Creating a vegetable garden requires time and energy. But the satisfaction of eating homegrown vegetables makes it worth the effort!
Start small and build up as you gain experience. Choose a sunny spot that receives at least six to eight hours of sun each day. If the soil is poor, amend it with a rich mix of organic material (shredded leaves, compost, manure, etc). Boosting the nutrient levels in the soil will make it easier to grow vegetables.
Choose Your Crops
Depending on your climate, the vegetables you plant will vary. If you are a beginner it is recommended that you start with vegetables that grow well in your region and will be easy for you to manage.
These crops include tomatoes, zucchini, radishes and leaf lettuces. It is also helpful to pick crops that are resistant to diseases. This is important because many diseases are difficult to cure once the plants have already been impacted.
You can either grow seeds directly in the garden soil or buy starter plants at your local garden center or online. If you choose to purchase starter plants, be sure to read the label for planting instructions. For example, a tomato plant will require 12 to 16 hours of direct sunlight to thrive and will need trellises or cages for support. You will also want to consider adding a layer of mulch (like Gardner & Bloome Soil Building Compost) to protect the soil and suppress weeds.
Prepare the Soil
The first thing you need to do before planting your vegetable garden is prepare the soil. This can be done in autumn (for clay soils) or spring (for light, sandy soils). Adding compost and organic matter will help condition the soil for healthy growth. Garden-supply stores sell organic soil enhancers and fertilizers that can be mixed in to improve the quality of your growing medium.
It is also a good idea to test your soil nutrient levels before you start gardening. A simple kit will tell you how acidic or alkaline your soil is, as well as the level of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium that it contains.
Finally, be sure to locate your garden near a water source so you can keep the plants properly watered. A soaker hose is the best way to water your garden, as it gives a steady flow that allows the roots to absorb moisture more efficiently than splashing the leaves.
Plant the Seeds
Using instructions from seed packets, pot labels or the vegetable garden website, plant your seeds according to size and location. Most vegetables require a light covering of soil and are planted at a depth that is twice as deep as the seed size.
Water new seeds and transplants regularly until established. Vegetables that are not well-hydrated will be weaker and may not produce the best results.
Beginner vegetable gardeners often choose crops that are easy to grow, such as peas and beans. These have shorter growing seasons and are less picky about weather conditions than some other vegetables, like squashes, peppers and tomatoes.
Beginners should also limit their garden size to something manageable. It is easy to get overwhelmed by a large vegetable garden and end up with more produce than you can eat or store. To prevent this, plan to build a vegetable garden that is no wider than 4 feet so you can easily reach the plants without stepping into the soil.
Water the Plants
Whether they’re planted in-ground, in containers or in raised beds, vegetable plants need to be watered regularly to keep them hydrated. The amount of water required varies by soil type, weather conditions and plant age. Frequent, shallow watering is better than a few deep waterings, but watering should be based on a schedule rather than waiting until the plants show signs of wilting.
The best time to water is in the early morning when temperatures are cool and evaporation from the soil is low. Use a garden hose with a nozzle to control the flow of water, or set up a drip irrigation system. Avoid using overhead sprinklers, which expose the foliage to fungal diseases.
Don’t wait until the plants are drooping before you water, as this can cause a host of problems. Stick to a watering schedule and be sure to water the thirstiest vegetables first so they don’t pull moisture away from the others.