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How to Grow a Garden You Can Eat

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • April 16, 2021

Weed it and Reap

During the past year many of us have started our own vegetable gardens. (Or maybe we've only started thinking about starting a vegetable garden.) Regardless of where you may be in the process, we have the books to help you find success in this enormously satisfying endeavor. We've broken it down into three key steps.

1. Prepare Your Space

First things first, you've got to create the space for your garden. Perhaps this is as simple as clearing a sunny square of dirt, but success may rely on a little more effort. There's an argument to be made for building a raised bed or two. This could sound like more of a project then you want, but here are some perks:

  • It makes it easy to start with good nutrient-rich soil.
  • It provides the structure for adding things like climbing structures and protective fencing or netting to keep pests out.
  • It helps conserve water.

Tara Nolan outlines these and other benefits in her book, Raised Bed Revolution. She also provides extensive information on how to construct a variety of raised beds, creative tips maximizing garden capacity in small spaces, planting tips, watering strategies, and more.

Once you've prepared the space, you'll want to make sure your soil is filled with the nutrients and microbes to grow bountiful greens. In Grow Your Soil! permaculture expert Diane Miessler teaches you how to create and maintain rich, dark, crumbly soil that's teeming with life. She shares the techniques she has used—including cover crops, constant mulching, and a simple-but-supercharged recipe for compost tea.

2. Get Growing!

As you plant your garden, there are many things to consider: What do you want to grow/eat? Do you have space restrictions? Do you live in an area where water usage is an issue? Answering these questions will help you decide what kind of book is right for you. Here are some of our favorites for a variety of growing styles.

All Purpose
Whether you're a newbie or an experienced gardener, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith provides expert information and an inspiring roadmap to enjoy abundant homegrown vegetables.

Year-Round Gardening
If you love the joys of eating home-garden vegetables but always thought those joys had to stop at the end of summer, Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest is for you. He shows how North American gardeners can successfully raise a wide variety of traditional winter vegetables in backyard cold frames and plastic covered tunnel structures without supplementary heat. For a warmer option, try Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening by Peter Burke.

Urban Farming
For busy city dwellers, it can be hard to imagine when and how we might grow crops on our little patch of earth. The Suburban Micro-Farm by Amy Stross will show you how to grow your own fruits, herbs, and vegetables with limited time and space. The Backyard Homestead (part of a series), ups the ante with info on how to grow and preserve a sustainable harvest, as well as raising animals and honey bees.

Pairing Food and Flowers in the Same Space
In The Foodscape Revolution, Brie Arthur presents her visionary plan to reinvent the common landscape—in a way that even HOAs would approve. You'll learn how to increase biodiversity, utilize natural water and light resources, and most importantly, how to begin an enriched gardening lifestyle that is beneficial, sustainable, and beautiful.

Sustainable Gardening
Sustainability is on the minds of the vast majority of modern gardeners, so most of the previous books discuss organic and earth-friendly methods and strategies, but for a deep dive, try Growing Good Food. Author Acadia Tucker lays out a plan for building carbon-rich soil to capture greenhouse gases and mitigate climate change. In The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self Reliance in Uncertain Times, scientist-gardener Carol Deppe combines her passion for organic gardening with newly emerging scientific information around both ecology and health.

3. Cooking Time

Now we address the issue of what to do with the veggies you grow. Too much zucchini anyone? Whether you're growing veggies from your garden, a CSA, or a farmer's market, here are some cookbooks with a focus on eating seasonally and sustainably.

Lettuce be Thankful

As always, writing this post and researching these books has inspired us to take action in tilling our own sweet earth and growing some goodness. Regardless of where we are in the process, our minds are spinning with new ideas for structuring our gardens, fortifying our soil, and raising some beet-i-ful produce. We hope you are also feeling the veggie vibes. Peas be with you.

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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