While many people wait to start their vegetable gardens, experienced gardeners are well on their way.
Yes, it is too early for some plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, corn and zucchini. But many gardeners have already started cabbage, lettuce, peas and other cool season vegetables. In fact, gardeners who planted carrots, turnips, lettuce, leeks and other hardy vegetables last fall may be eating a home-grown salad tonight!
If you are starting a new vegetable garden, you will want to be close to a water supply, which is essential in the long hot days of summer. Lots of sunlight is
essential. Many people plant tomatoes in partial shade and wonder why they get so few.
The most difficult task is preparation of your seed bed. If you are near large trees you may want to dig a trench around your garden to cut all tree roots. The trench can then be refilled with the soil you originally removed. If roots from large trees are allowed to grow into your garden, they can steal fertilizer and water throughout the year, greatly reducing your production.
Your first year, you will have to turn your garden over with a shovel, or rototiller. This is certainly helpful with weed control, and tree roots, although not absolutely essential every year. This is also a good time to lime, and add some fertilizer.
The new gardener may want to start with the easiest, most productive vegetables, and experiment with a few more challenging ones. The following year plant those that did well for you, nix the disappointing varieties, and experiment with a couple more.
The most productive and easy vegetables would usually be tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, which are best started from seedlings. Zucchini and cucumbers which are best started from seed. Some other slightly more challenging vegetables would include string beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, corn, winter squash and carrots.
When planting your vegetables make sure to give them enough room. Planting too many plants in a small area will decrease, not increase production. When planting seeds from a package, be sure to follow the directions. They often will include information on how to thin plants after germination.
I usually plant my tomato plants three feet apart, in rows four feet apart. If your plants are doing well in the summer moving between tomato plants can be a tight squeeze. Tomatoes should be staked or grown in cages. This keeps the fruit from lying on the ground which can increase pest damage and cause spoilage,
After planting there are three majors chores, which are watering fertilizing, and pest control. The watering is simple, but must be consistent.
You may want to use chemical fertilizers, weed control, and insecticides, or you may want to go organic. In my mind a mix of the two is the best way to go to produce a healthy, productive garden.
On the organic side I have used horse, cow and chicken manure, kitchen compost, grass clippings and leaf mulch. On the chemical side I have used generic fertilizer and brand name specialty fertilizers.
Weed control is essential. If hoeing is your method, once a week will be quick and easy, but miss a few weeks and you will have a nightmare on your hands.
I like to spread grass clippings as a mulch, covering the soil to keep weeds out. It will also lower your garden’s water needs. When doing this you should consider the added fertility into your fertilizer plans. You should also be careful not to apply the grass clippings too thickly all at once, or the heat from decomposition or rapid release of fertility can burn tender plants.
After that there is only one more chore. Picking your fresh veggies!