Gardening can be a fun and profitable activity. We’ve all had those moments where we are missing an ingredient or two and running to the store can be costly and time-consuming. Plus, it can be a bit daunting to think that not all produce is treated the same- some have healthier growing conditions while other may have had pesticides and other chemicals sprayed on them throughout their growth. For those who want to eat homegrown products but don’t have the budget to buy organic fruits and veggies, starting up a vegetable garden may be just the ticket to eating fresher ingredients at a fraction of the cost.
Setting up a garden can take some time, but it is a fun activity that can prove beneficial. In Idaho, the first thing you may hear when someone finds out what state you are from is “So, you live on a potato farm?” Often meant as a joke, Idaho is a prime place to grow such versatile tubers. This is in large part because of the type of soil found across the state. Because we are so close to volcanic activity, the soil contains rich nutrients unique to our area. The climate is also perfect for growing this crop. Idaho potatoes tend to contain more moisture when compared to potatoes grown in other states which is why Idaho has such a great reputation for growing the best potatoes. Potatoes are primarily grown in Southern Idaho, though Coeur d’Alene is also prime for potato plants. The suggested time to plant potatoes is around April and they grow for several months. They are likely to be ripe when September rolls around, so they are ready just in time for fall. What a great time to enjoy home grown mashed potatoes!
If grape jelly is your jam, Idaho is a great place to grow varieties of grapes known as American or American-hybrids. These plants grow best on the southern side of a home because they are less likely to be negatively affected by the brunt of winter. They tend to do poorly in areas that consistently reach temperatures below 20 degrees fahrenheit. If growing grapes sound like a joy to you, it’s important to note that they require much less water during the later months of the summer because the goal is to allow the vines to harden a bit for winter protection. This means they should be planted against trellises or fences that are farther from other plants and grass because the water going to those plants can be absorbed by the grapes and could cause the plant to die when colder weather hits. Plus, any weed killers used on other areas of the lawn will likely kill a grape plant. Places that are less likely to be blown by wind will help to keep the grapes safe from drifting pesticide particle. Before deciding to plant grapes, make sure to read up on their care as they can be quite intensive. If you do, you’ll enjoy grape juice, jelly, jam, and fresh grapes for your table, and likely for your neighbors!
Just like grapes, tomatoes are delicate plants, known in the gardening community as “tender” plants. This means they can be grown in Idaho, though they will likely require a bit extra work and patience, plus they may not yield as much as a tomato plant grown in other climates. Nevertheless, choosing plants that have been created through hybriding techniques for growth in areas with shorter growing seasons and cooler nights can make a huge difference and can mean a rather fruitful garden when it comes time to harvest. Speaking with a gardening center or specialist in the area can really help you to ensure that you are getting the right type of tomato plant and can help to answer questions about what they need to grow and flourish.
Peas and beans, such as green, lima, and a few others, grow fairly well when planted approximately one to two weeks before the last frost. Although they can survive the frost, they don’t thrive in the colder temperatures and like for the soil to stay warmer more often. This means that they can be planted up to two months prior to the last frost, but they prefer being planted a little closer to the warmer days after the frost has staked its final claim. These little plants have interesting ways that they like to grow. Some varieties grow in more of a bush form, while others require stabilization to grow a bean pole. They can survive, and often enjoy, soil that is more sandy, and peas can even live in soils with clay in them. This is not common amongst all plants, but it does make the ability for peas and beans to survive in Idahoan soil more likely. Loose, dry soil helps them thrive. Providing mulch allows for the plants to maintain moisture better and can help limit the amount of weeds, which is important as weeds with deeper roots can prove quite detrimental to the pea and bean plants. This is because they take more extreme measures to be removed, which means the delicate root systems laid by the vegetable plants could be damaged more easily. Frequent weeding can help with this as well because it stops the weed growth before it can reach dangerous depths.
When choosing what plants to place in a garden, especially in cases where you are unfamiliar with the soil or plants you’ve chosen, it’s always a good idea to pop into the nearest nursery and see if they have any tips, tricks, websites, or books for you to read to educate yourself more fully about what it really takes to help a crop thrive in your area. Before you know it, harvest season will come around and you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor!