How to start a vegetable garden
We've got seven tips for how to begin planting and ensure a successful garden bounty this year.
Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 12:19 PM
Spring has sprung, and even if you have a black thumb, you may be feeling inspired to dig in the dirt. How about starting a vegetable garden? Though the process involves more than picking a random spot, making holes and planting seeds, taking these simple steps can help ensure a successful growing season.
Plan your plot. Best results require good soil and good sun, which means the location of your garden is crucial. Find a spot in your yard that you see often, such as near the door or the mailbox, so you can keep an eye on progress. Most veggies ideally need at least six hours of direct sun each day, but you can plant in shade as long as you choose the right seeds (see below). You will also want your garden to be near a spigot and hose, or water source.
Test the soil. Once you’ve scouted your “zone,” the ph balance of the soil must be tested to make sure it is adequate for planting. You can send a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension System office, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Check their website to find the location).
Purchase the right tools. Aside from bagged compost, seeds and other organic matter, you will need proper tools to plant and maintain your garden. Among the essentials are a trowel, rake, watering can, gardening shears, a round shovel and a digging fork. You may also want strong gardening gloves to protect your hands, and rubber gloves for wet jobs.
Prep the soil. The best material in which to grow vegetables? Compost, compost, compost. Soil needs to be rich in nutrients and moisture, and organic matter such as compost, dried leaves or grass, and manure is ripe material in which to plant. You can purchase compost or, if you want to plant later in the year instead of spring, you can start your own compost pile and prep it for fall. You’ll then need to turn the soil, which requires digging into between 8 inches and 12 inches of the topsoil, so it is loose and moist.
Choose the right seeds. What should you plant? That depends on a few factors. For one, you want to know what grows best in your climate. Consult the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Zones of Hardiness” map, which divides the United States and Canada into 11 zones based on average monthly temperature. Next, once you’ve determined what works regionally, check your garden location. If short on space, plant veggies that grow up rather than out, such as beans or tomatoes. If you are a first-time gardener, start with seeds that are easy to grow like certain lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and summer squash. Your local gardening store can assist you in picking relatively full-proof seeds.
Plant your seeds. Follow the instructions on the seed packets for how deep to dig your holes, and be aware of how far apart you plant each seed, as they will not grow if they are on top of each other.
Keep it up. Water, mulch and pay attention to your garden, and you will enjoy your harvest in no time.
Have other ideas on how to start a vegetable garden? Leave us a note in the comments below.
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