If you think planting vegetables at home will be hard, try planting vegetables on Mars. In the 2015 movie, The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) is assumed lost and dead after a storm. His crew leaves the planet, and he is stuck with a diminishing food supply and the possibility of living on Mars for years before there is any chance of rescue. Naturally, he decides to grow a garden. It makes sense in the movie, but I don’t want to give too much away.
The point is that if Matt Damon can grow potatoes on Mars, you can grow vegetables at home. But can you grow enough so that you don’t have to buy them at the supermarket? Maybe.
Your 7-step guide to skipping the grocery store and planting vegetables at home
It’s so easy to buy vegetables at the store or the farmers market that planting vegetables at home almost seems like a lot of extra effort. So why do it? The quick answer is that it’s less expensive, as compared to the grocery store, it’s infinitely more fresh and delicious, and it’s really cool to walk into your backyard and pick dinner from a plant. Roasted eggplant with sliced heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs? You got it. Homemade pickles? Check. Potato and Leek soup? Yup.
It’s fair to say, though, that an instant switch from buying vegetables to growing everything you want or need at home is unlikely. Gardening comes with a learning curve. And even the most experienced gardeners may need to supplement their harvest with a few trips to the farmstand or the grocery store. That’s okay. In fact, I would argue that the biggest trick in successfully planting vegetables at home is to give yourself some room to be flexible. It only takes one unexpected ice storm or snowfall to wipe out your greens before you can harvest them.
Still, you have to start somewhere. (Well, you don’t actually have to start, but you’re reading this, so I assume you want to transition from buying to growing veggies.) So here are a few tips that will help.
1. Take your climate into consideration. The growing season in Louisiana is a lot longer than it is in Maine. You might need to start your plants indoors or even set up a hydroponic indoor garden to get things moving if you live in a cooler climate.
2. Don’t be afraid to use hybrid vegetables. When you’re planting vegetables at home with the hope of skipping your weekly trips to the grocery store, you may find that some hybrid varieties give you better results. Some hybrids have higher yields, are more resistant to pests or disease, or just generally grow better.
3. Don’t be afraid to use heirloom vegetables. It’s true that some heirloom varieties can be finicky, but you truly haven’t lived until you’ve had an heirloom tomato right off the vine.
4. Talk to local gardeners. Find out what grows well in your area, or what pests you should be especially aware of. Gardeners are a pretty helpful bunch.
5. Use high-quality soil. Whether you opt for an in-ground garden or a raised bed set up, make sure you’re using good soil. Dense, nutrient-deficient soil won’t give you very good results.
6. Plant a variety of vegetables. As much as you might love summer squash, you will eventually run out of recipes before you can eat through your harvest. Plant a wide variety of veggies to add some diversity to your harvest times and your menu.
7. Go for it! The only way you’ll ever accomplish your goal is to give it a try.
And don’t forget to have fun. Gardening is a journey, not a destination. Remember to feel the soil, breathe in the fresh air, enjoy the sunshine, and learn a little bit every day.
How much does your garden supplement your grocery trips, or do you have a completely self-sufficient garden? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.