In celebration of Earth Day, I’m featuring top 5 tips for growing your own food.
I am by no means an expert in gardening but I do know someone who could share invaluable advice to the rest of us.
My brother-in-law, King Pablo, is an avid gardener who is extremely passionate about growing all kinds of vegetables and fruits -from rainbow chard to artichokes to peppers to grapefruit, and many more. He grows vegetables in his backyard, greenhouse garden, and inside his house. Whenever I visit my sister and her family, I would find all kinds lush plants, blooming flowers, colorful fruits, and sprouting seedlings. I would leave with bags and bags of fresh harvest as well as new plants to grow.
The photos below are just a sneak peek of what he grows in his garden.
With all his expertise and passion in gardening, I asked for his advice for a newbie gardener like me. Here’s what he said:
KING’S TOP 5 TIPS FOR GROWING YOUR OWN FOOD:
1. What are the things newbie gardeners should know about planting their own food? (ex: soil, etc.)
Newbie gardeners should not overwhelm themselves. We have the tendency to want to grow everything. Start off with the basics and with the easiest things to grow, like tomatoes and cucumbers. If need be, get the ones from Home Depot, Lowes, or a place that supplies non-gmo vegetable starters.
When it comes to soil, it all depends on what you want to grow. The best rule is always make sure that the container or the ground has good drainage so the water could percolate easily.
2. What is your advice with watering plants? When is a good time and how often?
All plants will have an afternoon funk, meaning they will look wilted when they get a lot of sunlight -that is perfectly normal. But if there is too much sun, try to give some shade for it or move to another location.
Take heed that the top will always look dry. If they are in containers, lift the soil to see how much water is left in the pot. You could also simply lift the container to see if it’s light or heavy. If it’s light, it needs watering. If it’s heavy, it doesn’t need watering yet.
If need be, you could always get those moisture meters at Home Depot for about $10 and it will tell you the pH balance, the sun it’s getting, and the moisture level of the soil.
As plants get bigger, they will need more frequent watering.
3. What simple, inexpensive household materials could a newbie gardener use to grow food?
You could use red Dixie cups as planters, they are good starting pot size. Just make sure to put holes for drainage. You could even use one gallon jugs like a water jug as another pot.
When it comes to pesticides, you could put salt around the perimeter of the garden bed and that will help minimize slugs and snails from getting to your plants.
4. What are your thoughts in gardening indoor vs outdoor when the climate is not suitable for the plant?
When the climate is not suitable for the plant, you could get away with a hydroponic system. That is easily done by purchasing an AeroGarden; It is a plug and play hydroponic system that has been proven to grow plants rapidly, to allow you to grow indoors all year-long, or to get a head start if you live in the cooler weather. A brand new one is very costly, but if you go on Craigslist, you could find one between $20 to $60.
If you have the time and money, you could set up a grow tent in a garage or a spare room. This way, you could grow plants in a more controlled climate and hopefully, a pest-free environment. Be mindful that you will need to provide grow lights that you could build yourself or you could buy at any hydroponic shop.
5. Is having a “green thumb” a myth? What is your advice to someone who constantly fails at growing plants?
Anybody could grow plants as long as she/he keeps the soil happy.
Also note that the more varieties of plants you decide to grow, the more varieties of pest you will attract to your garden.
As for NPK fertilizers, they’re all the same; don’t buy into propaganda. The first ingredients that you’ll see in a 10 10 10 fertilizer should be the NPK: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
When it comes to having a “green thumb”, the problem is, we have the tendency to give too much TLC to plants that we sometimes overdo it -like over watering. It is easier to kill a plant by overwatering than it is to underwater them.
What’s my advice to someone constantly failing at growing plants? Just never give up. Start with the basics and don’t overwhelm yourself. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to produce your own fruits and vegetables either from seeds or from starter plants.
You could also try different methods, different soils, and different fertilizers, then use what works for you. Don’t rely on what others are doing to be successful. Rather, find something that will help you be successful because there are many things that can affect results.
I hope this post has given you better knowledge and greater confidence to grow your own vegetables and fruits. I sure did learn a lot.
Many thanks to my brother-in-law, King Pablo, for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. I’m sure he has given tremendous guidance to the rest of us newbie gardeners. Salamat Kuya!
Happy Earth Day everyone!