How to Plant a Vegetable Garden
You’ve decided you want to try your hand at vegetable gardening. Probably, your first instinct is to grow something you like to eat, something that tastes best when it’s fresh, and something you’d like to have in abundance.
Congratulations. You’ve already taken the first step toward a successful vegetable garden. Grow only what you like.
Pick a location. Vegetables need lots of sunshine, so look for an area that receives plenty of morning sun and more sun than shade all day.
Check the soil. Prepare a plot of flat ground that will receive full sun nearly all day. If you’re planting in your backyard or anywhere outdoors, you need to find out what kind of soil you’re dealing with.
Remove all the weeds, avoiding any weed killers that may damage your soil or your vegetables. It’s best to remove them by hand. Test the pH level of your soil. You want a reading of around 6.5. Your local gardening store can help if you are unable to test it for yourself. A too high or too low pH level will restrict nutrients to your vegetables. Garden lime can be used to raise low pH soil levels.
Turn the soil over to a depth of about a foot. Rake through, remove rocks, debris, and anything that might interfere with the roots and the growing process. Break up and turn the soil and add compost or other organic material. Ideally, it’s best to allow 4-5 weeks before planting any vegetables. Organic fertilizers such as animal manure and garden composts are highly recommended as they improve soil conditions and structure while adding nutrients to your vegetables. Organic fertilizers help retain moisture in the planting beds.
A handy tip: Pick up a handful of dirt and squeeze. If it crumbles and falls apart, you’re ready to start planting. If it sticks together, your soil is too wet to start planting. Wait for the ground to dry out. If your soil is naturally moist, dig it up and place the dirt on plastic sheeting. Once it dries out, you can return it to the bed and plant.
Plan where you want everything to be. Put it down on paper in a drawing. Don’t forget to leave enough room to walk through the rows so you won’t step on any of your plants.
Unless you are an experienced vegetable gardener you might want to start with nursery seedlings of crops such as tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and eggplant. If you are growing from seeds, look for seed packets marked as having been packed for the current year.
Follow the guides on the seed packet and measure as you plant each variety of seed into the ground. Accuracy is important. Seeds planted too close to the surface or too deep in the ground can potentially kill a plant.
Refer to seed packets, catalogs, nursery tags, and books to determine how much growing space you need for the plants you’ve selected.
Plant the seeds or seedlings as directed. Drop your seeds into the holes. Lightly cover with the dirt. Pat the dirt down gently. Mark the rows with what you’ve planted and where.
You want to let the dirt settle and not wash it away, so use a watering can rather than a hose.
Your garden is planted, the hard labor is over, now all that's required to assure success is to water, weed, and wait for the harvest.
Follow a watering schedule with your plants. It’s best to water in the morning into the soil beds…not over the leaves. Be careful not to overwater, but check that your various vegetables get the adequate supply they need. Watering your garden is important but always allow for proper drainage and make sure it doesn’t become waterlogged. Stick your finger into the soil near the stem. If the dirt sticks to your finger, it’s moist enough.
Pull up weeds as they appear. They’re vampires that steal nutrients from the soil that your vegetables need.
Now comes the hardest part, patience. Give your garden time to let your seeds germinate and your seedlings take root.
There are many different thoughts about pest control. If you’re okay with chemicals, check in with your gardening expert to see what’s available. If you want organic produce only, be sure to let them know. There are chemical-free treatments to rid your garden of pests.
When the waiting’s over and it’s time to harvest, be sure you don’t pick your vegetables until they’re ripe. Then you can truly say it’s time to enjoy the fruits…or rather, the vegetables… of your labors.
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