March 26, 2009 -- The economy has gotten a lot of Americans down, but some are still giving a thumbs up -- a green thumb, that is.
Vegetable gardens are popping up across the country around homes of Americans looking for an economical way to eat healthy. Even the first family got in on the act. Last week Michelle Obama broke ground on a large organic kitchen garden on the South Lawn of the White House.
To demonstrate how easy starting your own veggie garden is, Joe Lamp'l from the DIY Network dropped by "Good Morning America" and dug right in.
"A home vegetable garden is easy to start and doesn't require as much effort as one might think to keep it growing strong," Lamp'l said. "Follow a few simple steps and you'll be enjoying your veggies in about two months."
William Moss appeared on "GMA" on April 28 to lend us his vegetable garden tips. Check out his Web site by clicking here.
The Basics: What You'll Need
According to Lamp'l, vegetables need full sun for six to eight hours a day.
"To provide the most sun exposure to all your plants, place the tallest ones on the north or west side of the garden so they do not shade the smaller plants," he said.
Vegetable gardens can be just about any size, but Lamp'l said it's best to start small, like with a planter, and grow out.
"The bigger the container, the better, because veggies get big quickly and you want them to grow a large root system," he said.
Starting with seeds is the cheapest way to give your garden a kick-start, Lamp'l said.
For $3.50, you can buy a bag of seed-starting soil that Lamp'l said is different from potting soil because it is lighter in weight and free of contamination.
You can spread the soil out in a pizza box and plant the seeds for a quick start.
Build Your Own Mini-Green Houses
"The key is to lock in the moisture," Lamp'l said.
To do that, he uses the plastic covers that cakes from the supermarket often come in. You can also cut up soda bottles or any other plastic covering as long as it's clear plastic. Make sure light can still get in there.
Once the seeds sprout you can remove the top and put the plants in a bright, sunny window or in fluorescent light placed as close as possible to the plants.
The soil should be kept about as moist as a spongy chocolate cake, Lamp'l said.
The plants can stay there for about six weeks.
Transfer the Plants to the Container or Garden
Dig up a little spot in your garden or large container and spread your plants out so they have plenty of room to grow. Dig the holes according to the seed-package directions "but essentially, deep enough to cover the root ball," Lamp'l said.
As for timing, Lamp'l said, "you don't want to plant until the last risk of frost has passed."
Regarding water, the plants need about an inch of rainwater per week.
The gardener should also add a 3-inch layer of mulch around the plants and over the irrigation lines. Shredded leaves will do the trick.
"Mulch will insulate the soil, help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and acts as a protective barrier from disease splashing up onto the plants from the soil," Lamp'l said.
Then in six to eight weeks, you can be cutting down on freshly grown tomatoes.