Whether you are looking to pick up a new hobby or tired of not finding produce at the grocery store, there has never been a better time to start your own garden. Even if you live in a tiny apartment you can still grow herbs, fruits, and veggies. But where do you even begin? Does the soil or the seed come first? How often do you need to water your garden? What kinds of things should be grown in an at-home garden? The questions are endless. Thankfully, there are experts that can walk us through the basics of getting an at-home vegetable garden started.
First and foremost, it's important to take note of the type of garden you're looking to nurture and the space you're working with. Maybe you want a beautiful collection of herbs that brighten up your backyard or balcony. Or maybe you want to house some citrus trees to double as fruit suppliers and chic decor. Or maybe you'd love some sweet-smelling veggies to incorporate into your home-cooked meals. Either way, it's good to map out exactly what the purpose of your garden will be.
Ahead, the four essential steps that'll make your gardening dreams a reality. Read on to get started.
Essential Home-Gardening Tips: Soil vs. Hydroponic
One of the first decisions to make with an at-home garden is whether you want a soil-based or hydroponic-based system. If you're unfamiliar with the latter, hydroponic gardening is a method of growing plants in a water-based, nutrient-rich solution instead of soil. FX Rouxel, Founder and CEO of Gardyn, a hybriponic (which combines hydroponics and aeroponics) and AI gardening system, explains what you need to get started. “For a soil-based garden, you need nutrient-rich soil and pots or some kind of container," he explains. "For a hydroponic-based garden, you need a water reservoir, a way to hold your plants in place and dissolvable nutrients. For both, you need space, a light source, and plants of choice."
Dissolvable nutrients that can be used for a hydroponic garden can be clay pellets, peat moss, vermiculite or rock wool. For example, Gardyn’s yCubes™ are made of rock wool, an inert mineral made out of basalt rock that provides a perfect medium for the seed to germinate and develop its root system. Typically with hydroponic gardening, your nutrients will be watered through a reservoir that you have to fill every few weeks (according to the brand's site), but Gardyn has an app with built-in artificial intelligence that monitors your garden for you and even adjusts the light needed for your product to grow.
For soil-based gardens, Bondi Harvest’s, Chef Guy Turland, finds that using composting and worm farms are ideal for growth. “Soil is pretty amazing and complex, we often think about it as just dead dirt, but good soil is alive and beaming with microorganisms that form symbiotic relationships with plants that help your veggies grow," he says. "The healthier your soil and microorganisms, the more available nutrients are to your plants, and the more nutrients you will get when you eat them.”
Essential Home-Gardening Tips: Indoors Vs. Outdoors
Now whether to garden indoors or outdoors depends on which style of gardening you decide to go with. Indoor gardening is great for small spaces that might not have a patio area while outdoor gardening can be ideal if you live in a climate that provides ample water and light for your plants. “Gardening indoors is easier to keep pests away from your crops than in outdoor settings," explains Rouxel. "You can harvest your food without ever leaving the house and severe heat or cold will not kill your plants."
That said, Rouxel adds that some challenges people can face with gardening indoors is ensuring the plants are getting an optimal amount of water and light. "Different plants require different amounts of each and many homes don't have reliable access to sunlight," he explains. "Since more light is generally better for most vegetables and herbs, it's suggested to supplement their natural sunlight with grow lamps for success, particularly if you live in an apartment." Learn To Grow gardening expert, Misilla Dela Llana, recommends finding a south facing window that receives at least five to six hours of sunlight when gardening indoors, although some plants will thrive in four hours of sunlight.
As far as potting goes all potted plants require well-draining soil and containers should have holes to accommodate this. (You can also purchase an organic potting mix that already contains fertilizer.) “Plants and herbs need a pot size between four to eight inches in diameter and five and to eight inches deep," says Dela Llana. "Note that plants grown in containers generally will not grow as big as if they were planted in the ground with proper spacing. You will still be able to harvest good size leaves or harvest them as baby greens."
She goes on to explain that common veggies that grow well indoor with four to six hours of sunlight are leafy greens such as leaf lettuce, bok choy, arugula, kale, spinach, spring onions, garlic greens, little finger carrots, and radishes. "The greens can be harvested in 30 to 40 days from seeding, the onions or garlic in 10 to 14 days if regrown from scraps or 21 days from seedings, the carrots in 60 days from seeding and radishes in 25 to 35 days from seeding," says Dela Llana.”
She adds that microgreens can be grown near a window and harvested in five to 12 days. “These vegetables are seedlings that are grown densely and can be grown in grown mats, coconut coir, or potting mix while sprouts are grown in jars or a sprouting container placed in indirect light. Herbs can grow on a windowsill with four to six hours of daylight and can be grown together if desired,” she says. Some of the most common herbs she recommends are chives, cilantro, basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano, tarragon and mint. If your only option is to garden indoor, but soil-based gardening is too messy, both Turland and Rouxel suggest looking into a hydroponic or aeroponic system.
Essential Home-Gardening Tips: Optimize Your Garden
Turland reminds us that the best veggies and plants to grow are always the ones that best grow in your area and that are also in season. (Although spinach and herbs like rosemary, basil, dill, thyme, and mint can usually grow all year round indoors or outdoors.) But different herbs require different types of watering levels, “Hard herbs that are native to drier areas like rosemary, sage, and thyme are much easier to grow if you don’t have time to water them often," explains Turland. "Dill, mint, and basil are more suited to wetter areas, so if you have time to water them more frequently, they will be an amazing addition to the kitchen."
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing what to grow is that some plants just don’t get along. “Tomatoes and cucumbers, for example, hate each other," says Turland. "Understanding companion planting, which is a system of planting that plays matchmaker with your veggies, is super helpful to know before you get your garden started.” Other plants that don’t go well together are beans with garlic or onions, tomatoes with potatoes, or corn and parsley with lettuce.
Oh, and if you are wondering if you can plant seeds from produce you already have in your kitchen, the answer is yes. “Most herbs you buy from the store can be put straight into a cup of water with soil and they will grow new roots,” explains Turland. "I have found that chopping off the last centimeter of the stalks before popping them in water helps them grow roots quicker. Veggies like celery, cabbage, and bok choy are easy to grow from your food scraps, and if you’ve ever noticed potatoes, garlic, or ginger sprout while in the cupboard you’ll know how easily they actually want to grow on their own. Pop them in soil, mist often, and you’ll have veggies in no time.”
Essential Home-Gardening Tips: Accessorize Your Garden
Adding a touch of color or modern elements are great ways to bring your personality into the garden. Garden Glory is known for intersecting fashion and art with home and garden décor. The brand is most known for its colorful and printed garden hoses. Founder of Garden Glory, Linda Brattlöf, finds that upgrading accessories such as a garden hose, spade, or watering can can elevate the gardening experience.
“For me, the garden is an ideal place to create a bold, mysterious and wild atmosphere while still being controlled," explains Brattlöf. "Using luxurious and modern accessories will make the gardening work more satisfying — it's all about the feeling. Be sure to invest in high quality and sustainable pieces to ensure long-lasting wear as the outdoors can rust or fade accessories quickly."