While there are more than 40 million Americans who grow their own vegetables, what can you do if you live in a larger city where backyard space can be scarce? You might be surprised to find that you have several excellent options: community gardens are trying to involve new gardeners and to coordinate outreach efforts, and new hydroponic technology is revolutionizing our approach to gardening as a whole. If you’re wondering how to get started on gardening, there are a few things you have to do to prepare yourself for the growing season.
Most importantly, you should always plant vegetables that you like to eat, and be prepared to pick them before they get too big. People like to joke about baseball-bat-sized zucchinis, but they most emphatically do not like to eat them. You should taste your veggies once they get ripe to make sure they’re ready to pick: ripe is delicious, but overripe can attract bugs and insects to your garden plot. If you’re wondering where to grow vegetables in a city, you can often grow on your building’s roof: just ask your landlord.
Many serious gardeners are looking to enhance their plant health by growing vegetables hydroponically. If you want to invest in a hydroponic, indoor setup, you should know that plants will need about 10 hours of direct sunlight per day. You can also opt for an indoor lamp that is designed to give your plants high-quality, direct light. In general, hydroponically-grown plants tend to use less water than their outdoor buddies, and can be grown without the need for a chemical pest control product. Again, run your ideas past your landlord before you take over the living room.
In general, hydroponic famers get a much higher yield from vegetables and other plants that are grown indoors – some estimate that their yield is 400% that of a traditional garden. Often, outdoor pests consume and destroy up to three-quarters of a farmer’s yield during bad infestations, and farmers are starting to consider growing vegetables indoors in a hydroponic array. They want to be assured of a good crop, and if they grow indoors, they can avoid spending money on putting base nutrients back into their soil.
Long-term depletion of nutrients is something that every gardener has to deal with: hydroponic growers should look for base nutrients, and “rooting enhancers” to get their garden started. Expert growers are often willing to help new gardeners get set up, and can give tips about plant health and pH values. Again, start with vegetables that you know you will end up eating, canning, or giving away. Gardening should be fun and full of enjoyment, not full of zucchini – unless you like it.
A healthy plant is a happy plant, so start off with root enhancers and base nutrients to make sure that your seedlings have enough “oomph” to get a good start. The ideal combination of base nutrients may vary by cultivar, and some veteran gardeners may take a while to shift to the idea of long-term hydroponic growing. If you have delicate plants, like orchids, you may find that growing indoors can be rewarding, as long as you make sure to feed plants regularly. What would you do if you could guarantee four times as many tomatoes each year? You could have fresh vegetables in the middle of the winter.
Take your time and plan your garden before you plant it. If you want to grow on your rooftop or in a community garden, make sure that you bring your pruning shears and other equipment with you so you don’t have to make repeat trips. Make sure to stay hydrated if you’re gardening outside, and invest in a pair of gardening gloves. If you’re growing indoors, talk to an experienced hydroponic grower or hydroponic store before you start buying new equipment. Gardening is a wonderful way to connect with nature, and people who garden tend to do it for decades.