You may think growing your own vegetables sounds like a difficult task, but starting small with some potted plants can be surprisingly easy (even for someone who doesn’t have a green thumb). Last year was my first year with a garden and let’s just say….I learned a lot about what not to do again this year! I definitely have room for improvement as a gardener myself, but I know that when a vegetable you planted does well, it can be extremely satisfying.
“The food you grow yourself is fresher than any you can buy,” says Michael Pollan, and I have to say that I didn’t even think I liked tomatoes until I tried homegrown ones. I was amazed at the difference in taste compared to what you can buy at the grocery store (not to mention how much more nutritious homegrown vegetables are). We already established that farmers’ markets and CSA’s are fabulous resources for getting fresh, locally grown produce, but why not consider growing some food yourself?
All you have to do is go down to Home Depot, Lowe’s or another reliable plant source (for those in Charlotte I like Renfrow Hardware) and spend a nominal amount of money on:
• 1 plastic or clay pot (or a big bucket would do the trick)
• 1 tomato plant of your choice
• Some gardening soil and compost to mix together into your pot
• 1 tomato cage
• 1 small bag of organic fertilizer (our local plant supplier recommended Plant-tone or Tomato-tone to me which you can find at Lowe’s)
If you are feeling motivated also consider getting a 2nd or 3rd pot to start growing some herbs as well. My basil is one of the plants that did incredibly well last year (even for someone with hardly any experience like me!) and the flavor also goes so well with tomatoes. Once you have obtained your supplies it is important to know that you need to bury half or more of your tomato plant (including leaves) when planting it. Then find a super sunny spot for it on your deck or in your yard. Be sure to water it every day for about the first week and then every few days after that. Don’t forget to sprinkle a handful of the organic fertilizer around the base of the plant right after you plant it and then every 3 – 4 weeks thereafter (mark your calendar as a reminder)!
Mid-April to mid-May is the optimal time to plant tomatoes (as well as a lot of other vegetables) here in the Southeast. To find out the optimal time for planting vegetables in your area just enter your zip code in the USDA Hardiness Zone Finder map and then click on the Planting Zone Schedule for your zone (on the left-hand side of the screen). About 2 or 3 months after you get your plants in the ground (or pot) be ready to enjoy some of your very first flavorful, juicy tomatoes. Happy planting to you!
Note: For those in the Charlotte area, enter a contest for $20 worth of free vegetable gardening supplies by visiting The Food Illusion on The Charlotte Observer Moms site.