Growing a Home Vegetable Garden: A Comprehensive Guide
Growing a successful vegetable gardening is an amazing thing you can do as a hobby. People do it if they want to save money, to be self-sufficient, or they simply love fresh and delicious home grown food. You need to invest a little bit of your time and energy, and some “elbow grease”, but in the end, it will pay off with extremely delicious dividends. We offer you a guide to feed you family with healthy and home grown vegetables in just a couple of weeks.
CHOOSING AND PREPARING YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN LOCATION
First of all, you need to choose the perfect spot for your garden, and it needs to be a place on a level ground that will receive a lot of sun for most of the day, and of course to be in reach of a garden hose. The size and layout will depend on: a)the space you have available, b)the time you are ready to devote to the garden, and c)what vegetables you want to grow ( because all vegetables have their different space needs. If it’s your first time, it is advisable to start small and then add some according to your needs. There are some planning tools, such as PlanGarden.com and GrowVeg.com, that can help you make a plan and decide how much space you need.
The University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture has great instructions for starting your garden spot at Growit.umd.edu, because the first step towards gardening is preparing the site and what is there to begin with. Caution: Many online resources do not differentiate between starting flower beds and starting vegetable beds. The big difference is that you are going to eat the produce from a vegetable garden, so avoid putting chemicals into your soil or building raised beds with materials that can leach into the soil!
After you’ve got everything started, you’ll have to test the soil with nutrients. You should contact your local Cooperative Extension Service to do a soil test. This is a very important thing because if the soil is poor, it will be more vulnerable to disease and will produce poorly and your plants might not thrive. Those gardens with strong and healthy plants need much less work.
There is one more thing you should consider – do you need a fence, and if yes, how high should it be? Go ahead and take a look at other gardens, whether they are in your neighborhood or somewhere else, see what kind of fence they have, or just ask at your local garden center. Think about it carefully because it is frustrating if a deer or woodchucks destroy your plants before you even got the time to pick a vegetable.
DECIDING WHAT TO GROW IN YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN
It is advisable not to experiment with vegetables in the beginning and grow vegetables that the whole family eats. Don’t waste your ground on something you’ve never tried. If you are not sure about some veggies, buy some from the market and try them, so if you like them, then there is always next year for growing them in your own garden.
Another important information is weather conditions, so try to grow what grows well in your area. Visit PlantMaps.com to determine what zone are you living in.
Be careful and simple at the beginning. Some veggies are much easy to grow than others. For example, radishes, peas, beans, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce are a great start, other than zucchini, okra, broccoli, cauliflower and eggplant all of which are not that hard to grow, but they need much more attention, or you might face difficulties with insects or diseases if they’re not taken good care of.
Assuming you decided which kind of veggies you want in your garden, the next step is deciding which varieties. It is advisable to buy seeds from seed companies that specialize in your area since their seeds will be selected for your climate. All veggies have their different color, size, disease-resistance and climate preference, so be aware. Check out the list of seed companies by stat at: MotherEarthNews.com. Have in mind to think about the number of days until harvest, so that you can pick vegetables throughout the season. For example, don’t pick tomatoes with a 100 day harvest time, if you want the summer to end and not eat a single tomato.
HOW TO PLANT A VEGETABLE GARDEN
It is important for your coat to be in a warm and wet soil to swell and allow the embryo to spout and grow. Always follow the instructions on the back of the seed packet. There are some veggies that thrive in cold wet conditions such as peas, so the seed package will be: “ plant as soon as the ground can be worked”.
Your tender and young plants need warm soil temperatures, because they will never grow if the temperatures are too cool. If damaged by frost, your seedlings will die.
Don’t rush to crowd seeds or seedlings. When you have fewer plants, they will be healthier and will produce larger and better veggies, rather than miniature ones.
WATERING YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN
You should water your plants in the morning, if possible, since it prevents fungus and mildew growth on the leaves and allows the sun to dry it off. You can also water in the cool of the evening, but be careful not to soak the leaves of the plants.
Note: Over-watering is a huge mistake. Plants are made of 80-90% water, meaning they need a lot of water, BUT, your soil, humidity levels and sunshine and natural precipitation are huge factors in how often you should water. You can use a water timer and make sure to turn it of during rain. It is not advisable to use standing water.
FERTILIZING A VEGETABLE GARDEN
Fertilizing works by feeding your soil and plants, so they can feed you back.
The most important component of fertilizer is nitrogen. Soil and plants need it to make protein.However, the nitrogen gas in our atmosphere isn’t adequate for making plant protein, so adding it to the soil through manure and other organic matter is usually necessary. And don’t forget that your local farm can also be a good source of fertilizer — read our article on Using Manure Fertilizer for the Garden.
MANAGING PESTS, DISEASES AND WEEDS IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” goes a long way in gardening.It is much more easier to prevent diseases, insects or weeds before they enter your garden, than get rid of them after they’re there. There are a lot of options to prevent and control non-organic pest. You can contact your local Cooperative Extension Service for advice.
It is a good way to check your plants physically to see if there are any “bad” bugs. If you see some, pick them off and kill them. Here’s an identification guide online to see what’s attacking your plants: Gardening.about.com, as well as: Naturescontrol.com.
People try to reduce or completely eliminate the amount of weeding,by using different ways, but the best way to do this is by using your own hands and pulling them by the roots.
HARVESTING THE VEGETABLES THAT YOU GROW
For a quick overview of when your veggies are ready to harvest, check out this chart from the Iowa Extension Service. This is just a general guide though, since each variety is different. The back of your seed packet will give you the most accurate information on harvesting.
Chances are, you’ll eat what you grow as soon as it’s ready to pick. That’s why you planted, it, right? But if your garden is large enough to grow more than you will eat during the season,you can invest in a small pressure cooker and learn to preserve your vegetables for eating during the winter months. Pressure cooking isn’t difficult, but it does require proper knowledge if you want to do it safely. Freezing is another method of preserving your extra produce. It is important, however, to invest in quality freezer bags or containers to prevent freezer burn. For details on canning or freezing your vegetables, PickYourOwn.com is a great resource.
A FEW VIDEO GUIDES TO STARTING A VEGETABLE GARDEN
If you are more of a video or audio based learner, we offer you a couple of good videos to start a vegetable garden with.