Fresh from the Forge: Backyard Business
Center for Sustainability
Ever wanted to run a home business? Create a mini-farm in your backyard!
The price of food can add up quickly no matter how many people you’re feeding. Between the time it takes to go grocery shopping and the prices at the checkout counter, it’s hard to leave feeling like you got a deal. Enter home-gardening. Vegetable gardening simply requires a little patience, a little cash and a little care to start, and soon the days of wandering the imported produce section will be gone.
Starting a garden can seem daunting: the soil, the equipment, the seeds, the plants, oh my! Fear not, for sophistication is not needed, just a little creativity, foresight, and time. Taking time to create a garden plan is essential.
Before you get to digging around and planting, observe your yard (or patio) for area(s) where the most sun hits (think 6-8 hours of direct sunlight)--you’ll want to target these areas. If planting directly in the ground, check the soil quality: having soil with good drainage is key to happy plants. Now, think long and hard about what you enjoy eating. Plant it! Your work will only be gratifying if you enjoy the fruits of your labor. That being said, vegetable plants each have their own personalities and desire different amounts of space, water and sun; be sure to consider these criteria.
As soon as your garden plan is set and ready to go, it’s time to go get your tools! For basic home gardening, focus on the essentials:
- A shovel (or trowel for small spaces)
- A good pair of gloves
- And, for larger spaces, a spade fork and hoe
No need to go and get fancy equipment. Often times, hunting around at the local salvation army or neighborhood garage sales will reveal cheap, good quality finds. If not, think about checking out freecycle.org. Never make the project more expensive than it needs to be! Container gardening often bears most of its expense in pots. Again, check local sale shops. Or, be crafty like one Forge Farm Stand customer, who uses free reusable grocery bags as easy, portable, and well-drained pots.
Arguably the most important part is the seeds. Plants can either be started from seeds or purchased at plant sales as seedlings. Starting from seed is typically cheaper but requires more attention & foresight. Purchasing seedlings (look out for the Forge Garden plant sales!) merely requires transplanting and continued care. Purchasing seedlings would be ideal for your first year of gardening because in subsequent years plants can then be born from seeds saved from the previous year’s harvest. Eventually, no more seeds or seedlings will need to be purchased; unless, of course, variety is desired.
Once your small plants are nestled into their pots or rows, tender love and care must be taken to ensure a full harvest. Water at the coolest time of day, deeply. Be vigilant by weeding and composting the plants to foster healthy, easy growth. An easy, economical way to nourish plants is by letting your plants enjoy a daily cup of joe: that is, incorporate your day old coffee grounds into the soil. This will help keep the soil aerated, drain well, and able to hold water. When the big day comes that the plant has started to produce, harvest regularly. Mother nature will provide what is needed--let her know by continually harvesting ready produce and preventing flowering when required.
Running a happy garden really is just like running a mini-business. You simply reap all the reward. The efficiency of saving time & money at the grocery store all while improving your own garden appeal & happiness works out to be one of the best business plans in the book.
Contributed by Allison Carmody ‘17, Sustainability Intern for Food & Dining