Vegetable gardens can provide healthy food at its freshest. Though you just can’t throw some seeds in the ground and expect that weeks later you'll have fresh vegetables, planting and maintaining a vegetable garden is not difficult. It does, however, take some work.
Before you even go to the local nursery for vegetable plants or to the store to get seeds, you'll need to plan your garden. It’s helpful to do this at least a month before planting season, which usually starts in the spring. Research when various vegetables should be planted — they won't all go in at the same time. For example, Brussels sprouts should wait until late June.
Think about what vegetables you like to eat and whether you can raise them in your climate. Are you interested in canning some of your vegetables? If so, take that into consideration when you plant. Depending on when spring hits your region, it might be wise to start some of your vegetable plants indoors.
Where should you plant the garden?
Decide where your garden should go in your yard. The main thing to consider is how much sun it will get. Most vegetables thrive in six hours of sun per day.
Take a look at the soil in the area you want to plant. Shovel down to see if there are stones, hardpan or deep sand under the surface. If so, it isn’t conducive to planting a garden.
It is also important that the area drains well. You do not want standing water in your garden after a rainstorm. Speaking of water, the garden should be convenient to your water supply, hose and sprinkler.
Once you figure out where to plant, sit down and sketch out on paper what vegetable should go where in the garden. Be sure to include pathways where you can walk and reach your plants.
Time to plant
Now that you’ve figured out where the garden should be and what will be in it, it’s time to plant. Be sure you have the tools necessary, such as a hoe, shovel, spade, trowel, rake and hoses. Climbing plants will need trellises or stout stakes. It’s also good to water the soil extensively the day before you plant.
Avoid crowding the plants in the garden, otherwise they'll end up spindly and not produce. Label your plants and rows so you know what you're planting where. Before placing seeds in the ground, water the area again to lessen the shock of transplanting.
When planting seeds, stretch a string between two rods and plant your rows under the strings. Pay attention to the depth requirements, which are usually listed on the seed package. Plant extra seeds. It's better to have more plants than less. Cover the seeds with fine soil and water using a gentle spray.
Care and maintenance
You should water your garden an average of one inch or more each week. Keep an eye out for pests. Finding bugs early makes it easier to eliminate them. Regularly weed your garden.
Harvest your vegetables when they ripen and start a compost pile with spent plants. Next year’s garden will thank you for it.
It takes some effort, but the rewards of planting your own vegetable garden are great. You’ll get a sense of satisfaction savoring the fruits — and vegetables — of your labor.