Having your own garden full of bright, robust vegetables is a true wonder to observe. It is made all the more exceptional by knowing it was your particular two hands who created it. There is a pride that comes with knowing you can feed your family for less than grocery store prices, and without the chemicals, those store-bought vegetables often include. There is nothing quite as beautiful as seeing your vegetable garden in full tilt and knowing you don’t have to buy plastic wrapped baby spinach or those elusive plastic free cherry tomatoes ever again! You just have to go to your garden and pick some.
To start a garden all you truly need is some decent soil and the plants and seeds you intend to use. You will need access to water, some kind of fertilizer and some basic understanding as to what vegetables need planting when based on the climate & conditions you live in. Most seed packs, or tags on plants come with watering instructions among other various points of useful information. Keep those packets and tags nearby in case you forget, you can always have information at your fingertips. A great place to sort seedlings is from your local farmers market. You can even grow veggies such as celery, carrots, green onions and leeks from your kitchen scraps!
The first step to planting a garden is deciding how big and where. Start small. Having too much planted at one time can be overwhelming and sometimes things may not grow well in your region. Better to test a few plant types each year and find out which ones work in your garden and area. Eventually, you will know exactly what you can grow with a large amount of success.
It will help to keep your garden in one confined area and will assist in the lowering of the presence of weeds as well. It is best to have a few planting boxes, located in distinct areas of sun and shade, so they can accommodate the various sun requirements that the plants will need. Plant boxes can be made rather inexpensively with just some salvaged two-by-fours and some nails. It also helps to raise the level of the soil from ground level and will aid in elevating the root systems for better water and nutrient absorption.
Once you have an area picked you will need to till the soil. If you are planting a small garden, this can be done manually with a garden ho and trowel. You will need to check the soil you have tilled for rocks and debris and relocate them to another place in the garden. At this time, you can add the fertilizer of your choice to the soil, making a compost pile is a great way to create your own organic fertilizer. When you add the fertilizer spread a layer about three inches deep and then till the soil again to get a proper mix.
The next thing you will need to do is plant your seeds or plants. It is tempting to plant in rows as most of us have been taught this is the proper way of planting. It is efficient for large farms but for the home garden, it may be less efficient and more detrimental for your plants. The reason being that it makes less use of available space because rows take up more space. It also spaces out the foliage of your plants. Foliage is needed to keep the soil moist and healthy. Instead, plant at the appropriate seed space for your seeds or plants and try planting faster growing plants such as Asian greens around the slower growing tomatoes, leeks, parsnips etc. to maximise space.
Make sure as you plant, you keep in mind, the plants that will need a trellis system. Tomatoes are a good example of this. It will keep your vines neater and stronger. As your plants begin to grow you can tie them to the trellis with cotton cord. Do not tie too tightly, just enough to encourage growing along the trellis.
Once all of your plants are in the soil water the soil gently. Most gardens only need to be fertilized once a week and watered two to three times a week, the exception being during times of drought. There is no need to soak your garden, just dampen the soil.
Another thing to keep in mind is harvest timing. Try to plant vegetables like tomatoes, leeks, onions and kale, which can be harvested in all seasons, as well as crops which are easy to store such as, Garlic, potatoes, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. This way you always have fresh, package free vegetables available to you and your family.