orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Local News

May 12, 2013

Plant a self-sustaining garden

ORANGE — Gardening is a rewarding hobby with thousands of devotees. Backyard gardens provide beauty and aesthetic appeal to a landscape, and they can be a source of homegrown food and a natural habitat for outdoor wildlife. A self-sustaining garden can be an efficient addition to any home, but gardens require upkeep and a certain measure of dedication.

A self-sufficient garden is a garden that sustains itself through proper planning and execution. Such gardens can almost take care of themselves so long as the soil is healthy soil, the seeds are reused and organic material is produced.

Self-sustaining gardens also represent a lifestyle where individuals are responsible for producing their own foods -- thus sustaining themselves without the need to shop for produce elsewhere. When planting your own self-sustaining garden, consider the following tips.

• Start with soil. Healthy soil is essential to a thriving garden. The soil must have the right pH, correct texture and composition, and be full of nutrients. Very often the native soil in yards is not adequate to keep a garden thriving. In such instances, the soil needs to be improved. Adding compost -- which can be produced in the yard as well -- to the soil will enrich the soil with nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

• Maintain proper soil consistency. Soil that is the right consistency, meaning the optimum balance of sand, clay and actual soil, is another necessity for a self-sustaining garden. The ideal ratio should be 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt and 20 percent clay. Having the right balance of soil can secure root formation and promote proper drainage.

• Test the pH. Certain plants need a specific pH in order to grow. A neutral pH range is typically ideal for growing vegetables. A pH tester can be purchased from a gardening center. Amend the soil accordingly to get the soil back to its correct level.

• Know the growing season. Vegetables should be planted during the season in which they will thrive. Peas, beets and cabbage, for example, are cold-temperature vegetables, while cucumbers, squash and melons thrive in warm climates. Plant accordingly so that the vegetables will have the best chances for success.

• Purchase quality seeds. Use fresh seeds, particularly ones that have been harvested from your own garden the year before, to have the best chances for germination. Or buy seeds from a reputable source, like a garden center or an online retailer who specializes in vegetable seeds.

• Start seedlings indoors. You may want to work with seedlings indoors so that you can monitor growth and care for them more easily. Then transplant the seedlings outside when they are stable enough for the elements.

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