How to Plant a Vegetable Garden
Vegetable Gardening 101
Planting a vegetable garden is easier than you think. All you need are a few basic gardening tools and supplies. Whether you're a beginner or a pro, picking delicious vegetables from your own garden is always a rewarding experience. This article on how to plant a vegetable garden will have you harvesting your first crop in no time.
Estimated time: 3-4 hours
Estimated cost: under $50
Skill level: Beginner
Number of people required: 1
Tools & Materials:
Vegetable Gardening Steps
- What to grow?
Before getting started, it’s best to figure out how many vegetables your family will eat in a season. Then you need to consider the type of vegetables you're intending to plant. Remember that some vegetables, such as tomatoes, squash and peppers, produce throughout the season, so you may not have to grow very many to fill your quota. Other vegetables, such as radishes, carrots and corn, produce only once, so you'll generally plant more of them.
- Where to grow?
Choose a location that receives lots of direct sunlight. Fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers need full sun; root vegetables such as carrots require half a day of sun; leafy vegetables such as spinach get by with the least amount of sun. Try to place your garden in a spot that's easily accessible from your kitchen, so it's no trouble to pick fresh vegetables when you’re cooking. You don’t need a huge garden to grow vegetables; it's just as rewarding and worthwhile to grow vegetables in pots and other containers on your deck or balcony.
- Garden design
First, decide whether you're going to row-crop or intensive-crop. Row-cropping organizes plants in single-file rows. This option is well suited for large gardens as it allows you to use a tiller for more efficient weeding. However, a substantial amount of space is required for footpaths, so it's not a good option for small gardens. Intensive-cropping organizes plants on small, raised garden beds. With this method, less space between plants is needed, so your garden will hold more plants. The downside of intensive cropping is you will have to remove weeds by hand.
- Prepare your garden
Now that you know the what, where and how — let’s get to the doing. To begin, use a shovel or tiller to loosen the top eight to 12 inches of soil. Next, smooth the surface with a rake, then water and let the soil settle for several days. To improve your chances of a successful harvest, you should test the soil's pH level to determine whether your garden would benefit from additional nutrients. Add organics (such as peat, compost and manure) and general-purpose fertilizer as needed and work them into the soil.
- Plant your seeds
Now you're ready to plant. Be sure to follow the instructions on the seed packets. As you plant your seeds, carefully cover them with soil to protect them from birds. Once you're done, water the soil and continue to water it every other day. Keep an eye out for weeds and remove them at first sight as they'll rob your plants of vital moisture and nutrients. You could add a layer of mulch to reduce weed growth and help the soil retain moisture. It's a good idea to plant two to three seed varieties of every vegetable type. At the end of the season, you can review how each variety performed and choose only the top performers for the next season.
- Protect your vegetables
The major enemies of your vegetable garden are pests and disease. For big yards, fence off your garden with chicken wire and wood posts to protect it from hungry rabbits or gophers. For small gardens, you might want to place row sheets (lightweight plastic) over your plants to protect them from insects and frost. When watering, avoid the plant leaves to reduce the chance of fungus growth. If you spot a plant plagued with fungus or disease, remove it immediately to avoid infection in the surrounding plants.
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