If you're one of those people who loves to eat local, you can buy local produce at the farmer's market or Whole Foods, sign up for a community shared agriculture program or get a garden plot at the nearest community garden. But how's this for local: growing your own food in your very own backyard! Even if you don't have a backyard to speak of (um, more like a back alley?) there are still ways you can create a delicious and nutritious garden.
Many people shy away from vegetable gardens, thinking they can't possibly know enough to create a brilliant plot with massive, perfect produce. Well, that is probably true, but you probably can learn enough to create a few good tomatoes, some herbs and lettuce all by yourself.
Three things you can grow
Beginners can start by choosing three easy edibles: tomatoes, lettuce and basil. Look at that, you've already got yourself a salad! Lettuce like Salad Bowl, Buttercrunch, Grand Rapids, Oak Leaf, Bibb and Dark Green Boston varieties do well in pots. Tomatoes like Tiny Tim, Toy Boy, Burpee's Pixie and Sugar Lump can be grown in containers, too.
Three things you'll need
For any successful garden, you need three things - good soil, enough sun, and plenty of water. You also need to plan these things around the "crops" you're going to be producing. While tomatoes are going to need at least six hours a day of full sun, lettuces can do well in the shade. Take a look at your balcony, rooftop, patio, deck or fire escape (wherever you're going to have your plants) and see which spots get sun and shade throughout the day.
Three options for planting
Okay, you've got your three plants and three necessities, now you have three options for where to plant them. You can plant them in the ground you've got, in raised beds on the lawn, or in containers. Check to be sure the soil in the ground is safe for planting edibles (ask neighbors or your garden center), or buy high-quality soil to fill your planters or raised beds.
Now that you have everything you need, make sure you read up on exactly what these plants will need to thrive. For instance, different types of tomatoes need different care, but generally they will need you to pay attention to their soil moisture depending on the weather to keep growing conditions stress-free. Different types of lettuce and herbs need particular care, too, so it's best to read up online or ask a Master Gardener in your area for tips and tricks.