Growing vegetables in your own backyard is one of the most rewarding things you can do. It is healthy, liberating and fun to watch the work of your hands produce the sustenance that fuels your body. Food grown in your own backyard is potentially the ultimate in freshness since you can eat just moments after harvesting. Fresh food contains more nutrients since certain vitamins, enzymes, and phytonutrients have a very short shelf life. This bounty of nutrients will have an amazing effect on yours and your family’s health. Plus, fresh food tastes much better than produce harvested long before it is consumed.
This fundamental guide will outline the basics of how to create your own 10’ X 10’ organic garden in your backyard allowing you to grow 10 different vegetables in 10 easy steps.
Step 1 – Planning Your Garden
- If you are starting a new garden choose a relatively level area about 10’ X 10” that gets the most sunlight in your yard. It should an area that gets proper drainage and should be away from any trees. It would be helpful to select a spot that is close to the house and close to the watering hose and close to the shed where you will be storing your gardening tools.
- Select 10 different plants that are appropriate for your hardiness zone. For example you may choose bush green beans, cucumber, zucchini, winter squash, tomatoes, pepper, onions, carrots, lettuce (leaf) and radish.
Step 2 – Purchase Seeds
- Use organic, heirloom seeds whenever possible. Seed companies that I like include:
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
- Seeds of Change
- Territorial Seed Company
- Johnny’s Seeds
- Kitizawa Seed Company
- Abundant Life Seeds
- Purchase one package each of your ten vegetables. Make sure your seeds are fresh and stored in a cool, dry area until they are ready to plant.
Step 3 – Planting Seed Starts Indoors
- In late Winter, start your seeds indoors in cell flats six to eight weeks prior to the last frost. Use organic potting mix or a seed starting mix such as Lamberts. Water once a day to keep it moist.
Bush Green Beans 1”
Winter Squash 1”
Step 4 – Preparing Soil
- As soon as the ground thaws and you can work the soil, dig the grass up with a shovel and use sod to start your compost pile. Continue to add grass clippings, leaves, seaweed, and kitchen scraps and dried leaves to your compost pile throughout the year. Add some rock dust to re-mineralize the compost. Turn your compost pile at least a couple of times a week. This compost will be ready to use next Spring at which time you can start a second compost pile and alternate using piles one year to the next.
- Add mature compost on top of the garden area and spread to about 6-8” thick. This will take about 10 large wheel barrel loads of compost.
Step 5 – Planting Seedlings
- Transfer seedlings outdoors into your garden after the last danger of frost.
When?* Seed Spacing Row Spacing Thinning
Bush Green Beans May 1 2” 6” when 4” tall thin to 6” apart
Cucumber May 1 12” 24” when 6” tall thin to 24” apart
Zucchini May 1 12” 24” when 6” tall thin to 24” apart
Winter Squash May 1 12” 24” when 6” tall thin to 24” apart
Tomatoes May 1 6” 24” when 6” tall thin to 24” apart
Pepper May 1 2” 12” when 6” tall thin to 12” apart
Onions March 15 2” 4” when 4” tall thin to 4” apart
Carrots March 15 1/4” 6” when 1” tall thin to 6” apart
Lettuce (leaf) March 15 1” 6” when 1” tall thin to 6” apart
Radish March 15 1/4” 6” when 1” tall thin to 3” apart
* – This is typical for Hardiness Zone 5. Refer to the Hardiness Zone for your area for your specific planting schedule.
Step 6 – Pour on the Water
- If there is no rain, water lightly once every day for the first two weeks or until the buds appear. Then, water once every other day for the next two weeks. Then, water heavy twice a week for the remainder of the growing period. Use filtered water. You can use an inline hose filter designed for recreation vehicles as an economical alternative to a more expensive whole house water filtration system.
Step 7 – Provide Nourishment
- Fertilize once every two weeks with a side dressing of compost or worm castings sprinkled around the base of each plant or a foliar spray made from compost tea applied directly to the leaves.
Step 8 – Pulling Weeds
- Try to spend fifteen minutes every day in your garden pulling weeds. View this chore as a pleasure – this is actually very therapeutic. You will find that you enjoy it once you get out there – especially when you see and can take pride in the resultsJ.
- You can also cover the earth around your plants with a few layers of cardboard. Cover the cardboard with thick layers of mulch to help suppress the weeks.
Step 9 – Pest Management
- Garlic & Pepper Spray – Protect your garden plants from cabbageworms, caterpillars, hornworms, aphids, flea beetles and other chewing/sucking insects by routinely using a natural spray that you can make at home. The spray must be applied regularly, especially after a rainfall. Brew up a batch as follows:
6 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp dried hot pepper
1 minced onion
tsp pure soap (not detergent)
1 gallon hot water
Blend & let sit for 1 – 2 days. Strain & use as spray. Ground cayenne or red hot pepper can also be sprinkled on the leaves of plants (apply when leaves are slightly damp) to repel chewing insects or added to the planting hole with bone meal or fertilizer to keep squirrels, chipmunks, dogs and other mammals away from your gardens. Be sure to reapply after rain.
- Install bird and bat houses.
- Releasing large numbers of Lady Bugs or Praying Mantis into areas of your garden infested with insect pests is a very effective means of controlling aphids, mealy bugs, leaf worms, and many other pests.
- Plant a basil hedge around the perimeter to repel rabbits
- Plant marigolds around the perimeter to repel insects
Step 10 – Pluck Produce
Vegetable Days to Maturity
Green Beans 50-70 days
Cucumber 50-70 days
Zucchini 50-70 days
Winter Squash 85-110 days
Tomatoes 60-90 days
Pepper 60 to 80 days
Onions 105 to 130 days
Carrots 65 to 85 days
Lettuce (leaf) 54 to 55 days
Radish 25 to 30 days
By Brian Hetrich, Greenhouse Manager at Hippocrates Health Institute