Having your own vegetable garden is a great way to get outside, save a bit of money, and eat a little healthier. Overall, it’s a win for everyone. We’ve got all the vegetable gardening tips you’ll need to plan, prepare, plant, and maintain a successful garden. Planting a single tomato plant could yield over 10 lbs. of tomatoes each year. Adding herbs to your garden can save you tons and ensure that you’ve always got the freshest flavors in your meals. So here are our best tips for starting your own vegetable garden.
If you’re new to vegetable gardening it’s best to start small with just a few options so you don’t get overwhelmed or consider it a huge time investment. Allow for a small space in your yard especially for a garden and start with 4 or 5 different vegetable options. You can also use larger containers to start your garden if yard space is a concern.
Sort Out The Right Spot
Choose your growing site thoughtfully. It’s important to think of different scenarios when choosing a place for your plants. You’ve got to make sure it’s easy to get water to, so within the reach of a hose, or not too far to carry a watering can a few times. Also, it’s good to avoid high-traffic areas where you’ll be walking a lot.
Don’t forget to consider the movement of the sun during the course of the day. Orient your garden from north to south to get maximum sun exposure; when plants are positioned from east to west they tend to shade each other too much.
Picking Your Plants
What are the fruits and vegetables you and your family like eating? Start with that.
Then think about how much of those your family can eat, freeze, can, or give away. This will help you be more realistic about how much you need to plant. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and squash keep providing throughout the season, so you may not need many plants to serve your needs. Other vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, and corn, can be harvested only once and then would need to be replanted.
Think Outside of the Season
Planting both cool and warm weather vegetables will give you a harvest of vegetables and herbs throughout the spring, summer, and fall. In early spring, grow lettuce, greens, peas, radishes, carrots, and broccoli. After you’ve harvested your cool-weather crops, plant hot-weather favorites, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and herbs. In Fall, you can harvest potatoes, cabbage, and kale.
By planting vining crops like green beans and peas, you make use of vertical space in the garden to improve your yield.
Look On The Sunny Side
Plants and vegetables all need the sun to start the process of photosynthesis. The fastest-growing vegetables need full sun—at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day–without blockage from trees, shrubs, or fences. That’s why you won’t have much success if you plant sun-loving vegetables in shady spaces.
If your yard provides partial shade, plant vegetables and herbs that tolerate those conditions like lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, chives, cilantro, parsley, and thyme. Root vegetables like carrots, radishes, and beets also may work if your site gets at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Or if you have a sunny patio, switch to container gardening. That way you can place sun-loving vegetables and herbs such as tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, peppers, peas, beans, corn, and squash, basil, dill, and rosemary where they’ll thrive.
Seeds vs Transplants
Decide whether you want to start vegetables from seed or purchase young plants from a garden center. If you’ve decided on seeds ( peas, beans, squash, lettuce, mesclun mix, beets, or radishes), note that most annual vegetables should be started indoors about six weeks before the last frost in your region. Some plants—such as carrots, beans, and peas—can be sown directly into the garden. Check the seed packages for directions.
You might prefer to buy seedlings from a nursery or garden center and transplant them into the garden. This method works best for slow-growing plants such as broccoli, celery, and kale. Note that transplants will mature sooner and give you an earlier harvest than starting plants from seed. Because they’re stronger when put in the garden, transplants also do a better job of resisting garden pests.
Stay Deeply Hydrated
It is a better idea to give your garden a long drink every few days rather than a little sprinkle every day because then the water will move deeper into the soil, which encourages roots to grow deeper, where they’re better protected and better able to access nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Factor in your weather conditions and the composition of your soil to determine when you should water. For example, clay soil dries out more slowly than sandy soil. Sunny, windy conditions dry out soil more quickly than cool, cloudy weather. Not sure if it’s got enough water? Feel the soil about 3 to 4 inches down from the surface. If it feels dry, then it’s time to water.
Enjoy Your Hard Work
One of the most rewarding parts of having a vegetable garden is picking the “fruits of your labor” and enjoying them. The rule of thumb we go by is if it looks good enough to eat, it probably is. With many vegetables, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce, so don’t be afraid to keep eating all your garden has to offer.
Want More Gardening Advice?
Carolinas Gardener’s Handbook
Information gathered from bhg.com