From Renee on June 5th, 2008 in Landscaping
You’ve always wanted to start a vegetable garden, and why not? Many of our spring landscaping articles have highlighted gardening, and what better way to go organic than to grow your own food? Having your own vegetable plot means growing readily available, fresh vegetables to munch on raw or cook in your meals. In addition to growing healthy nourishment, you will save money and initiate a fun, educational activity that even your kids can participate in. With or without children to reap the benefits, gardening is a relaxing and satisfying activity. It takes slowing down, patience, and nurturing. And what can be more fulfilling than watching your efforts grow into colorful, savory vegetables that nourish your spirit as well as your body? The only question that remains is, what could be stopping you? If you don’t know how to proceed with planting, you’ll find the process is relatively simple. Follow the steps outlined below and you’ll be well on your way!
Preparing Your Plot
Prior to planting, find a section of your yard where the vegetable garden will thrive best. Deciding how much space you need depends on the number of plants you intend to grow. A good place to start would be with a plot about 10 feet by 10 feet in size. Now that you know the amount of land to set aside, seek a plot that is sure to get plenty of sun. By this, I mean direct sunlight for 5 to 6 hours a day. In order to ensure this happens, select a plot that isn’t shaded by trees, shrubs, high growing plants, awnings, or other obstacles. These larger plants will also compete with your garden for water. At the same time, it’s a good idea to choose a location that doesn’t receive a high degree of wind. Excessive wind can potentially dry out your plants and break the stalks.
Preparing Your Soil
It’s taken a few precautions, but you’ve found the ideal location for your vegetable plot. Now it’s time to take a closer look at your soil. Vegetables require several basic specifications. Overly dry or soggy soil won’t be hospitable to your garden. Choose a location that won’t get soggy or puddle after a heavy rain. The soil should contain a combination of sand, clay, silt, and organic matter. Turn your soil and mulch or add natural fertilizer such as compost or manure prior to planting your vegetables. The most frequently planted vegetables thrive in soil with a pH of 5 to 7. An easy way to determine how much nutrients are already available in your soil is to purchase a soil test kit. These are available at your local nursery for $14 to $100. More expensive test kits break down the levels of nutrients in additional ways.
Selecting and Planting Your Vegetables
Beginner gardens usually start with about five plants. Your personal taste accounts in large part for what you decide to grow. For instance, do you cook a lot of Mediterranean food or Italian dishes? The most common backyard varieties include tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas, corn, squash, peppers, zucchini, and strawberries. It’s no surprise that these vegetables are also compatible garden mates. Other plants, such as blueberries, require more acidic soil. It’s also important to consider how your plants will work together. Most vegetables need full sun while others, like lettuce, like a fair amount of shade. A remedy for this would be to grow lettuce beneath a taller plant.
Once you’ve chosen your vegetables, you can plant them in rows, boxes, or a more random pattern for a natural look and arrangement. Smaller plants are typically arranged in the front row while larger ones are in the back. The directions on the back of your seed packets will tell you how far apart to plant them. In addition to seeds, you can begin with starter plants. These are usually planted about a foot apart or more to allow room for larger plants to grow.
Keeping Up Your Garden
Congratulations. By now, you’ve come a long way, from selecting a plot to preparing your soil and selecting your plants. To make sure they grow healthily, plants need basic nutrition from the sun and soil, as well as protection from pests. Remember that younger plants need to stay moist and should be watered daily. You can test the soil by placing your finger an inch into the earth to see if it’s moist. The soil should never get dry enough to crack or feel dusty. Plants that look brown or wilted may not be getting enough water. Water should also be sprayed onto the leaves as well as into the soil.
Next, make sure that diseases and pests are not eating away your growth. If this happens, special insects can be purchased at the nursery to keep pests away. You may also consider installing a wire fence to keep deer, rabbits, and even cats and dogs from digging and chewing on your fresh veggies.
The rest is up to you. Enjoy your vegetables!