Plant a self­sus­tain­ing gar­den

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Gar­den­ing is a re­ward­ing hobby with thou­sands of devotees. Back­yard gar­dens pro­vide beauty and aes­thetic ap­peal to a land­scape, and they can be a source of home­grown food and a nat­u­ral habi­tat for out­door wildlife. A self­sus­tain­ing gar­den can be an ef­fi­cient ad­di­tion to any home, but gar­dens re­quire up­keep and a cer­tain mea­sure of ded­i­ca­tion.

A self-suf­fi­cient gar­den is a gar­den that sus­tains it­self through proper plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion. Such gar­dens can al­most take care of them­selves so long as the soil is healthy soil, the seeds are reused and or­ganic ma­te­rial is pro­duced.

Self-sus­tain­ing gar­dens also rep­re­sent a life­style where in­di­vid­u­als are re­spon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing their own foods -- thus sus­tain­ing them­selves with­out the need to shop for pro­duce else­where. When plant­ing your own self­sus­tain­ing gar­den, con­sider the fol­low­ing tips.

* Start with soil. Healthy soil is es­sen­tial to a thriv­ing gar­den. The soil must have the right pH, cor­rect tex­ture and com­po­si­tion, and be full of nu­tri­ents. Very of­ten the na­tive soil in yards is not ad­e­quate to keep a gar­den thriv­ing. In such in­stances, the soil needs to be im­proved. Adding com­post -- which can be pro­duced in the yard as well -- to the soil will en­rich the soil with ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rous and potas­sium.

* Main­tain proper soil con­sis­tency. Soil that is the right con­sis­tency, mean­ing the op­ti­mum bal­ance of sand, clay and ac­tual soil, is an­other ne­ces­sity for a self-sus­tain­ing gar­den. The ideal ra­tio should be 40 per­cent sand, 40 per­cent silt and 20 per­cent clay. Hav­ing the right bal­ance of soil can se­cure root for­ma­tion and pro­mote proper drainage.

* Test the pH. Cer­tain plants need a spe­cific pH in or­der to grow. A neu­tral pH range is typ­i­cally ideal for grow­ing veg­eta­bles. A pH tester can be pur­chased from a gar­den­ing cen­ter. Amend the soil ac­cord­ingly to get the soil back to its cor­rect level.

* Know the grow­ing sea­son. Veg­eta­bles should be planted dur­ing the sea­son in which they will thrive. Peas, beets and cab­bage, for ex­am­ple, are cold-tem­per­a­ture veg­eta­bles, while cu­cum­bers, squash and mel­ons thrive in warm cli­mates. Plant ac­cord­ingly so that the veg­eta­bles will have the best chances for suc­cess.

* Pur­chase qual­ity seeds. Use fresh seeds, par­tic­u­larly ones that have been har­vested from your own gar­den the year be­fore, to have the best chances for ger­mi­na­tion. Or buy seeds from a rep­utable source, like a gar­den cen­ter or an on­line re­tailer who spe­cial­izes in veg­etable seeds.

* Start seedlings in­doors. You may want to work with seedlings in­doors so that you can mon­i­tor growth and care for them more eas­ily. Then trans­plant the seedlings out­side when they are sta­ble enough for the ele­ments.

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