Homegrown: Easier than you think

You may think growing your own vegetables sounds like a daunting task, but starting small with some potted plants can be surprisingly easy (even for someone who doesn’t have a green thumb). Last year was my first year with a garden and let’s just say….I learned a lot about what not to do again this year! I definitely have room for improvement as a gardener myself, but I know that when a vegetable you planted does well, it can be extremely satisfying.

“The food you grow yourself is fresher than any you can buy,” says Michael Pollan, and I have to say that I didn’t even think I liked tomatoes until I tried homegrown ones. I was amazed at the difference in taste compared to what you can buy at the grocery store (not to mention how much more nutritious homegrown vegetables are). We already established that farmers’ markets and CSA’s are fabulous resources for getting fresh, locally grown produce, but why not consider growing some food yourself?

All you have to do is go down to Home Depot, Lowe’s or another reliable plant source (for those in Charlotte I like Renfrow Hardware) and spend a nominal amount of money on:

  • 1 plastic or clay pot (or a big bucket would do the trick)
  • 1 tomato plant of your choice
  • Some gardening soil and compost to mix together into your pot
  • 1 tomato cage (to support the plant as it grows)
  • 1 small bag of organic fertilizer (our local plant supplier recommended Plant-tone or Tomato-tone to me which you can find at Lowe’s)

If you are feeling motivated also consider getting a 2nd or 3rd pot to start growing some herbs as well. My basil is one of the plants that did incredibly well last year (even for someone with hardly any experience like me!) and the flavor also goes so well with tomatoes. Once you have obtained your supplies it is important to know that you need to bury half or more of your tomato plant (including leaves) when planting it. Then find a super sunny spot for it on your deck or in your yard. Be sure to water it every day for about the first week and then every few days after that. Don’t forget to sprinkle a handful of the organic fertilizer around the base of the plant right after you plant it and then every 3 – 4 weeks thereafter (mark your calendar as a reminder)!

Mid-April to mid-May is the optimal time to plant tomatoes (as well as a lot of other vegetables) here in the Southeast. To find out the optimal time for planting vegetables in your area just enter your zip code in the USDA Hardiness Zone Finder map and then click on the Planting Zone Schedule for your zone (on the left-hand side of the screen). About 2 or 3 months after you get your plants in the ground (or pot) be ready to enjoy some of your very first flavorful, juicy tomatoes. Happy planting to you!

International Inspiration

Before you go grab your garden gloves, here is another little reminder that you don’t need a spacious, flat yard to grow your own food. Check out all these vertical gardens that we saw in Europe!

vertical gardens

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  • Comments

    1. Nicole |

      We love our garden – it gives us a chance to eat really fresh (and more delicious) veggies and cuts down on the grocery bill in the summer, which is no small thing! And it also reduces our waste bill (and our waste, which is good in itself) by giving us a solid reason to compost. We’re on our third year of having a big raised bed for tomatoes, beans and lettuce and have added some side gardens for the overwhelming creeping plants like zucchini and cucumbers… and an herb garden that thrives even when we don’t give it any attention (oregano, thyme, rosemary and mint). I can’t recommend having your own garden enough!

      Oh, and all those veggies that my 5 year old won’t eat inside (at least not without a fight) he gobbles as he picks outside. Win-win-win.

    2. Deborah Eubanks |

      This is my first year gardening, and I’m quite disappointed, really. The amount of work and expense has far outweighed any benefits. I planted 10 strawberry plants and didn’t even harvest a pint of strawberries! I planted 8 tomato plants, and so far have only harvested 3 tomatos. I picked them too soon, they weren’t quite ripe. I do have more to pick, waiting for them to ripen, but not nearly what I’d expect from so many plants. Maybe more fertilizing, maybe more watering would have increased my yield some. I don’t know. I will plant again next year, thinking cherry or grape tomatoes for my smaller pots, and maybe bell peppers for my larger pots. I should research winter gardening, see what I can do over the winter months while I’m recovering from the summer garden. :) The eternal optimist in me.

      • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill) |

        Hi Deborah. Stick with it. If you pick the tomatoes green, they will ripen on your windowsill. I had to do that with some of mine because I was having problems battling the deer. Fertilizing is key. I found that when I did, all of a sudden a whole new crop popped up. I just got an organic fertilizer at Lowes. It was my first year too but I did get nice tomatoes and peppers as well as squash and a lot of spices. There’s lots of info out there to research…but, I would say fertilizing helped me a lot. Hope you will give it another go. Jill

    3. Katie |

      I know this is an older post, but I would encourage you to not buy your seeds from any hardware store. Most are genetically modified seeds. You want to look for heritage seeds online, and buy them that way. A bit more expensive, and usually from seed, but they are much better for you :)

    4. Nicole |

      Ive always had a garden, and we have typically froze our veggies. I often find that I can’t use them up quick enough before they get freezer burned. I was curious what way do you perfer to store you garden veggies….
      Canned-> if so, how do you can yours?
      Frozen-> have any tips from keeping them looking nicer longer?

    5. Jennifer |

      I’m interested in starting a garden this year and have been browsing your website for suggestions. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for purchasing seeds/plants. Here you mention buying them from Home Depot or a Hardware store. Is it important to make sure they are organic and GMO-free plants/seeds? Do you have any resources on that? Thanks so much!

    6. Kim |

      Great post! I’ve been gardening with raised beds and containers for about 12 years now (I’m in Maryland). We have limited direct sunlight in our yard, but I still plant a lot of tomato plants to increase my chances of having enough come mid-summer. Spring and fall is so great for lettuces, spinach, and arugula, but they don’t like our hot summers.

      I love containers for all kinds of herbs, and you can grow green onions in them too. I try to have a container each for cilantro and green onions, and I plant seed in 1/4 of the pot every week or so. That way you can have a rotating crop all summer – once they’re ready to harvest you reseed that area. It’s especially great for cilantro since it bolts to flower in the heat.

      One note about tomatoes in containers: you should look for determinate variety, meaning they grow more as a bush, whereas indeterminate are vines. If you don’t have a good support structure, indeterminates won’t be happy and also have a greater chance of blowing over.

      • Deborah |

        I AGREE! They put pesticides on plants and kill bees!!!

    7. Betty |

      I am going to try to do some gardening but in the past had problems with worms on my tomatoes and other bugs. Can you give me any ideas on how to keep these away without using the harsh pesticides?

      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Hi Betty. This article will give you lots of info: http://eartheasy.com/grow_nat_pest_cntrl.htm. I use beneficial insects like Ladybugs and my favorite insecticidal weapon is Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castille Soap. :)

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