Planting your own vegetables has not only economic value but also health benefits. It provides the chance to monitor in person what goes into growing your veggies. While more gravitate towards a healthier lifestyle, there have been deliberate efforts to control what people eat.
Starting a vegetable garden is a sturdy stride towards attaining those wellness goals. You may have a supply of fresh vegetables at your dinner table almost all year round. All you need is some space, time to care for your crops, and a few tools.
Basic gardening tools
Shears/small scissors for pruning and harvesting
Rake for leveling soil
Basket for harvesting
Wheelbarrow to ferry loads and mix compost.
Sieve for compost and soil
Gloves to protect your hands
Kneeling pads to spare your knees the discomfort.
Apart from the requirements mentioned above, you need basic gardening knowledge. Part of the information you need is how to plants a vegetable garden and optimize your yield. This is a fruitful endeavor and we are here to go with you.
What are the essentials of planting a vegetable garden?
- Scout location
Where your garden situates should be strategic. Make the garden location convenient for you and your plants. Each veggie type has diverse sun or shade preferences; no plant can do without any light whatsoever. Ensure where you plant your food crop receives sunlight.
Something else to consider is your garden’s access to a water source. This is not only because plants need water to grow happy and healthy, but also because you do not want the hustle of getting water for your plants from a distance. It is hectic which could discourage regular watering of plants altogether.
Your garden should have ample space. You want your vegetables to have enough room to grow. Crowding them up together denies them root room and space for foliage. Consider each type of vegetable you want and give it the space that it requires to grow fully. Different plants require different spacing. Aim to leave at least 20 to 35 inches for various types. New gardeners can try smaller plots until they get the hang of it.
- Soil preparation
Soil is a vital part of gardening. It is like the heart that needs careful tending for everything else to work well. As you prepare to plant your vegetables, take note of the condition of your soil. One of the things to contemplate is the type of soil you have at your disposal. The three types of soil are sand, loam, and clay. Learn about the best soil for vegetable gardening.
The color, texture, and density of your garden soil can easily help you determine what type yours is. In the event that you are not very sure, test your soil with a kit or bring it to a soil-testing lab.
While at it, test the pH of your soil. This will help you establish which vegetables you will be planting, as some prefer acidity, alkalinity while others gravitate toward neutral pH levels. Whatever your soil type is and the pH it has, you can still get the perfect pH balance for your vegetable garden.
Amending your soil will not just fix the pH but the nutrients and soil structure as well. Vegetables like plenty of nutrients. If your soil is lacking in sustenance, you can, fortunately, boost it with compost and organic fertilizers.
Something else to note is the drainage of your soil. Growing vegetables need just enough moisture to nourish them without causing diseases like root rot that emanate from soggy soil. You can easily diagnose the draining capability of your soil by digging a 12-inch ditch and then fill it with water. Leave it for the day or overnight to observe the outcome.
If the water is still partially as you left it when you check again, the probability is that your soil is not porous enough and it will destroy the roots of your plants. Again, if the ground is cracking from dryness, your veggies will not receive enough water. A damp ditch indicates well-draining soil, with proper water-retaining capabilities.
- Till or no-till
Tilling the garden has its benefits as does no-till. If you choose to dig, you will be turning the topsoil at least some 3 to 4 inches to kind of mix up those microbes in your soil that are just perfect for vegetable growing. This also lets you thoroughly divest the weeds that will consume the nutrients reserved for your veggies. After adding compost into the soil, mix it together with the rake through the mixture to level it. Then proceed to create your rows for planting.
The downside to this traditional style of gardening is that when you dig, you risk killing the microorganisms in the soil. The hoe will practically tear them apart and cut off their effectiveness in your soil. There might also be diseases and some perennial weed seeds in the soil mix. Not to mention it is backbreaking work.
With no-till, you will not bother with the whole shebang. All you need is to layer the topsoil with two-inch-thick cardboard or a pile of newspaper to keep the weeds and harmful bacteria at bay. Then advance to adding your special soil fortified with compost, mulches, organic fertilizers, and other soil additives. Then you may carry on with the rows.
Occasionally, no-till however requires you to fill up the soil as your crops grow to anchor the roots better.
A tip would be to avoid walking on your soil to prevent soil compaction, which will only reverse all the work you put in. For convenience, you may wish to refer to the raised beds vegetable gardening.
- Vegetable selection
You may want to pick all your favorites, and you should. Nevertheless, remember to keep in mind the soil type of your garden. Pick the veggies that will not struggle to grow in either type. Crops that thrive in sandy soil include carrots, potatoes, lettuce, and peppers. Clay is great for broccoli, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts.
Take into account the climate of your region. Do not elect tropical crops like tomatoes, chives, and cucumbers if you are in a cooler climate. Others like spinach, chard, beets, and parsley enjoy a cooler climate.
Experienced gardeners may understand the ropes but newbies should start out with the more common, easier to grow vegetables like leafy greens, green onions, herbs, and peppers. This is not to say that you cannot grow whatever you want. However, refrain from taking on too much, as the more you plant the more likely you will run into beginner problems.
- Plant seeds
You have the right spot, the right soil, and all the veggies you have always wanted to try out; now plant the seeds. You do not always have to start with the seeds because you will have to wait out the germination, which in itself is a dodgy process for newcomers. You may opt for seedlings instead.
When planting seedlings, refrain from burying them deep in the soil, as their roots are still weak and developed. Hold the stem delicately in place then proceed to pull soil around the roots until they are completely covered and they can stand on their own. This works best for the no-till method. If you dug your soil, make a hole with your finger or pencil or stick, hold the seedling in place and repeat the no-till process.
Plant seedlings in loose soil that has room for the circulation of air, moisture, and nutrients. Depending on the potential of a plant, space the seedlings at least 3 to 5 inches apart to give them room for maximum development.
This also dictates the arrangement of your crops. Veggies that become large with a lot of foliage should not block the smaller ones from light. For instance, collard greens may develop massive leaves that may shade scallions. Place the scallions in direct sunlight, as the towering collard greens will still receive light.
Also, when planting, check the instructions on the seed packet for any relevant information such as planting dates, depth and width spacing, and more.
You will keep at it throughout the growing season. The soil will give your veggies life but water will sustain them. Water regularly depending on the crop and remember to inspect for drainage. Soggy soil will rot the root of the veggies and kill them prematurely.
If you have a small plot, you can water overhead with a can. You may incorporate drip irrigation with a kit, or use recycled plastic bottles. To do this fill them with water, poke tiny holes on the lead with a sharp object, and then plant them head (with the lead) into the soil right next to the root of the plant.
However, you may resort to pre-set methods such as sprinklers, soaker pipes, and drip irrigation if your garden is larger. This will do the job without much human effort.
Mulching materials like dry leaves, newspapers, straw, hay, wood, and bark chippings help retain moisture by preventing direct heat from the sun from draining the soil.
Boost the growth of your vegetables by fertilizing them when necessary. Feeding your veggies helps them grow bigger, vibrant, and tastier so be sure to do it properly. With seedlings, not much feeding is required, as they tend to do it themselves. You can inject some liquid fertilizer if they need extra help, however.
You can buy your fertilizer or make it at home. We recommend carbon-based types such as kitchen compost, animal manure, and green manure for their nutrient-rich content that is great for your veggies and has a long-lasting impact on your soil.
Chemically produced fertilizers may speed up the growth of your crop but they do not benefit your soil structure. Some may burn your veggies.
You mix organic compost and organic fertilizers like kelp, blood meal, and bone meal if you find that necessary.
Those unwanted seeds taking root on your soil can cost the health of your plants. They compete for the nutrients meant to sustain your plants. Furthermore, some weeds can inhabit your garden perpetually.
Before cure, try prevention. Placing cardboard or a layer of newspaper before filling the garden with planting soil will go a long way.
Mulching your topsoil, under the developing vegetables, between the rows and around the pathways of your garden. This bars the weed seeds that make their way into your garden from reaching the soil, therefore taking root.
Make a habit of weeding regularly. Do not wait for weeds to overwhelm your crops before rushing to remove them. Instead, weed at least twice a week for about 20 minutes. In addition to that, whenever you visit your garden just to look, harvest some dinner or water, pull out a few of the pesky things.
Intercropping in your garden will not only increase your yields, protect them from soil erosion, but will also keep away weeds.
- Protect from pests
Your garden is thriving so well it has begun attracting bad guys. Since they cannot reap what they did not sow, you need to keep them away from your vibrant veggies.
Start with fencing your garden with hardware cloth to prevent pests from hopping right into your vegetables. Even persistent diggers like hedgehogs and squirrels cannot tear through properly installed hardware cloth.
Make use of natural repellents by planting daffodils and marigolds near your vegetable garden. Companion planting helps to keep some pests away. The smell of herbs such as mint, rosemary, and parsley inserted in the rows in your garden will fend off some insects. Rabbits in particular dislike the smell of garlic.
The birds are especially brutal on leafy greens and tomatoes. Once they are full-grown and ripe, birds will flock over. Make a ceiling or dome of sorts over your garden with nets to act as a barrier.
Encourage beneficial bugs that will prey on the bad bugs that attack your garden. Some alcohol and baking soda spray repel insects.
- Enjoy your harvest
You have been a dedicated gardener and now it is time to reap what you sow. Try to harvest on time because vegetable produce such as spring onions begins to brown if left out in the heat too long. Moreover, you want to pluck those cherry tomatoes before the birds beat you to it.
Try to plan earlier what you want to do with your veggies before you harvest. This will help you store and manage the lot without risking wastage because most veggies are mostly perishable. Do you want to make your own jams and tomato pastes? Do you intend to supply the local market? Are you sharing with friends and family? Having that sorted earlier minimizes the chance of your produce doing what it was intended.
Now that you have a step-by-step guide on how to plant a vegetable garden, do not be intimidated by all the theories. Get started and you will find it easier while you are applying this information. Good luck!