Thursday, June 4, 2009

To Garden or Not to Garden: A Veggie Patch for Beginners

The recession has many people looking to the garden for ways to save money. While this is a good option, remember two things. One, don’t go hog wild and plant everything because you will spend too much money and too much time on your first effort, and, likely, have too much produce. Secondly, plant only what you like to eat and can preserve if that is an option.

If you’re as green as grass when it comes to gardening, North Americans’ favourite vegetable is the tomato. You can grow a decent cherry tomato, like Tiny Tom, or even Sweet 1,000,000 in a container on a sunny patio or balcony.

What will you need?

The pot:
Well, if you start with a small tomato plant, also start with a small pot, say a six inch pot. When the tomato outgrows the pot size (the soil will dry out quickly, and the tomato will likely topple over, pot and all), transplant into a larger pot.
If you end up with a tomato in a large pot, say, fourteen by fourteen, and have a large tomato, get thee to Wal-Mart and buy a tomato cage. This will help support the tomato and stop it from falling over and breaking.

Look for a good triple mix blend of soil. It should have peat moss, humus or top soil and some manure. Potting mixes with too much peat moss will dry out quickly and need fertilizing often.

While fertilizer is important, be gentle. Many people over fertilize. They read the label and think if 1 teaspoon per gallon is good, 2 must be better, so the fertilizer is too strong and may eventually kill the plant. Follow the instructions. Your plant will love you for it.
Fertilizer has three basic elements. These are nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and Potash (K). The safest bet is a fertilizer that has the same number in each category, like 10-10-10. However, for a tomato, since you want fruit, you need it to bloom, so get a fertilizer that has a higher middle number, something like 15- 30-15.
By the way, Miracle Grow really is good. So if you are serious about having blooming plants that bloom, invest in some.

All too often people over water their plants. Get real and get dirty! Stick your fingers in the soil to test for moisture. If this is utterly repulsive to you, perhaps you shouldn’t be gardening (ha ha ha), buy a water metre. Or, lift the pot. If it weighs more than your five year old son, it’s over watered. If it lifts off the floor very easily, it is too dry.
With watering, less is more. It is easier to add more water when needed than to wring it from the soil.

If you are in a hurry, and want tomatoes FAST, go to a reliable and reputable garden centre and purchase a cherry tomato that is already large, flowering and may even have tomatoes set. Do stay in your price range and do look after it. The point is to save money and have a tasty result in the end, not an empty pocket book and a dead stick that sort of resembles a tomato.

Happy Gardening,


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