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Backyard Garden Basics: How to Get Started

Home gardening is one hobby that pays for itself. It gives you fresh food that tastes great, a little outdoor exercise, and the chance to control the chemicals or additives that touch your food. If you’re in Ohio, you’re in luck — growing veggies is pretty easy here, and you can grow a large variety.

What You Need

The basic needs and gardening tools for growing a backyard garden are:

  • A place in the sun. You want six to eight hours of full sun in the spring and summer.
  • A hose, preferably with an adjustable nozzle, will work. You can save some steps with a soaker hose.
  • Organic matter. Consider composting. It’s easy, inexpensive and environment-friendly. You can also use shredded leaves or animal manures.
  • Bug repellent — for you. You’re aiming to grow food, not become food. Guard yourself from ticks, mosquitoes and nasty gnats before you dig in.
  • Gardening gloves. Don’t like how the soil dries out your hands? Have some prickly weeds that need pulling? A pair of gardening gloves will come in handy (pun intended).
  • A spade. This is a type of shovel with a rectangular metal blade and long handle that’s helpful for digging holes or moving dirt. Invest in a good one, and it’ll last for years.
  • A landscape rake. Different than the rake you use to pile up leaves in the fall, this type of rake is used to smooth the ground and remove clots or stones.
  • A hoe. Used for weeding, breaking up soil and digging trenches for seeds, you’ll want a sturdy, wide one for your veggie garden.
  • A hand trowel. A mini shovel, it’s essential for weeding, digging small holes or mixing soil with compost.
  • A wheelbarrow. While it may not be necessary, it can help with spreading compost, soil or manure.
  • A broadfork, tiller or cultivator. Use one of these for loosening the soil and preparing the seedbed.

What to Grow

What to grow is largely a matter of personal preference. Some choices that grow well in Ohio:

  • Squash, such as zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers
  • Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, kale, cabbage or spinach
  • Pods, such as beans and peas
  • Roots, such as carrots, potatoes and radishes
  • Tomatoes because what is life without homegrown tomatoes?

Get Growing

Here are some tips for more success and enjoyment:

  • Plan your garden. Sketch a layout. It’s a good idea to start small if you’re a beginner. Make sure to pay attention to how big your plants will get so you space them properly. Your carrots will stay compact, but your pumpkins will need a lot more room!
  • Time it right. Beware the last killing frost, and check planting schedules in your area.
  • Read the directions. Seed companies include these for a reason. Find out how, where and when to plant your favorites.
  • Skip a step. Consider buying seedlings instead of seeds and save time by planting tomatoes and other veggies that got a head start at the nursery.
  • Keep detailed records. Avoid repeating mistakes, and keep track of successes.
  • Involve the whole family. Share the work and spend some time together outdoors.

Find Out More

You’ll find plenty of online sources to help you get started. Here are a few:

  • OSU Extension. Got questions? Ask a master gardener. From Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
  • Vegetable Gardening Life.  This site has lots of information and product recommendations.
  • Urban Farmer Seeds. This seed company caters to urban farmers and includes a handy Ohio planting schedule.
  • This article at hunker.com. Find out what vegetables grow well in Ohio.

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