Newcomers to gardening may find the prospect of cultivating a large vegetable garden daunting, so to ease into it more smoothly it may be beneficial to choose vegetables with low maintenance requirements that will have many uses in your kitchen.
Select varieties resistant or tolerant of disease and pests; place taller plants such as tomatoes and beans where they won’t cast shade over shorter crops.
Choose Your Crops
Selecting vegetables for your garden can be overwhelming, but starting off right can help narrow your options down. Review seed catalogs to make a list of vegetables you would like to grow before comparing that list against your available space and seeing which will fit.
Ideal locations for planting should be sunny spots. Most vegetables need between 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day in order to thrive; though some leafy veggies (kale, lettuce and spinach) can tolerate some shade. Monitor how much direct sun each part of your yard receives daily by watching for shadowed areas caused by trees, fences or buildings.
Sketch out your vegetable garden on graph paper using dimensions for garden beds and boxes, along with space requirements. This will give you a clear idea of the amount of room available for plants and which plants might work well in each space. Whether your planting method of choice is row crops or intensive planting, layout is critical – the more manageable your vegetable garden is, the more often you will tend it and grow vegetables!
If you prefer row crops, place tall crops like corn and beans near the north of your garden to prevent them from shading out smaller vegetables behind them. Medium sized items, like tomatoes and squash should go in the middle while short crops such as radishes and carrots go at the south; ensure there is space for walking through between each row without compaction of soil.
Intensive cropping, in which two or three plants are closely planted within one bed, is an effective way to maximize vegetable growing space. Unfortunately, however, intensive gardening can make garden management more challenging; you may need to weed more frequently by hand than with wider rows. If using this approach, make sure you lay down a layer of mulch (hay, grass clippings or wood chips) as this will both reduce weeds while conserving water by decreasing evaporation rates.
Prepare the Soil
Growing vegetables at home is both entertaining and satisfi ying, providing fresh produce while providing you with healthy snacks. But to achieve success with any successful garden you must plan and schedule accordingly – this guide walks through each important step, such as creating a vegetable garden plan, preparing the soil, planting dates and tips on extending harvest into late autumn/winter.
Begin your garden in an area where there is ample sunshine. Most vegetables need six or more hours of direct sunlight per day in order to thrive; however, certain leafy greens and herbs can tolerate partial shade.
Vegetables require lots of water and require soil with sufficient drainage. Avoid creating spots where excess moisture pools, which could drown plants or cause them to rot. If your soil contains too much clay or sand, amend it with compost for better results. For gardens situated near established trees, consider investing in an irrigation system to deliver consistent amounts of water throughout the growing season.
Prepare the soil by tilling or digging to loosen and improve its texture, then adding plenty of aged, nutrient-rich organic material for maximum vegetable production.
Finally, remove any rocks or other debris from the vegetable garden site. A garden rake can help in this regard by gently pulling apart the ground surface to collect rocks, roots, leaves and other forms of debris into one corner of the garden for disposal. This will leave fine, smooth soil that allows seedlings like carrots to germinate without encountering obstacles on their path to rooting down without risk of getting snags in their way.
Once your soil is prepared, mark off your garden plot using stakes or flags so as to keep weeds at bay and animal pests away. For additional protection from animal pests such as chicken wire fencing and fencing systems; or natural deterrents like crushed eggshells and copper tape can work to ward off aphids and slugs.
If you want a more manageable space for your vegetable garden, raised beds may provide the solution. Raised beds allow soil to drain more freely while remaining warmer for earlier planting in springtime and help minimize weeds while making tending the garden simpler.
Gardening provides both a sense of achievement and delicious, homegrown produce. But its success depends on proper placement and planting dates – which must take into account ideal conditions for each crop as well as an appropriate location, whether that’s in your backyard or apartment balcony. Sun exposure is critical; leafy greens and root veggies need four to six hours daily of direct sun, while fruiting crops like tomatoes require at least eight. Drainage must also be adequate with no standing water after heavy rainfalls; soil should also have plenty of organic matter for best results.
An effective way to plan planting dates is using a garden calendar or the average last and first frost date in your region (see Resource below). This will enable you to seed or transplant cool-season crops before the last spring frost has arrived while warm season crops such as tomatoes can be started indoors using grow lights after it has gone. Furthermore, this information can give an estimate as to when each variety reaches maturity based on length of time taken to reach full maturity.
If you don’t keep a calendar or gardening journal, mapping out your garden beds with projected planting and harvesting dates can also be an effective method of keeping track of when water or fertilizer needs are due for application. In order to identify challenges early on (e.g. weeds or insect pests) so they can be dealt with before spreading further. It’s wise to visit the garden regularly, particularly when still young – this way any problems like weeds or insect pests can be identified and removed before spreading further.
Rotating the locations of your crops each year is also advised, to prevent having the same vegetables grow in the same spots year after year and deplete soil fertility. The Old Farmer’s Almanac website offers an online garden planner which makes this process even simpler for beginners.
Vegetables require regular access to water in order to grow fast and be tender. Too little will result in bitter-tasting produce while too much could cause rot and disease issues. Most vegetables require about 1 – 2 inches per week from both sources (your own and rainwater), so it is crucial that you monitor weather trends when planning garden irrigation systems for vegetables.
Newly planted seeds and seedlings require consistent moisture in order to form strong roots, so be sure to water lightly every morning and check in again in the evening to prevent dryness which could kill them. However, overwatering young plants is dangerous as a crusty soil surface reduces oxygen and may promote diseases such as damping off that can kill germinating seeds.
The amount of water your vegetable garden requires depends on its size and whether its crops are in-ground or raised beds. When grown in raised beds, however, vegetables require less water as their roots warm more quickly allowing for quicker maturity of crops and increased water-holding capacity in soil texture. Raised beds also give you more control over soil texture by adding organic material like compost, humus or manure which increases its water-holding capacity.
Many gardeners overwater their vegetable gardens, leaving the soil so saturated it becomes inusable and hindering root development. Waterlogged soil also prevents roots from drawing up enough nutrients from the ground for healthy root development. To avoid overwatering, dig a hole the diameter of your finger into the soil near one plant’s base – if its entire depth remains moist all the way to its tip, that indicates sufficient hydration; otherwise glistening wetness would suggest less frequent irrigation is necessary.
To keep weeds under control in vegetable garden beds, mulch them with grass clippings, wood chips or any organic matter such as leaves. Mulching not only conserves soil moisture by locking away excess sunlight and nutrients from reaching weeds but it can also block sunlight that nourishes them – for carrots and beets it is best suited with 6-8 inches of shredded leaves as a cover layer of mulch.