow, as many love the excitement of biting into a sweet piece of fruit they’ve grown themselves. Many fruits are perennial, meaning they’ll come back every year. Plenty of fruits grow on trees, so consider planting an apple, pear or mulberry tree for years of fruit-picking fun!
- Herbs: Herbs are a great way to add fresh flavor to your meals without adding additional sodium! They can often be grown indoors year-round with the right care. Herbs often have up to five times the antioxidants found in vegetables and contain many different vitamins and minerals. Some common herbs to grow are basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, mint and oregano.
- Grains and Dry Beans: It’s possible for you to grow your own grains and dry beans in your yard as well. This type of growth can be more involved, and sometimes it’s harder to find these seeds and plants in stores. Look for more on this subject to come!
Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.
1. “How to Grow a Plentiful Container Vegetable Garden” Better Homes and Gardens. https://www.bhg.com/gardening/vegetable/vegetables/growing-vegetables-in-containers
2. The basics: “Gardening in Raised Beds” Gardeners.com https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/raised-bed-basics/8565.html
3. “How Does Fertilizer Work?” LoveTheGarden.com https://www.lovethegarden.com/uk-en/article/how-does-fertiliser-work