How to Start a Quick, Simple and Inexpensive Garden in Just One Day
Spring is here and it’s time to get started on that garden. However, not everyone has the time and energy to start a garden, let alone how to begin growing one without investing a lot of cash at your local hardware gardening department. Here’s some advice by an Agriculture Extension Service vegetable specialist on how to start a quick and simple garden in just one day without investing a lot of cash.
When Spring arrives not only is it evidenced by the rapid growth of lawns, the increased trill of birdsong signaling a desire to mate, and the annoyance of seasonal allergies, but also the restocking of gardening department aisles with enough supplies to build a large nursery.
However, you don’t want a nursery. All you want is a simple first-time garden to get your hands a little dirty in and hopefully put some fresh produce on your table as a reward for your efforts. And, you also want to save money. But is that possible? Have you seen the prices of the popular raised bed garden frames and composters for off-the-shelf, plug and play gardening?! As Yoda would say “Save Money, You Will Not.”
Fortunately, there are ways to save on the expense and still have a productive starter garden that will fulfill your gardening and healthy lifestyle needs.
One of those ways was recently revealed in a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service news item with recommendations and tips from Joe Masabni, Ph.D., an AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist on how to quick-build a vegetable garden.
“This is what I would tell anyone who came to me and said, ‘Joe, I need to plant a garden quickly and without worrying about home vegetable garden theory and things like soil tests,’” he said. “Anyone could have this setup planted and ready to go in a day. But the gardening part takes a commitment to the plants if you want to be successful,” says Dr. Masabni.
Steps for Setting Up Your Garden
Here’s a summary of Dr. Masabni’s advice:
Step 1: Location—pick an area that has a significant amount of sun exposure. Areas in the yard that have either full sun or morning sun with some afternoon shade, often works best for most plants.
Step 2: Plot—go for a raised bed garden plot. As mentioned earlier, commercial raised beds in the gardening department are prohibitively expensive and may not last more than one season. Building your own from lumber is better option, but requires buying lumber and tools and hardware. And, some woodworking skill. The least expensive and easier option is to build a raised bed using large concrete cinder blocks. Lay the blocks hole-side down in a two-layer stack to provide enough room for root growth.
Step 3: Garden Fill—For an easy way to fill your concrete block raised bed garden, Dr. Masabni recommends, “You’ll need a large amount, a 4-foot by 8-foot by 16-inch deep (height of two cinder blocks) needs about 1.5 yards (cubic yards). So, look for a local facility that sells in bulk,” he said. “If they do a 50/50 mix, that’s great, or you can till it together. Compost or a pre-mixed compost-sand combo is quickest.”
Step 4: Seed Selection—choose vegetable varieties that are suited for growing well in your area. Typical choices that grow well in most regions include squash, okra, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, potatoes, onions and garlic. If you are unsure about what grows well and when in your region, a quick web search using keywords like your state’s name, “Agriculture Extension”, and “Gardening” should provide you with the information you need. Once the vegetables are selected, follow the recommended planting directions on the back of the seed packets.
Step 5: Fight for Their Survival—treat your plants as you would your children. “Be prepared to fight insect pests and diseases,” says Dr. Masabni. “Whether you want to go organic or with traditional chemical treatments is a matter of personal preference. But be ready to spray because it’s only a matter of time before pests and diseases try to move in.”
While many gardeners are hesitant to use insecticides in their garden, for the first-time gardener who has a large learning curve ahead of them, following Dr. Masabni’s advice is sound reasoning until a gardener becomes more experienced with how to deal with garden pests.
“You have to spray something if you want a crop,” he said. “During my research trials, I yielded 10% of the potential crop from plants that didn’t receive any spray treatments.”
According to the AfgriLife Today news release, Dr. Masabni recommends investing in “…a quality backpack sprayer and at least three fungicides and three insecticides. Masabni uses organic fungicides and insecticides. Organic fungicides that have worked for him include Serenade, Actinovate or a Bordeaux mixture of copper, lime and water.
Masabni recommends Spinosad, Bt or any horticultural oil as organic insecticides. Fungicides and insecticides can be mixed and applied at the same time, he said.
Apply sprays to transplants upon planting or seedlings once they’ve emerged, Masabni said. Spray plants with the mix every 7-14 days depending on the weather.
“If the spring is rainy, then spray every 7 days,” he said. “If it’s a dry spring, then spray every 14 days.”
Having and using a variety of fungicides and pesticides will decrease bugs’ ability to build up resistance to any one treatment, he said. So, switch up the fungicide/pesticide mix every few weeks.
If you are concerned about whether your pesticide-treated garden produce will be safe to eat, he assures gardeners that “Washing vegetables with some warm water or soapy water will remove any residue left from organic or traditional sprays following harvest.”
Step 6: Water and Fertilizer—keeping your crops well-hydrated takes experience. However, investing in a soil moisture probe to test the moisture levels at root depth takes the guesswork out of gardening until you become more experienced. Commercial fertilizers that provide a 10-10-10 content of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous will work well enough if you cannot find the preferred “chicken litter” as a natural choice. For a 4-foot by 8-foot garden, a slow-release fertilizer or 1 pound of chicken litter is a good start, but Dr. Masabni also recommends adding a water-soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks throughout the season.
Step 7: The Secret is No Secret—Dr. Masabni reminds us that growing vegetables does require both effort and vigilance, but it shouldn’t feel like taking on another job.
“The secret to successful vegetable gardening is your shadow in the garden,” he said. “Being in the garden every day to see the first bug and squash it or to remove the first dead leaf or to water at the right time is the secret. It’s catching problems early and dealing with them immediately that leads to successful gardening.”
For more in-depth guidance on creating your quick, simple, and inexpensive garden in just one day, here is a “10 Steps to Vegetable Garden Success” guide authored by Dr. Masabni.
If you are a first-time gardener and have a question about gardening, feel free to contact us below and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with a background in farming and an avid home gardener, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on the connection between plant biology and gardening for healthy living. For continual updates about plants and health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.
Image source: Courtesy of Pixabay
1. “Want to start a vegetable garden?” by Adam Russel; Texas A&M, AfgriLife Today, April 3, 2020.
2. “Texas Home Vegetable Gardening Guide” by Joseph G. Masabni.
3. “10 Steps to Vegetable Garden Success” by Joseph G. Masabni.