Planning your first vegetable garden might seem like a daunting task, but when you see how amazing and gratifying the results are, all the planning and work is worth the effort. Maintaining the garden can be quite a handful as well, but that is why we have compiled this easy step-by-step guide for you to use and follow and which will allow you to savor your favorite vegetables in no time.
How to start the vegetable garden
#1. Decide what you will plant
If you are a beginner, it’s probably a good idea to start small. Vegetable gardens can mean a lot of work, so, begin with a smaller quantity of seeds. Apart from that, many growers get a little too overexcited when they start and tend to grow much more than they need, which they will, eventually, waste.
Therefore, it’s best to make a plan and see how much your family can consume and base your crops on that. See, also, what your family likes to eat – fresh soup, hardier winter food, or cozy fall meals – and decide on some recipes before actually choosing the vegetables. A daily planner, completed with pictures and tips will help you greatly here.
Apart from quantity, you can also take into consideration the fact that some vegetables are easier to grow than others. If you are a beginner, you might want to start with those.
#2. Determine space
Once you have decided exactly what vegetables you will grow, you can also determine how you will plant them, as well as the layout and design. Do some research on the vegetables you’ve selected and see where exactly they should go in the garden and how much space you need to leave between the seeds when you plant them.
Here are some pointers:
- Plant the tall vegetables like peas, beans, and corn at the back of the garden, where they won’t take any sunlight from the rest;
- Plant the medium ones, like the cabbage family, tomatoes, squash and pumpkin in the middle of your garden;
- Plant the low ones like radishes, lettuce, onions, and beets at the southern end of your vegetable garden, so that they can receive as much sunlight and warmth as possible.
- Research how much space you need to leave between each seed for a given vegetable you are planning to plant, as well as the length of the row in feet, so you know how much to plant. For example, in order to plant corn for a family of four, you need a 140-foot row, in which the seeds will be planted some 8” to 12” apart.
#3. Choose the method of growing
This step is very important when it comes to starting a garden. Choosing the method of growing has very much to do with the space you have. If your backyard garden is big enough, you can consider planting the seeds and growing your organic crops directly in the soil. However, if it’s smaller, build raised beds.
Raised beds are basically wooden boxes or containers which you can fill with soil and fertilizer and plant your veggies in, rather than directly in the earth. Lots of farmers and growers actually prefer them for the following reasons:
- They occupy far less space, by reducing considerably the empty space between rows;
- They allow the vegetables to grow longer and stronger roots;
- They can be easily moved from one place to another, including indoor, on your balcony or in the front yard, if you need more sunlight, warmth or if the weather gets really bad;
- They are far more aesthetically pleasing;
- They are better in colder climates because the soil dries up faster and it gets warmer quicker.
As far as methods of growing go, if you suffer from a shortage of space, because, for example, you are living in an apartment, you can try building hanging or vertical gardens. The vegetables are grown in pots and boxes and you can buy the kits necessary for taking care of them.
Go online and search for images and pictures of DIY summer vertical gardens and take some inspiration out of there. Remember to plant a mix of vegetables and to place the heavy ones, like squashes, at the bottom, because of their weight. Make a list of the spring vegetables you’d like to have and start designing your garden from there.
How to maintain the vegetable garden
#1. Choose the Right Fertilizer
Indeed, the soil needs to be fertilized before you plant. You can use chemical or organic fertilizer, like mulch, and you can even use the homemade type. The latter includes coffee grounds spread all over the soil or mixed with water and poured into the ground, or even banana peels placed directly into the hole where you’re going to put the seeds.
However, you will discover that it’s not enough. Your precious vegetables need to be fertilized a few times more, starting with one month after the original planting. For this, you need to do research for every plant you have in your backyard and see exactly when they have to be fertilized and with what, as they are quite different. Develop your plans according to that.
#2. Check for Pests and rodents
Every once in a while, after the actual planting has taken place, you need to check for pests and rodents. While rodent damage can be quite visible, because the animals will eat big portions of the leaves, pest damage is not always noticeable at first glance.
For example, snails love to eat strawberries and, because the fruit is usually nested in their green cocoon of leaves and vines, you won’t notice the damage. So, every now and then, make sure to do a thorough check between the rows. Consider adding a fence if you don’t already have one.
Don’t forget your fruit trees, if you have them. They need to be checked and sprayed as well, especially against caterpillars and small birds, which love the sweet fruit.
Herbs need to be checked too, because bugs adore them. One simple way of making them all inedible is to spray them with a mixture of water and egg white. It will stick to the leaves even in rain.
Watering is crucial to gardening. You have two options here: you can either do it manually, with buckets or a hose if you have a small garden, or you can install an irrigation system. The second choice might be the best one, as it will save you a lot of trouble, work, and time.
Also, given the fact that the new models have timers, you can set them in the beginning and let them run their course without you worrying about anything. You can also install a free piece of software or an app on your phone that will tell you when it’s time to water.
You can download a guide or a companion to help you prepare to take care of your hydroponic garden. Try making charts, calendars and preparations, so that you can always be in control of your large outdoor watering system.
Another bonus to using an irrigation system is the fact that you can add liquid fertilizer to the water and, thusly, save you two chores.
Starting and keeping a vegetable garden in your backyard will bring you many joys. There’s just something about seeing organic fruits and vegetables growing right in front of your eyes, from scratch, at home. It is rewarding to know you’ve planted them yourself and are now harvesting ripe, colorful, sweet, and fragrant right out of the warm earth.