During this time of sheltering in place, starting a food garden is a great way to connect with nature and stay productive and healthy.

Grow It Eat It is a University of Maryland Extension (UME) signature program that has helped thousands of Maryland residents start and improve their food gardens since 2009. The UME Home & Garden Information Center (HGIC) and Master Gardener program are here to help you start or improve your food garden. Learn how to grow food organically from small spaces and get tips for preserving the harvest.
Take a look at these resources:
How to start a vegetable garden
Lawn (turfgrass) removal methods
If you plan to create your garden where grass is growing, be sure to take a look at these resources:
When to plant vegetables in Maryland
Planting date chart
Container gardens are fun and versatile

5-gallon buckets, old laundry baskets, wooden crates they can all be re-purposed as container gardens. With the right-size container you can grow just about any vegetable or herb!

Soil or growing media?

Healthy soil will help you produce healthy plants in your raised bed. What should I use to fill my containers or raised beds?

Leafy greens are tasty, healthy, and easy to grow
Kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, collards, pac choi, callaloo, and dozens of other leafy greens grow beautifully in Maryland, spring, summer, and fall. Some, like kale, arugula, and spinach planted in early fall will overwinter with a little protection and come back to life in spring! Others, like beet, turnip, and sweet potato do double duty. We can harvest and eat the leafy tops and the storage roots.
Plants for beneficial insects

Insect pollinators, such as bumblebees, are needed to pollinate vegetable crops, like squash, cucumber, and pumpkin. Many other insects feed on pest insects (biological control) keeping their numbers at a manageable level. Plant a wide variety of flowering annual and perennial plants in and around your vegetable garden to provide habitat, pollen, and nectar to beneficial insects. Some examples are mountain mint, butterfly milkweed, alyssum, zinnia, anise hyssop, thyme, and borage.

Japanese beetle eating leaf
Prevent and manage pests without chemicals

Your garden can be productive and pesticide-free by following the integrated pest management (IPM) approach, which includes using disease-resistant varieties, watering the base of plants rather than the foliage, spacing plants for good air circulation, scouting every few days for problems, and handpicking insect pests.

How to preserve your garden's harvest
preserves jars
Despite the U.S. food supply remaining safe for both people and animals, many are looking to diversify how their pantries are filled for future good eats. UME’s Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS) Agents teach science-based practices to safely preserve food, whether it is freezing, drying (dehydration), or canning.
Support Maryland farmers and green businesses
Farming and food are essential to life. Maryland’s farmers, farmers markets, greenhouses, nurseries, and garden centers are finding ways to safely provide the food, plants, and supplies we need to stay healthy and be self-reliant food gardeners. Seeds and supplies are also available from grocery and hardware stores, and from online businesses. Please practice scrupulous social distancing guidance f rom the State of Maryland.
  • Be resourceful!
  • Use lawn clippings (no herbicides) and last fall’s tree leaves to mulch plants. Share seeds, plants, and tools with neighbors
  • 5-gallon buckets make excellent container gardens (one tomato or pepper per bucket)
  • Re-use building materials on hand - old boards, bricks, and wire fencing - to build raised beds and trellises
  • Start small so you can manage and succeed with your first garden. Then expand!
  • Test your soil even if you’ve already started your garden
  • Fencing is a must to keep out deer, groundhogs, and rabbits
  • Before planting, spread an inch of compost and rake it into the top of your soil (ok not to incorporate if you don’t have a rake!)
  • Keep your eye on weather forecasts. Don’t plant tomato, basil, pepper, and other frost-sensitive crops before the last expected frost
  • Don’t crowd plants; follow the spacing instructions on seed packets and the HGIC website
  • Cover seeds, seedlings, and transplants with floating row covers to speed growth and exclude pests: more information on row covers
  • Check on plants each day (top and bottom of leaves) and pick-off pests by hand
  • Pick tomatoes when they first change color and ripen them indoors
The University of Maryland Extension's Home & Garden Information Center and Master Gardener Programs work together to provide you with up-to-date, science-based information and answers to your yard and garden questions. 

For more information about these two programs, view the 2020 Home & Garden | Master Gardener Flyer .
Have a plant or pest question? University of Maryland Extension’s experts have answers!
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