The trees are budding, the grass is growing, and you’re thinking of all those wonderful garden plans you never got around to last year. This year, get a head start on the season with a few tips to help save time and avoid disappointment. And don’t forget to involve the kids—this is one of the few times you can give them permission to play in the dirt!
Its time to start thinking about a vegetable garden! Don’t ignore the plot of land you’ve always pictured as the ideal spot for a vegetable garden. Your dreams of a summer bounty full of vine-ripe tomatoes, fresh zucchini, crisp snap peas, and succulent green peppers can be realized. With a few simple guidelines for planning the perfect vegetable garden, you can enjoy a delicious harvest in summer and beyond! Don’t make your first veggie garden too far from your house or water source. Don’t make it too big. A small garden, planted correctly and maintained will give you plenty of produce.
Pick a Plot
The first step in successful gardening, and arguably the most important, is picking a spot. Make sure the area is large enough to accommodate the vegetables you want to plant, has good air circulation, and receives both sun and rainfall. Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing your garden plot:
• Try not to plant too close to any large trees or hedges, as they can shade your garden and take the moisture and nutrients from the soil that your plants will need.
• With stakes and strings, mark off the areas where you will walk in your garden, and where you will plant your vegetables. You want to make sure you have enough room to move around without hurting your plants. It can also help to draw a rough diagram, and indicate where you want to plant certain vegetables.
• Allow enough growing space for your larger vegetables.
• Remember—it helps to provide stakes or trellises for vine plants.
Choosing Your Crop
Once you’ve selected your garden spot, you can start choosing the vegetables you want to grow. However, your local climate will determine when you can plant your seeds. You can find the information you need regarding when to plant on the back of your seed packets, and on many agricultural websites. Remember that some vegetables need to be started inside before they can be transplanted outdoors.
Cool versus Warm
Planting periods are determined by your choice of cool-season vegetables and warm-season vegetables. Cool-season vegetables are generally not harmed by light frost, but won’t do well with extended periods of warm temperatures. They can usually be planted earlier in spring. These include cabbage, mustard, lettuce, celery, carrots, kale, onions, peas and spinach. Warm-season vegetables generally need a soil temperature of at least 50°F and can be killed by frost, so they need to be planted a little later in the season when there is no more danger of frost. These include cucumbers, sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, squash and sweet corn.
If you are starting seedlings in vermiculite to get a jump on the season, great! But be sure to transplant them as soon as the second pair of true leaves form, or they’ll starve.
Preparing the Soil
The soil must be the right temperature and consistency for planting. Soil that’s too wet, too cold, or too warm (depending on your plants or seeds) won’t produce a good crop. Before you plant, use a shovel to remove grass, weeds, and rocks from your garden plot. In addition, turn over the soil to break up any big lumps.
Get Your Vegetables in a Row
You can plant however you wish, but to get the best results, consider planting in rows or raised beds. Planting in rows is the more traditional method, and rows are easy to organize, maintain, and plant. Raised beds use space more efficiently, and you might not have to weed as much. However, raised beds take more initial time and money to prepare. Whichever route you take, make sure when you’re planting to walk around the perimeter of your garden or in the pre-made walkways to avoid damaging your plants.
Hoe, Hoe, and more Hoe:
Your vegetable garden will need regular upkeep and removal of weeds to thrive. Weeds reduce the available nutrients, sunlight, soil, and space your plants need. There are many different ways to control weeds in your garden—including pulling, and hoeing.
You can also try to stop the weeds before they start. A nice trick is to plant vegetables that suppress or shade weeds, which prevent further growth. You could try cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash. For this to work properly, it’s best to make sure your suppression (or shading) vegetables have become established in the garden before weeds start to arrive.
Try to keep your garden organic. There are many ways to foil pests. Herbs are nature’s insecticides. Basil planted near tomatoes, for example, will repel worms and flies. Nothing beats the fragrance of fresh herbs, and they’re decorative as well. Some people like to use straw or mulch. However, mulches can keep the soil from warming up. So wait to apply organic mulches after plants are 3 to 4 inches tall and the soil is warm.
In addition to weeding, make sure your garden is properly watered. On average, plants need approximately one inch of water a week. If a plant starts to droop, revive it by watering right away.
There you have it—the simple basics you need to start the vegetable garden you always dreamed of having. With just a little time and effort, you can enjoy the fruits (and veggies!) of your labor.
Author Arlene Wright Correll Resource: Resources: Excerpted from “Food For Thought Series” by Arlene Wright-Correll
For more gardening or cooking information click http://www.learn-america.com/ and click on Arlene’s Books you can download or buy my gardening & cook books. All my royalties from the sale of my books go to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and we thank you for your attention to this site.
Article Source: Planting a Vegetable Garden
Article From: Organic Gardening Articles