American Farmhouse Style
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD AT HOME IN CONTAINERS
Pick your own delicious produce
just steps from your kitchen.
Growing your own meal ingredients can be as convenient as it is rewarding. Your produce will always be cut fresh, and you won’t have to worry about unknown chemicals or pesticides. Home-grown flavors are brighter and richer, and having tended the plants yourself, you’ll also feel a sense of appreciation for them. In Claire Ratinon’s book How to Grow Your Dinner Without Leaving the House, she gives practical instruction and deeper meaning to the growing process. “It has been a gateway to better mental and physical health,” Ratinon writes. To cultivate your own kitchen garden, follow her eight steps.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
• Seed trays
• Labels (try Popsicle sticks)
• Seed compost
• Dibber (chopsticks, pens or fingers also do the trick)
• Heated propagator
• Grow light
• Multipurpose compost
• Watering can with a rose (suggestion: poke tiny holes in the lid of a water bottle)
• Scissors, snips or a harvest knife
WHAT YOU’LL DO:
1. ASSESS YOUR SPACE. Measure the area where your plants will live and choose containers that will allow your plants to grow to their full size. Larger vegetables can be grown if you have plenty of room, but if the space is limited, smaller crops are the way to go.
2. PLAN YOUR SEASON. Edible plants do best during their specific growing seasons, so it’s essential to plan your planting accordingly. Seed labels indicate ideal planting months and growing conditions so you can group your plants by season and have everything ready in advance.
3. DECIDE WHAT TO GROW. Think about what you like to eat, expensive produce you can save money on if you grow it yourself or uncommon vegetables that are hard to find. Consider the time you have to devote to your garden. Tomatoes and peppers can be particularly thirsty and time-consuming.
4. SOW YOUR SEEDS. Fill your seed trays with compost and compress it gently but firmly. Water your compost and place your seeds evenly across the surface, giving them space to grow without crowding. Sprinkle a layer of compost on top of the seeds and gently press down. 5. TRANSPLANT YOUR GROWING
SEEDLINGS. Once your plants have one or two sets of “true leaves” you can transplant them to a bigger container. Make a hole in the compost of the new container deep enough for the seedling’s root ball. Use a teaspoon to gently lift the seedling from beneath the roots and plant it in the new container.
6. FEED YOUR PLANTS. Nutrients and minerals in compost eventually run out, so you must supplement your plants to keep them healthy. Plants need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which can be found in fertilizers or other homemade options:
garden compost, worm compost, nettle tea and comfrey tea. 7. PROTECT YOUR PLANTS FROM
PESTS. Flying pests such as insects and birds may be deterred by nets and mesh. Slugs, snails and caterpillars can be plucked off or drawn away by sugar or yeast solutions. Aphids can be dealt with by misting a homemade garlic spray on the affected area. 8. TROUBLESHOOT YOUR PLANT
HEALTH. Container plants can be more vulnerable to diseases and deficiencies due to stress. Be sure to prune your wilting leaves, water plants directly on the soil in the morning to avoid mildew and avoid overcrowding your plants. Watch the leaves of your plants for signs of nutrient deficiency, and keep your compost well-watered.